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FROM CITYBUS TO PRETTY BUS; EXCLUSIVE New pink vehicles are gay says Wilson.

Byline: KEVIN McDONNELL

BELFAST'S Citybus service is to be scrapped and the traditional red buses are to be painted pink, the Daily Mirror can reveal.

The plan to repaint the buses for a new Metro network has been labelled "gay" by former DUP Lord Mayor Sammy Wilson.

The MLA was left seething at the Translink plan and asked the Mirror: "Are they gay buses?"

News of the colour change has received a mixed reception with some drivers fearing they will be forced to wear pink uniforms.

Mr Wilson, a member of the Policing Board, said: "Who on earth thinks these things up? What the people of Belfast need is more buses and regular timetables not pink buses.

"How much will all these cosmetic changes cost? I'm afraid this is what is happening in the public sector at the moment. All spin and no substance. This type of thing drives me up the wall."

The details of the new network, to start in February, followed a strategic review of operations in the Greater Belfast area.

Citybus and Ulsterbus will be scrapped as part of the plan.

The pink Metro scheme will be the first significant change to the Belfast bus network in 30 years.

Some key routes set to change will be along Shore Road, Shankill Road, Falls Road, Antrim Road and Malone Road.

Translink say the pink buses will run every five minutes between 7am and 6pm and that passenger numbers will grow.

A spokeswoman said: "In addition to restructuring we want to establish quality partnerships with external agencies, in particular with the PSNI, focusing on faster, more frequent and effective enforcement of bus priority measures to ensure passengers get to their destinations as quickly as possible."

But she could not explain why pink had been chosen for the new buses and she could not rule out a uniform change.

She said: "I have no idea why pink was picked for the colour of the buses. I suppose drivers may have the new colour included in any uniform change in the future."

One driver said yesterday: "What will they think of next? The colour is simply not practical.

"What is wrong with blue or green? I want to drive a bus not an ice cream van."

Gay rights group Rainbow declined to comment on Mr Wilson's outburst.

CAPTION(S):

RED LETTER DAY: Old style bus; ANGRY: Wilson
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 4, 2004
Words:397
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