Public have less than three-weeks to safeguard Belfast’s bus lanes and bus services

unite-white-out-of-redDrivers’ union urges public to bombard Department for Infrastructure email over opening of Belfast bus lanes to 4,500 private taxis

Questions must be asked over how unelected civil servants can reverse decades of public transport policy with minimal consultation

June 18th: Unite Regional Coordinating Officer, Davy Thompson, was scathing of proposals published quietly last week by unaccountable civil servants at the Department of Infrastructure which would reverse years of Executive policy and open bus lanes across the city to an estimated four thousand five hundred private taxis.

“With virtually no publicity whatsoever, the Department of Infrastructure quietly launched a mere three week consultation on proposals that would have the potential to transform the status of public transport in Belfast. Aside from a copy of the legal changes involved, the Department’s website provides virtually no documentation on what is being promoted as an ‘experimental’ and temporary proposal but one very likely to become permanent if it proceeds. They have offered no studies on the dramatic impact that this will have on bus services, there is no pro-forma to encourage members of the public to engage with the consultation and no public meetings to engage those who will be most affected.

“For decades, locally accountable Ministers have adopted consistent policies to promote public transport and the transition to a healthier and environmentally-sustainable transport system but now unelected officials in the Department of Infrastructure are seeking to overturn that and offer virtually no opportunity for members of the public to find out about their plans, let alone raise any opposition.

“As well as bus drivers and those who are reliant on bus services, there is strong opposition to these proposals from the growing numbers who use the lanes freely to cycle around the city. It is hard to see how this can be anything other than a sop to powerful, vested interests. Opening bus lanes to an estimated four thousand five hundred taxis has the potential to wreak havoc on bus schedules and to reverse the progress made in encouraging drivers to leave their cars behind. As every full bus means fifty less cars on our roads – this proposal is likely to led to a rise in traffic congestion.

“We cannot allow unelected civil servants, at the behest of wealthy private taxi owners, to undermine public transport in our city. Given the fast approaching deadline of Friday July 6th, we are urging members of the public to bombard the email – the only means of response offered by the Department today – to raise their concerns: transportlegislationbranch@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk”, Mr Thompson concluded.

For further information or an interview contact Davy Thompson, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer, tel. 07979 244952; or Donal O’Cofaigh, Unite Campaigns & Communications, tel. 07810 15792.

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