Efficiency call over Translink

Translink is on track to make a profit of �2m this year but will then start to make significant losses.
Translink is on track to make a profit of �2m this year but will then start to make significant losses.

TRANSLINK must work on “increasing passenger numbers, ensure it is operating as efficiently as possible and focus on improving services”, the chief executive of the Consumer Council said yesterday.

Antoinette McKeown was responding to a report by the Department for Regional Development (DRD) which reveals that Translink “faces long-term funding problems.”

The DRD analysis follows the publication of Translink’s three-year corporate plan which reveals the company expects to move into the red after this year.

The DRD had expected the publicly-owned company to prepare a plan which would allow it to break even financially across the group which includes NI Railways, Metro and Ulsterbus.

However, after scrutinising the plan, DRD concluded that “the scale of the problem in the later two years of the plan, as projected by Translink, is significant”.

It is anticipated Translink will make a profit of £2m this year (2012-2013) but will then start to make significant losses with a deficit of £11.6m expected in 2013-2014, and £10.5m the following year (2014-15).

DRD’s concern about Translink’s financial position comes just a week after the company announced fares would go up by an average of three per cent. Ms McKeown said the projected losses for Translink during the 2013/14 and 2014/15 financial years demonstrated the impact reduced public spending is starting to have for consumers.

“The Department for Regional Development’s (DRD) final budget settlement does propose significant cuts in funding to Translink for the last two years of the plan. The level of funding provided for public transport has been a concern for the Consumer Council for some time, having raised this issue when the DRD budget and spending plans for 2011 – 2015 were announced in early 2011. The Consumer Council continues to call for a rebalancing of the DRD budget towards improving public transport and avoiding large fare increases and service cuts for passengers,” she said.

In a statement, the DRD said Minister Danny Kennedy was aware of the financial challenges facing Translink and had asked his officials to work with Translink to identify how this could be resolved.

A spokesman for Translink said the company’s funding from Government for 2013/14 and 2014/15 was being reduced by £25.4m and this would lead to losses of £22.9m.

“We will be working with the DRD to understand the future public transport policy in light of this reduced funding. Our current operational model is efficient and has made over £12m of savings over the last few years,” he said.

See Morning View, page 18