Belfast bus services set to resume after hijacking attacks

Two buses have been burned out in loyalist areas in the last 10 days in attacks linked to protests against the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Belfast bus services set to resume after hijacking attacks

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Evening bus services are to resume in Belfast after they were suspended over safety concerns.

Two buses have been burned out in loyalist areas in the last 10 days in attacks linked to protests against Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

Public transport company Translink announced that the scheduled evening services will resume on Wednesday, with some diversions in localised areas.

It said this had followed engagement with trade unions, the PSNI and community representatives, alongside enhanced safety measures.

Ian Campbell, Translink director of service operations, said: “We have worked very closely with colleagues in our trade unions and the PSNI and have reached out to engage with local communities enabling us to make these appropriate decisions around the safe return of evening services.

Northern Ireland Protocol
Abbott Drive in Newtownards near Belfast, where a bus was hijacked and set alight. Photo: David Young/PA

“We understand many people rely on us to get them to where they need to be and appreciate their frustrations.

“It has been important to work quickly to find suitable solutions to this difficult situation that ensured the safety of everyone and I am sure this will be welcome news for passengers to have their services back.”

He added: “We will continue to make safety our priority. We will continue to liaise with the PSNI, trade unions and the community and monitor services over the coming days and have steps in place to respond to any arising situations.”

Some 40-50 per cent of Metro services, mostly in the north and east of Belfast, were affected on Monday and Tuesday evenings, while some Ulsterbus routes were diverted.

The affected routes serve some of Belfast’s busiest roads, including the Antrim and Shore Roads, the Shankill Road, the Newtownards Road and the Crumlin Road. Some services in Londonderry were also suspended on Monday.

Buses attacked in Belfast
Bus drivers taking part in a walkout following recent attacks. Photo: Unite the union/PA

On Monday, some bus drivers staged a walkout in solidarity with colleagues who have been targeted in hijackings amid rising tensions over opposition to the protocol.

It followed an attack on Sunday when four masked men, armed with a hammer and a bottle of petrol, boarded a bus near the loyalist Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey.

The driver and passengers were ordered off and the vehicle was set alight.

The previous week a bus was hijacked and burned in a loyalist area of Newtownards, Co Down.

Disorder also broke out at a community interface in west Belfast twice last week.

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