Not a health and safety hazard?

THE area where schoolchildren and other passengers gather to wait for buses in Banbridge is not a health and safety hazard.

That’s according to Translink Chief Executive Catherine Mason who addressed the council in May alongside Translink’s Infrastructure Executive Clive Bradbury.

Currently schoolchildren as young as 11 have to stand outside the Downshire Arms Hotel to wait for buses.

At peak times there are often crowds filling the pavement area as buses queue up in the layby while cars and other vehicles attempt to pass by.

Despite calls over almost 10 years for a proper bus station to be built in the town - which is the only major hub in Northern Ireland without one, according to local councillors - the transport body have confirmed that there is no business case set out, nor any funding available for the facility.

A number of councillors, including Junior McCrum and Sheila McQuaid expressed their strong concerns for the safety of people waiting on and changing buses on the main street.

But Ms Mason was adamant there was no evidence to back this up, saying the PSNI and Roads Service had both carried out risk assessments and considered there was no risk as “raised cushions” on the road cause traffic to slow down.

The meeting also heard that even when funding becomes available the bus station will become part of “a pool of projects”, which means a funding go-ahead will not mean plans on the station begin immediately.

Mr Bradbury confirmed that priority is given to the “pool of unfunded projects on the basis of Health and Safety”.

While the Kenlis Street car park has long been seen as the site for the new station Ms Mason also clarified that while Translink are now “in a position to obtain the land” no transfer has taken place.

A business case was developed in 2003, but at that point no land was available for the station.

The Translink chief said now that land is available, no business case can be put together until funding is in place.

Many councillors, including Seamus Doyle, Carol Black, Brendan Curran and Joan Baird said they were disappointed at the hold-up and urged all bodies involved to try to come to agreement as soon as possible.

As yet there remains no timetable as to when the station could be built, with Ms Mason confirming she cannot see funding becoming available in the short-term.