Derry bus services impacted by ‘disgusting’ violence in Belfast

Changes to Foyle Metro bus routes in Derry’s Waterside may be repeated following the hijacking and burning of public buses elsewhere in the north.

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 10:11 am

Concerns have been raised by some unionist representatives in the city after services were altered last night (Monday) to exclude some predominantly unionist areas of the city with Curryneirin also affected. The situation is being monitored today and restrictions on specific routes could be reimposed.

The move was part of a raft of changes across Northern Ireland amid concerns for the safety of drivers and passengers on bus networks after a double decker bus was set alight on the outskirts of Belfast on Sunday.

It is the latest of a series of shocking attacks which have been linked to loyalist violence and civil unrest, with some further linking this to the current NI Protocol, which was birthed by Brexit and agreed by the UK government and the EU.

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November 8th. Police said four men got on to the bus, ordered the passengers and the driver to get off and then set it alight. No-one was injured, police said. It is the second time in a week that a bus has been hijacked and burnt in Northern Ireland. (Picture PressEye)

Translink confirmed this morning: “Foyle Metro services were subject to alteration after 6.30pm on Monday 8th November.

“This followed 2 hijacking incidents in a week which put our bus drivers and passengers at risk and resulted in the buses being destroyed.

“The decision to amend services followed significant engagement with our Trade Unions, the PSNI, local communities and other stakeholders.”

The company added: “We have a duty of care to our staff and customers to ensure our services are safe. In light of these sporadic attacks, the decision was taken to suspend or alter some evening services, including (Belfast) Metro, Ulsterbus and Foyle Metro.”

Police at the scene as a bus has been destroyed after it was hijacked and set on fire in Newtownabbey, County Antrim. It happened near Valley Leisure Centre on Church Road at 19:45 GMT on Sunday. Police said four men got on to the bus, ordered the passengers and the driver to get off and then set it alight. No-one was injured, police said. It is the second time in a week that a bus has been hijacked and burnt in Northern Ireland. Pic Pacemaker

Translink in a separate statement said it has met with its Trade Union colleagues to review Metro bus services in Belfast and Ulsterbus services in some areas across NI, including the North-West.

Speaking after two buses were burned within a week. Ian Campbell, Director of Service Operations explained, “We utterly condemn this incident. The safety of our passengers and employees is paramount and our highest concern. Our staff want to provide essential public transport to keep society connected. But this attack on our people and services is simply unacceptable.

“We are very mindful of everyone’s safety and understand the level of concern expressed by our staff and their families. We will work closely with the PSNI, the local community, our unions and all stakeholders as we monitor this difficult situation. Our plans will always put safety first as we work towards reinstating essential public transport for those who rely on us.

“This situation is very changeable, and we would encourage people to frequently visit or follow us on Twitter or call the contact centre on 028 90 66 66 30 to get the latest service information before they travel.

November 1 - The scene on Abbot Drive in Newtownards, Co. Down last weekend, where police are investigating a hijacking and arson attack on another bus. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

“We would like to thank everyone for their patience, understanding and continued support as we strive to deliver bus services throughout Northern Ireland”, Ian concluded.

Derry People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin said his party stood “in full solidarity with Translink bus workers”.

“We condemn the now persistent and thuggish burning of buses by those determined to inflame sectarian violence.

“Workers already face enough challenges doing their jobs and should not face this kind of terror and threats - nor should people attempting to access public transportation.”

Colr. Harkin said those using the issue of the protocol to stir up community division ‘must take responsibility for sectarian violence’.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has condemned those responsible for the hijacking.

She said: “It is disgraceful and disgusting that our public transport workers have been targeted for attack again, this time by masked men who ordered the driver and passengers off a bus this evening and then set fire to it. This is the fourth attack this year.

“Translink buses are public assets. Without them people can’t get to and from work, or school, or hospital appointments. Our bus drivers are working class people who deserve to be safe in their jobs. People using public transport also deserve to feel safe and be able to go about their business without fear.

“The criminals behind these reckless and cowardly attacks have done nothing more than harm their local community, depriving them of a critical public service. It is another extreme act of self harm consistently rejected by the people of Northern Ireland.

“My Department and Translink are working closely with the PSNI. I am thankful that the driver and passengers are now safe after what must have been a terrifying experience. All efforts will be made to ensure those responsible are caught, stopped and brought to justice.”

Sinn Féin North Belfast MP John Finucane has also condemned the incidents as “dangerous, reckless and despicable”.

“There is absolutely no place in our society for this criminality and violence.

“We need to see clear condemnation from unionist leaders on this reckless and dangerous violence.

“There are huge opportunities for our local businesses through the Protocol to create jobs, this violence undermines those opportunities.”