The loss of a town service bus run by a private operator has been described as a ‘big blow’ to the Ballymoney area by the town’s former Mayor, Alderman John Finlay.
Speaking at last Tuesday night’s meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Council as Translink bosses made a presentation, Alderman Finlay said that pensioners had been ‘badly affected’ by the loss of Logan’s town service bus.
Sam Todd from Coleraine Bus Depot and Arthur Hamilton the North East Bus Operations Manager, spoke to members about the changes in the organisation.
Following a funding cut of twenty percent to the Translink budget, members were told that some local services have been reduced and that fares have been increased.
Alderman Finlay said: “I acknowledge the budget cuts, but the loss of this private service has been a big blow to Balnamore, Rasharkin and Cloughmills, and it’s mostly pensioners that have been affected.
“We have lost the post office in Balnamore, so now folk have to travel to the town to collect their pensions.
“Traders have also been affected,” he said.
Responding to the DUP man, Mr Hamilton said that a town service had been introduced into Ballymoney by Translink following the withdrawal of the private service, he said that Translink felt that they had a ‘social responsibility’ to provide the service.
“We cannot provide a service to every rural community, so we have to look at how we best use other services,” he said.
Deputy Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, UUP councillor Darryl Wilson described the withdrawal of the private service as a ‘massive blow’, but said that he had pointed some groups to community transport. “We need a more joint up approach,” said the Deputy Mayor.
DUP councillor Ian Stevenson questioned whether Translink were in profit and asked why money could not be used to fund services for older people.
Mr Hamilton told the meeting that profits were ‘earmarked’ to go back into the business. The Operations Manager stressed that rural services were not being cut completely. He said there is ‘still some level of service in the rural community’.
Limavady SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan told those present that he was a voluntary driver for a community transport organisation: “I am aware of how important this service is,” he said. “It is in your interest to help community transport, I would urge Translink to develop as many links as possible,” he said.