Bus cuts will impact trade say businesses

Traders have reacted with despair to reports that bus services into Lurgan town centre are likely to be reduced.

Minister Danny Kennedy has been ordered to make savings of £65m following the most scything budget Stormont has ever seen.

The DRD draft budget paper says that service reductions will be made to public transport across Northern Ireland, focusing on the least profitable routes, including the complete withdrawal of internal services from some towns.

Lurgan is among the towns where services would be reduced.

Stephanie O’Neill, who opened a handcrafted gift shop in Market Street in April, said: “The bus service is so important for people coming into town.

“The town’s slow enough as it is without making it more difficult for shoppers to get to the shops.

“The good thing about being beside a bus stop is even when people are waiting for the bus they’ll call in.”

Stephanie, who is expecting her first child in May, said: “If they cut down the number of buses I’ll probably not be here by the time the child’s here.”

Kieran Greene of electronics business Ditronics said: “A good bus service is important to every retailer. It’s what brings people here.

“A lot of our customers don’t drive. They’ll come in here and browse the store and if there’s something they want we arrange for it to be delivered to their home free of charge.

“A large amount of our customers are from the outlying villages and are totally reliant on the bus.

“They’re trying to cut down pollution by encouraging them not to use their cars, then they cut public transport. It makes no sense.

“These cuts are counteracting each other. One department is saving money and another is picking up the shortfall.”

In DRD’s plan to attempt to meet the savings, the department may also be forced to shed 300 jobs.

The department has also said it is in the process of selling off some of its car parks in a bid to make savings.

It has also proposed raising the cost of public transport, disconnecting street lights and halting repairs to rural roads, while gritting and snow ploughing of all roads may need to stop next winter.