Privatisation of Northern Ireland’s public transport provider would cause widespread service cuts, it was claimed.
A cross-party Stormont report on Translink has recommended the Department for Regional Development introduce tendering and franchising opportunities for private operators, including the proposed £100 million Belfast Rapid Transit project.
Minister Danny Kennedy opposed the proposal.
“While profitable routes may be attractive to private operators, the committee’s privatisation, or suggestion, would inevitably result in widespread service cuts, something that I am not prepared to support,” he said.
Operator Translink uses its profitable routes to subsidise less lucrative ones such as rural services.
The Belfast Rapid Transit scheme was approved by the Stormont Executive last year and proposed using light rail-type vehicles to connect Dundonald, the Titanic Quarter and west Belfast to the city centre.
Mr Kennedy said the reason private firms had been reluctant to take on the operation of the service was because they wanted full control of fare rates.
“Why does anybody think that private sector operators would be concerned about the department controlling fare levels? Would it be that they would want lower levels?
“Privatisation elsewhere was followed not only by service cuts but by rampant fare increases.”
Translink received more than £140 million from public funds last year.
A report was compiled following an investigation by the Regional Development committee and debated at Stormont today.