BUS and train drivers are pleading with public to try and stay at home and leave public transport for key or essential workers over Easter, according to a union.
The news comes as it emerges that a number of bus drivers have succumbed to the Covid-19 virus in England.
Tranlink has already instigated infection control, offered more cashless transactions and increased routes and lowered prices for healthcare workers.
Davy Thompson, Unite Deputy Regional Secretary, commended the bravery of the bus and rail workers who continue to maintain public transport services at this time.
“I’m incredibly proud of our members who are keeping Northern Ireland’s buses and trains moving during the lockdown.” he said.
“Frontline public transport workers are risking their lives on a daily basis to provide and maintain public transport for other essential and key workers.
“Unite has negotiated with Translink management a suite of protections for staff.
“These include the provision of gloves, hand sanitiser, the introduction of cashless fares, additional protective coverings for security screens and the cordoning off of the front seats to ensure social distancing between drivers and passengers.
“The measures we have been able to secure with the publicly-owned Translink are night and day as compared to that offered by private sector operators – even where these are still continuing to operate”, Mr Thompson said.
Despite the range of protections, drivers in Northern Ireland are still falling sick with Covid-19, he said.
Chair of Unite’s Metro drivers, Michael Dornan, explained the fears of drivers:
“Sadly despite the infection control measures, we have seen some of our drivers fall ill but so far we have been lucky and we have no fatalities.
“Every day we go to work hoping that today isn't the day we contract the virus or worse still bring it home to our loved ones but we have to play our role and help other key and essential workers get to their equally vital jobs.
“At these stressful times we know that we have benefited from being a state-owned publicly funded company compared to other big UK bus companies, some of which have laid their staff off as they had no interest in running non-profitable routes. Translink and its workers are there to serve society.”
Mr Dornan ended reiterating the need for everyone to stay at home, “we would plead to the public, if you don't need to travel stay at home, allow this service to be exclusively for other key and essential workers.
“By being sensible and working together, we will make it through these challenging times”, he concluded.