Pupils from across Northern Ireland attended a special awards ceremony at Belfast City Hall to celebrate 10 years of the Translink Eco Schools Travel Challenge.

Taking place on World Environment Day (5 June 2019) during Translink’s Bus + Train Week (June 3 – 9), the awards recognise local pupil efforts to use more sustainable travel options for the journey to and from school.  

Over 3100 pupils across 39 local schools participated in the initiative highlighting the importance of walking, cycling and using the bus or train more often for the school run. There was a 56% increase in sustainable journeys and a 29% decrease in car use during the challenge.

The award-winning top performers were Ulidia Integrated College, Carrickfergus, St Colum’s Primary School, Portstewart and Aghadrumsee Primary School in Enniskillen. St Patrick’s Primary School, Hilltown, also scooped a special Ulsterbus Tours school trip prize.

Pupil Caoimhe Gartlan from St Mary’s Primary School, Maguiresbridge, won the #Smartmovers Art Competition Award which asked pupils to design their very own advert to celebrate 10 years of the travel challenge. Caoimhe’s winning design will now be featured on the sides of buses in her local area.

A Special Recognition Award was also presented to St Malachy’s Primary School, Carnagat, Newry, for their long-term support and participation in the Travel Challenge over the past 10 years.

Welcoming everyone to the Awards Ceremony in Belfast City Hall, Cllr John Finucane, Lord Mayor of Belfast said:

“I’m absolutely delighted to join today’s celebrations of the Translink Eco Schools Travel Challenge. It is fantastic to see so many young people setting a positive example to everyone of how we should change our approach to travel for the better. On World Environment Day, it’s important that we pause and reflect on how we want to positively impact the world we live in. By choosing more sustainable modes of travel, not only are we helping improve, our health and wellbeing but we can develop a cleaner more healthy environment to live in and enjoy.”

Translink Group Chief Executive, Chris Conway, said:

“Congratulations to all our Travel Challengers! You are all setting an excellent example on World Environment Day by showing how important it is to make better travel choices – whether that’s walking, cycling, using train or bus. By doing this, we are looking after the world around us, staying active and healthy, saving money and keeping connected to each other.   

“World Environment Day highlights how we all have a responsibility to care for the environment and I think Caoimhe Gartlan – the winner of our #Smartmovers Art Competition – summarised it very well in her bus advert design when she said: ‘If we can take one small step, and make one small change, we can make a better world for everyone!’.

“It’s great to mark everyone’s achievements during Translink’s annual Bus + Train Week celebrations. Just last week we announced a record 84.5 million passenger journeys were made on our services last year – the highest in the past 20 years – as more people choose public transport as their first choice for travel.

“A massive thank you to all the local schools for participating in the Challenge over the past decade and we hope all our participants continue to adopt more sustainable travel routines for years to come.” said Chris.

Ian Humphreys, CEO at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said:

“The need to reduce our impact on the environment is clear.  Using public transport to get to school, to work or for our leisure time, is now a critical piece of the solution, providing the new normal for travel.   So Translink’s Eco-Schools Travel Challenge, celebrating 10 years, is and has been ahead of the game both in educating young people about the need for sustainable travel and by providing practical travel choices. 

“The results of our work together are impressive with over 29% fewer car journeys made as a result of the challenge this year, and over 300,000 sustainable journeys made in 10 years of challenge by our schools.” Ian added.

Schools interested in participating in the next Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge as part of the Eco-Schools Awards Scheme can call 028 9073 6920 or click www.translink.co.uk/ecoschools/.  For details on Ulsterbus Tours Educational Trips click www.ulsterbustours.com or call 028 9033 7004.