As the Glider buses were officially rolled out in Belfast on Monday, passengers were largely positive about the introduction of the service.
The ‘bendy’ buses will serve the main arterial route from east to west Belfast and also the Titanic Quarter, with the closure of lanes for the buses for 12 hours at a time being criticised by some motorists.
On the positive side, the majority of passengers the News Letter spoke to yesterday morning reported improved journey times.
A pair of nurses at the Ulster Hospital were among the first to use the new £90 million service on its first day of operation at full strength.
Michelle Dadule said: “We would normally use the pink ones. We are both nurses at Dundonald so it is great for us to come into Belfast.”
Justine Gudes added: “I thought it was an improvement. There’s Wifi and a (USB) charger so that’s good. It was faster and the frequency of buses is a lot better. You only have to wait for a few minutes for a bus.”
Anne Curran, who made the journey to the city centre from west Belfast yesterday morning, said: “It was great. I got on at Twinbrook on the Stewartstown Road. It took roughly 15 minutes, 20 at the most. It was definitely shorter than my usual bus. Lovely and smooth, very enjoyable. I was just disappointed there was no champagne.”
Kieran Cairns took his grandson for a trip yesterday: “We came from Andersonstown into the city centre. We got on the bus at 10am. I timed it – 12 minutes. It would normally take a good bit longer. I’m with my grandson Mikey today and he loved it. It’s an excellent service. The staff couldn’t be any more helpful.”
Gavin Boyle is from Finaghy but got on the bus at Connswater close to a friend’s house. He said: “It took about eight minutes from Connswater which is pretty fast. It was a bit confusing for me because I’m used to a different route, but I can see how getting the ticket in advance will save time at stops.”
While most of the commuters were positive there were several grumbles as passengers disembarked from a service which they said had left Dundonald at around 10.15am and not made it into the city centre until 11am.
One lady said she’d never get the service again while another man commented: “It was very slow. We didn’t have to wait long for the bus, but it seemed like we were on it forever. Because it’s new people were getting on at every stop which is unusual, I think that slowed it down a good bit.”
Another commuter who boarded a Glider to the Titanic Quarter commented: “I listened to the Stephen Nolan Show this morning. There were so many people moaning about the Gliders. I think the people of Northern Ireland would be happier on a horse and cart.”
Translink chief executive Chris Conway said the technology had worked well, but more communication was needed with passengers around the ticketing system and that was causing teething problems around timeliness of services.
He added: “Generally the feedback has been very good and we hope people will work with us as we take some of the learning points from the next couple of days and build the service up to a full high-frequency service.”
Meanwhile a west Belfast councillor has said the closure of lanes to Glider buses has led to “mass concern”.
People Before Profit’s Matt Collins said some elderly and disabled people were restricted from parking at their own homes and at St Kevin’s Primary School, west Belfast, parents had no safe area to drop children off.
He also said double yellow lines had been extended into residential areas and access to shops has been restricted.