RURAL Fermanagh is once again facing a possible battle to save its local bus services.
For a number of years now public transport provider Translink has warned of mounting debts and a reduced budget. This week, officials at the Department of Infrastructure warned the service was now “in jeopardy” if it did not receive a vital funding injection.
This has prompted fears of cuts to rural routes, such as those that service Fermanagh villages. These routes are accepted as being unprofitable, with the busier routes such as Enniskillen to Belfast covering their costs, however with extreme savings needed for Translink to continue, cuts to these smaller services have not been ruled out.
There have now been calls locally for Translink to think creatively about what cuts it makes, with one local councillor even urging the service to actually improve local connections instead of chopping them.
Referring to the routes as “lifelines” for rural communities, Newtownbutler Cllr Thomas O’Reilly said: “As a transport provider you have to provide a reliable and regular service so people can be dependent on it and leave the car.
“It isn’t a quick fix. This must be a reliable, long-term service that has to provide for people on a number of fronts.”
Cllr O’Reilly said local routes needed to link up better so more people would use them, and said the service needed to be continued to be subsidised.
“If you add more cars to the system that is going to cause more congestion, more potholes, more everything,” he said. “So we need to maintain our public transport system, and more than maintain it, we have to enhance it.”
Cllr Victor Warrington, who is originally from Roslea, said residents of that area who did not drive depending on the bus to get to the doctors, and said he hoped the restoration of Stormont would mean more creative options could be discussed, rather than cutting services outright.
“I would certainly hope Translink would look sympathetically at the rural areas,” he said. “Purely from a point of view of rural proofing. We should not be discriminated against because of where we live.”
Posted: 8:20 am February 26, 2020