TRANSLINK FREE WIFI BESET BY COMPLAINTS

Commuters across NI will have used a Translink bus or train in recent years and will have been dazzled by the news that from 2012, ‘free wifi’ will have been available, first on NI Railway trains and Goldline buses, then Enterprise services.

It cost the taxpayer £700k to set up and £400k per year to run (source) the free wifi service.

Having been contacted by a number of readers about the appalling wifi service particularly on NI Railway services, which allowed users to log on, but provided little or no online service, or simply refused to allow users to connect, BtP undertook to investigate.

We asked Translink to give us the following information:

The number of complaints relating to onboard WiFi across all applicable vehicles since its installation

The cost any any repairs to vehicle on board WiFi broken down by number of vehicles since its installation

If a review of the current provider of onboard WiFi will be reviewed at the end of the contract, and the date when the contract ends.

Translink told us that the cost of repairs were included within the current contract and so they had no record of costs.  Luckily so.

Since installation in 2012, Goldline bus service users have lodged only twenty complaints about the wifi service on board – the highest, 11, lodged in 2014.

However, the situation on NI Railways services, including Enterprise, couldn’t be more different.  Users complained a staggering 566 times about the wifi service on board trains.

In line with the complaints lodged by bus users, 2014 was the highest year for complaints by train users – with almost three hundred complaints (283) lodged with Translink.

So, all of these complaints would surely prompt Translink to change contractors and get better value for money for taxpayers and service users who want a reliable wifi service, right?

No.  Translink tell us that they review the wifi contract quarterly, and this was recently renewed on 17th February 2016 – and will be again in September of this year.  They did not indicate that the contract provider had been changed despite the evident customer satisfaction problem.

 

 

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‘ILLEGAL’ PARAMILITARY MEMORIALS: NO END IN SIGHT

The issue of ‘illegal’ paramilitary memorials or monuments has been a topic of intense debate in recent years, particularly from the DUP who have raised the issue umpteen times in the Assembly with successive DRD Ministers in charge of roads where many of the memorials sit.

The DUP’s Stephen Moutray MLA was a prolific voice as early as 2008, followed by Ian McCrea and Peter Weir, although the issue has petered off in recent times, replaced largely by the flags issue.

In responding to an Assembly question in 2013, the DRD Minister advised DUP MLA Alastair Ross that four ‘illegal’ roadside memorials existed (link here).  An older oral question to the then DRD Minister from DUP MLA David Simpson (link here) outlines that there was 31 ‘illegal’ memorials relating to the troubles in 2009.

BtP can now reveal that there are currently 33 ‘illegal’ monuments or memorials specifically relating to Republican or Loyalist paramilitaries.  In its response to BtP, the Department for Regional Development was at pains to stress that it did not support the erection of the memorials, but that:

“the Department reluctantly operates a ‘toleration policy’ regarding illegal roadside memorials.  Unless such structures pose a danger to road users, or there is clear indication that removing them would have widespread local support, no immediate action will generally be taken.”

We asked the Department to identify all illegal Republican or Loyalist memorials or monuments both on public land and private land throughout NI.  Four of the 33 identified by the Department are on private land, namely:

  • Malachy Conlon Park, Cullaville outside Crossmaglen
  • Tullynavall Road, Cullyhanna
  • Kelly’s Road, Killeen (IRA)
  • Edenappa Road, Jonesborough (IRA)

Two are erected on Hous Executive land, namely:

  • Dorans Hill at Raymond Kelly Park, Newry (IRA)
  • Derrbeg Estate, Newry (IRA)
  • Derrybeg at junction of Camlough Road, Newry (IRA)

The vast majority of the memorials or monuments are situated in the Newry and Mourne Council area, 17 in total.

One is situated in Newry on the Loughgall Road, which we assume was in memory of Charles Neville, former UDR soldier killed by the Provisional IRA, but we cannot confirm.

Seven memorials are in the Fermanagh and Omagh West area.  These are at Cashel Road, Enniskillen  (not legible from Google Maps), Clonliff Road, Enniskillen (Republican), Eshnadarragh Road, Roslea (unknown), Main Street, Garrison (IRA), Swalinbar Road, Enniskillen (Republican), Meenatully Road (unknown) and Altawalk Cross, Eshnadarragh (IRA).

One unknown memorial is situated in Mid Ulster at Drumenny Road, with another in Annagher Road, Coalisland which is a Republican memorial.

Two are situated in the Derry and Strabane area, both IRA.  One is situated on the Mourne Bridge, Strabane, and the largest of all the illegal memorials is situated in Rossville Street, Derry in memoriam of the 1981 Hunger strike.

There is an IRA memorial on the Corick Road, Dungiven and another, unless the Department has made a mistake, at the same road in Limavady.

An IRA memorial garden stands in the carpark of the Ardboe Parish Hall, as well a memorial listed in Scribe Road, Bellaghy.  Another IRA plaque stands at Cloghog Road, Dungannon.

Given the small growth in the number of illegal memorials, it is unlikely that this very sensitive issue will be addressed soon.

What do you think, are illegal memorials acceptable? Should they be removed?