Thousands sign petitions hosted by bus drivers’ union Unite and sustainable transport lobby
Concerns raised about absence of equality screening in consultation on opening of Belfast bus lanes to 4,500 private taxis
July 6th: Speaking on the closing date of the consultation process, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer, Davy Thompson, called on the Department for Infrastructure to review proposals which threaten to undo years of Executive policy, opening bus lanes across the city to an estimated four thousand five hundred private taxis.
“Since this consultation opened just three weeks ago, Unite the union has led the public challenge to the ‘land-grab’ by influential private taxi owners. Following our intervention many questions have been raised by commentators about how and why this change is being suggested just weeks ahead of the launch of the £110 million Glider rapid transit project, the first investment in public transport in Northern Ireland in decades. It appears simply a sop offered to the private taxi owners which will completely undermine this investment.
“Unite has been approached by a number of rights groups including the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) who have been to the forefront of defending the rights-based governance established by the Good Friday Agreement. They share our concerns about the manner in which the Department has taken forward this three-week consultation – with no public meetings, no public information materials published, no studies or research to justify the proposal and no address or pro-forma to encourage a response from the public.
“Perhaps of greatest concern, the Department failed to conduct any equality screening against the Section 75 categories – when it is clear that this proposal would have a very significant adverse impact on older people, children and young people, those with dependents and those with disabilities.
“Despite media reports suggesting that the Department was intent on bringing forward the current proposals regardless of the scale of public opposition, thousands have objected to both the plans and the flawed nature of the consultation process itself. Department for Infrastructure officials must now heed that opposition. Belfast’s bus lanes must be kept for buses and sustainable transport not private profit”, Mr Thompson concluded.