Glider passengers deliver verdict on new Belfast bus service

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The verdict among passengers of the new Glider bus service in Belfast was generally positive on its first official day of operation.

The £90 million system operates a cross-city G1 route between east and west on distinctive long purple buses.

The new Glider bus service

The new Glider bus service

There is also a G2 route from the city centre to the Titanic Quarter.

On Monday morning, the service suffered some initial delays.

One man from Andersonstown, in the west of the city, claimed it had taken him 50 minutes to get to the city centre. He did not wish to give his name.

Chris Conway, Translink chief executive, said it had been a busy day with an early start - but all services were running well, every seven minutes around Belfast.

The Glider at Stormont

The Glider at Stormont

He added the technology had worked well, but more communication was needed with passengers around the new ticketing system and that was causing teething problems around timeliness of services.

"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," he said.

"That all adds to a few delays this morning but they will quickly work their way out of the system."

For £3 off-peak or £3.50 at peak, you can travel all day, he added.

On Monday afternoon, the bus stop at Chichester Street in Belfast city centre was abuzz as both passengers and interested onlookers gathered.

A small army of Translink staff were kept busy with inquiries about how to use the ticket-less system, where passengers tap their passes against a machine.

Driver trainer George Weir, 48, was among the Translink workers on hand.

He described the new buses as "lovely to drive", and said most of the feedback he had heard so far was positive.

"With it being a new service, there is a wide range of experience among the drivers, so I am just here in case anyone is a bit nervous, and also to help any passengers who have questions," he said.

"Most of the passengers seem to be enjoying it, earlier I met a dad taking his daughter for her first day at big school. She had on her new uniform, had her new bag and was on a new bus, so they were really enjoying it."

Student Cory Mallon, 17, was impressed he could charge up his phone on the new buses.

"I got it into town earlier for Tech [college], and now I'm getting it home," he said.

"Its very comfortable and it's great you can charge your phone up on it."

Pensioner George Brown, 75, had driven to the Dundonald Park and Ride from North Down to try out the new service.

"It's too early to say how good it will be yet," he said.

"I feel a bit sorry for the traders, with their deliveries not able to park near their shops.

"I hope it's not just change for change's sake, but I'm keeping an open mind about it."

Ben McMullan, 80, had a bad experience with one of the trial runs of the new buses the previous week.

"I had been at the door but the driver just drove off, one of the Translink staff said once they are in drive mode they have to go," he said.

"But I'm using it today without any problem. It seems to be going well so far."

A short distance away, the May Street bus stop was distinctly quieter.

Elizabeth Whitley was among passengers who disembarked after travelling in from the east of the city.

"It was very comfortable, only my legs aren't long enough," she said.

"It's a very handy because I am not prepared to pay for car parking."

Meanwhile, Norman Morrow, 66 - from south Belfast, said he hopes they expand the service to his part of the city.

"I'd like to see a service run north/south/east/west because at the minute, from where I live, if I want to go to east Belfast, I have to get a bus into the city centre, and then get another bus. It would be nice if that process was made a bit simpler," he said.