Translink ‘cannot keep running off its cash reserves’

Generic image of a train in Northern Ireland
Generic image of a train in Northern Ireland

Translink, the Province’s public transport operator, has said that it needs a considerable cash injection if it is to keep running services to the same extent as present.

The publicly owned company today publishes its annual accounts, and a spokeswoman said that the time is rapidly approaching when it will no longer be realistic to dip into its reserves in order to continue operating.

Ahead of the publication of the figures she said that, in rough terms, Translink’s public funding in 2016/17 is about 20% lower than it was in 2013/14 (a drop of roughly £16m), and that since then has been using its reserves to keep services going.

Whilst Translink will be able to eat into its reserves again this year, this will not be feasible from 2018/19, she told the News Letter.

“We’re in a situation where we really now need that additional funding to maintain services as we currently operate them,” she said.

She added public expenditure on public transport in Northern Ireland per head of population is about 60% of what it is in England and Wales combined, and about 40% of what it is in Scotland.

The financial report, published today, will reveal that while revenue is up slightly, Translink still had a pre-tax operating loss for the year up to March 26, 2017.

This loss was £10.9m – better than the £13.4m it had budgeted for but slightly worse than in 2015/15, when the figure stood at £10.5m.

Translink said of the figures: “This reflects the significant reduction in compensation paid to Translink for routes operated as a public service obligation. Translink continues to operate these routes utilising its own reserves.”