TRANSLINK has warned that local bus services could be withdrawn if they continue to come under attack.
The company spoke out this week following the hijacking of a Metro bus in the O’Neill Road area on Friday evening.
The transport provider has said services are ‘likely’ to be stopped during the continuing loyalist protests against Belfast City Council’s decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag.
Loyalist pages on social networks are publicising more protests again this weekend and in the coming weeks to cause further disruption.
On Friday, January 11, before a protest at a Cloughfern Corner a Metro bus was hijacked and set on fire at the entrance to the Rathfern estate off the O’Neill Road.
There were no passengers on board at the time and the driver was unhurt in the incident.
The cost of replacing the bus is likely to be hundreds of thousands of pounds and local elected representatives have expressed fears that Newtownabbey services could be impacted as a result.
Translink has said routes currently remain unaffected, however, if services continue to come under attack they may have to be reviewed and could be withdrawn all together.
A Translink spokeswoman said: “A Metro bus was hijacked on O’Neill Road in Newtownabbey on Friday evening, January 11 and subsequently burned out. No passengers were on board at the time and the driver was unhurt.
“Due to ongoing protests, services are likely to be subject to some disruption and delays and may be diverted. If roads are closed due to protests in Belfast, Metro services on affected roads will be held in the city centre until roads clear or will travel only the portion of the route which is passable. Services will return to normal as roads clear.”
Those behind the flag protests have said there will be a another one at the O’Neill Road roundabout close to the cemetery this Friday and every Friday thereafter at 6pm.
They have appealed for the protest to remain peaceful and said anyone intent on causing trouble should stay away.