A GROUP of West Belfast parents have stepped up their campaign for a school bus service to St Malachy’s College in North Belfast.
The group of parents have been campaigning for a year but to no avail, with the pupils currently forced to get a bus into the city centre before boarding a second bus up to the Antrim Road to attend the grammar school.
One parent, whose Year 8 pupil attends the grammar school, said West Belfast parents have been demanding a school bus service for a year but have been making no progress.
“With no bus, pupils are forced to be at a bus stop for 7.30am and get a bus into town before another one up the Antrim Road. It is particularly tough during the dark mornings of the winter months," said the parent, who asked not to be named.
“We have met with John Finucane’s office who have had several meetings with those involved but we just seem to be getting nowhere.
“There are around 200 pupils. Some of these kids have never travelled across town before.
“Some parents, including myself have been taking it in turns to do car shares in the morning and afternoon. It has been manageable because many of us are working from home but come September when we might all be back in the office, car shares just won’t be possible.
“We had reassurances they were going to trial a bus in May but it came to nothing.
“It seems that the school and Translink are trying to put the onus on each other instead of anyone taking control.
“I know so many other schools that have buses for kids coming from West to North Belfast and vice-versa.”
North Belfast Sinn Féin MP John Finucane said he hopes an agreement can be reached in time for the new school term in September.
“We were approached some months ago by parents of students at the college raising the difficulties that they were encountering with transport from the west of the city,” he explained.
“Since then we have been working to find a resolution to the issue between St Malachy’s and Translink and it is my understanding that proposals are currently being considered by both parties.
“Clearly there is a demand for accessible transport for students travelling daily from the west of the city to the college in North Belfast.
“I will continue to facilitate any discussions and offer any assistance I can to help.
“I would hope that an agreement between the college and Translink can be arrived at in time for the new school term and that students can travel across the city without any further difficulties.”
A Translink spokesperson said: “We are continuing to explore a number of options regarding transport for pupils travelling to St Malachy’s College from West Belfast.
“There are currently existing travel options which cater for these students in both morning and evening peaks. However, we are still working internally towards a solution which makes this journey easier, whilst remaining sustainable for the school and for the bus operation.
“Like many pupils from West Belfast travelling to schools outside the area, St Malachy's pupils can interchange between our high frequency Glider and Metro services in the city centre, and can avail of our affordable ticketing options allowing for cross-town and unlimited daily travel.”
The Andersonstown News contacted St Malachy’s College for a response but have received no response at the time of going to press.