Slieve Gullion Park and Ride service comes under fire

April 4, 2016

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s temporary Park and Ride service, set up to resolve traffic and parking issues at Slieve Gullion Forest Park, has come under fire again with several users contacting The Examiner to express their concerns about the arrangement over the Easter period.

The Council introduced the measure over the Easter holidays last year in an effort to combat severe traffic congestion at the award winning attraction as a result of unprecedented visitor numbers. Despite pledging to provide a long term solution for the 2016 season, the Park and Ride arrangement has once again been established on a temporary basis – this time based at the Jade Centre in Jonesborough.

Some members of the public have questioned the logic of the Council’s decision to operate the Park and Ride facility from Jonesborough as many visitors to the attraction will be unfamiliar with the area and, for local people, it presents an added journey in order to catch a bus to Slieve Gullion.

One parent in particular was also keen to point out that, despite a hugely enjoyable day out at the facility, the unreliability of transport arrangements to and from Slieve Gullion had effectively “ruined the day” for them and will deter them from returning during peak season.

The family claim that on Easter Monday they were turned away from the facility in their car after queuing for a considerable length of time only to be told the car park was full and had closed.

According to the concerned father of three, the family then made their way to Jonesborough and boarded a Park and Ride bus.  At the end of their day trip, the man told us he decided to get the bus back to Jonesborough to return in his car to pick up his family.  He claims that Council personnel at the facility were unable to tell him where to board the Park and Ride bus back to Jonesborough as they had “nothing to do with the Park and Ride service.” After a 45 minute wait at a spot he was directed to by personnel at Slieve Gullion he approached them again and was told to check further down the road.

The man says he decided to take his wife and small children onto the dangerous Newry Road where eventually a Park and Ride bus turned up.  He feels the situation is “unacceptable” as there was a lack of knowledge amongst security staff about the Park and Ride service and that the bus did not enter the facility to pick up passengers, instead forcing them to wait for the next bus on an extremely dangerous stretch of road for pedestrians.

The Examiner contacted the Council requesting clarification on bus times and pick up points and asked why Council staff at the park would be unaware of Park and Ride arrangements.  We also enquired what type of long term measures were being considered such as admission or parking charges and why the decision was made to move the Park and Ride embarkment point from Johnny Murphy’s in Meigh to the Jade Centre in Jonesborough?

In a statement provided to us, a Council spokesperson said:

“The Council are providing a park and ride service to provide the opportunity for as many people as possible to have an opportunity to visit Slieve Gullion.

“The park and ride facility for 2015 was a temporary arrangement for 2015.  The Council considered a range of options for 2016 and agreed the most suitable option on a temporary basis for 2016 was the JADE centre in Jonesborough.

“The park and ride provision is available over the Easter period daily, weekend and bank holiday during April, May and June and daily during July and August.  The service operates from 10am – 6pm and patrons are encouraged to go directly to Junction 20 if travelling from Belfast or Dublin.  The service is signposted both from junction 20 and from Slieve Gullion.

“All Council staff at Slieve Gullion are aware of the arrangements for park and ride, a social media campaign is in place and flyers have been produced.

“The Council are currently working  on long term sustainable arrangements for additional parking at Slieve Gullion.”