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Does public transport do enough for students?
By Niamh Burns
It’s the same questions that always plague your day as you step outside. Will my bus turn up on time? Will the train be delayed? Are there engineering works on the line? The answer to a lot of these questions is yes and here in Northern Ireland, it is a single company that will decide whether you get you to university or not.
Translink, who operate both the trains and the buses in Northern Ireland are often reliable within Belfast and Derry as well as major towns, but unfortunately for those who live in rural areas or further afield, it can be far more difficult.
Jonny Walsh, a journalism student at Ulster University at Coleraine, lives in Dromore, a small village outside Lisburn. He says one issue is the apparent lack of communication.
"If a train is delayed, the trains that people could get are rarely held back to accommodate them. Travelling up and down the country is hardly ideal and between that and a lack of being notified in regards to problems on the line mean that it's possible to get stuck somewhere for an hour without a way home. With one railway track between our two major cities, that says all you need to know."
But it’s not just the problems with the train itself. Lectures at Ulster University, where Walsh studies, end on the hour, which means a mad ten-minute dash to get the train back to Belfast.
"The lack of communication is really frustrating with lectures ending on the hour or slightly after, leaving students running for the train constantly. While that is no fault of Translink, the university should be changing their teaching schedule."
However, it isn’t just the trains that cause students difficult. The buses have their fair share of problems too. This is mainly down to scheduling with a limited service during weekdays.
Maddie Siegmund, who lives in Derry, currently has a placement for her journalism course in the town of Omagh. With no rail links in County Tyrone, she must rely on the bus service to take her the 66 mile round trip one day per week, with only one service per hour.
“I found that travelling to college the buses were often late and basically left me in a lurch, because if I got an earlier one I’d be there far too early,” she says.
“I'd say the nature of relying on public transportation forces you to be organised and on time. This isn’t a bad life skill to learn even the hard way. But for me, it appears for Northern Ireland that it's a bigger issue of lack of investment.”
With a lot of students living within travelling distance of home, many often go back for the weekend, but cannot purchase open returns with no fixed return date. With only single day returns available on the buses and trains, quite the cost can be racked up. A single from the university town of Coleraine to Belfast off peak still stands at £11.50.
We are always told, save the hassle of driving, no insurance needed for the bus, to just sit back and relax. But with all of the above in mind, it is time to ask ourselves, is it all worth it?
Hi, I’m Niamh. I am a recent English Literature graduate from Ulster University, now studying an NCTJ Professional Journalism course at North West Regional College in Derry, Northern Ireland. I have always wanted to become a journalist and have spent the last few years interning at newspapers and magazines throughout Northern Ireland. I have a massive interest in currents affairs, politics and social justice. I’m really interested in student perspective, politics and activism, mainly in feminism and gender equality. I believe it is really important for young people and students to get involved in current affairs and politics, it is crucial for us to have a good platform in order to express ourselves.