1. ITV Report

Rural bus routes under threat

Rural communities across Northern Ireland face the prospect of losing their bus services as Translink says it can no longer afford to run them.

Gortin in Co Tyrone lies in the foothills of The Sperrins.

It's one of the most isolated villages in Northern Ireland and bus links to bigger towns are essential for its residents.

Angela O’Brien from Gortin Community Centre said: “We’re number one on the NISRA statistics for distance from services. The bus is one of the lifelines for bringing people to some of those services.”

The village’s one and only bank closed a number of years ago, and even the town’s ATM has been removed, now the bus shelter is in danger of becoming redundant.

Translink says it cannot afford many of these rural routes since a government subsidy to run unprofitable but social necessary services was cut over three years ago.

The company has been drawing from its own reserves to keep them running at a cost of £13 million per year.

The company says that's no longer sustainable and services could be cut with two years.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Sean Clarke says it would a serious effect on the area.

He said: “People who don’t have access to a car would have no way to get to Omagh which is a very basic journey. Remember some of them have bus passes, and what use are they if they can’t use them?”

Officials from the Unite Union have met with Translink. It says transport workers will fight to protect rural routes

Unite’s Davy Thompson said: “All bus operators across western Europe get a grant to help subsidise, Northern Ireland’s the only place that doesn’t get that, it needs to be done and there needs to be real investment in public transport.”

Translink says current services will be maintained and any changes will go for public consultation.