​Nightlife campaigners in Northern Ireland urge for later public transport services

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A group of nightlife campaigners from Northern Ireland’s Free The Night organisation are fighting for later public transport services across the province.

Free The Night – a non-profit campaign group set up by DJs Sunil Sharpe and Holly Lester – are now urging for the introduction of later transport links in Northern Ireland’s major cities where nightlife continues through into the early hours each weekend.

The group are also calling for Northern Ireland to implement night czars in larger cities, similar to those in London, Manchester, and Bristol.

Free The Night argue that this would benefit Northern Ireland’s nighttime economy where nightlife has a hugely important “cultural and social role”, and brings communities together.

Read this next: “It felt like this might never happen”: Clubs reopen in Northern Ireland

In the campaign group’s latest research paper, titled ‘Transforming Nightlife in Northern Ireland’, Free The Night detailed ways to improve nightlife infrastructure, support and fund pilot schemes, and more.

Amongst the topics covered, the group also proposed extended but staggered opening times for bars, pubs, and clubs for the benefit of “cutting bottlenecks at 3:AM”.

“The uniformity of venue closing times means too many people try to access taxis at once. This exacerbates night-time transport challenges, creating bottlenecks at 3:AM and leaving many with no way home,” the report reads.

“This creates other safety risks which police and community safety partnerships are all too familiar with.”

As it stands, nightclubs across Northern Ireland have complained of a shortage of taxis and public transport to allow clubgoers to get home safely after a night out.

Read this next: Nightlife campaigners in Northern Ireland are calling on government for financial support

“The lack of transport infrastructure has become more apparent for users and workers in nightlife since the reopening of the evening and nighttime economy post-pandemic,” the report reads.

“Transport challenges were noted as a main reason why people left their jobs in the evening and night time (13%). COVID-19 has also put immense pressure on taxis.”

Last year, one of Northern Ireland’s largest taxi companies, Fonacab, reported being overwhelmed with work as the province faced a shortage of taxi drivers.

Nightlife is now able to stay open until 3:AM on weekends in Northern Ireland, a change only recently made post-pandemic – and the first major change to NI’s licensing laws in some 25 years.

Elsewhere in the report, Free The Night argued that better transport links across Northern Ireland’s major cities would “reduce carbon emissions”, and creating “dedicated nightlife districts” could reduce nuisance in local areas.

Read the full report here.

Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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