Translink boss warns £100M needed to continue services after COVID-19 crisis

Translink will need a £100 million injection of funds to continue providing a public transport network across Northern Ireland after the coronavirus crisis, its chief executive has said.

Chris Conway said there has been a 90% reduction in passenger numbers across bus and rail services as the public stay at home amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

He told the BBC: “We are probably at 10-15% of what we would normally see on our services on a daily basis, and obviously we’ll respond to that demand, but also encourage only essential travel.”

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Earlier this year, it emerged Translink was struggling with a £29 million deficit and using reserves to continue running loss-making routes.

On Tuesday, Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy announced assistance for Translink.

Mr Conway said funding in excess of £100 million will be required to continue to have a public transport network in the future.

“We’re in the same situation post-Covid-19 like a lot of other businesses, we have very little revenue coming in for now and certainly for months to come and this will require significant support to continue to have a public transport network going forward,” he said.

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“In excess of £100 million will be required to continue to have a public transport network in the future.”

Mr Conway said Translink is current running reduced bus and train services.

“Our rail network is running a Sunday service, our bus network is running a Saturday service but we continue to work with NHS care workers to make sure the services we are offering suit their needs. We are also working with trusts and the blood transfusion service to support specific staff transport requirements as well,” he said.

Mr Conway said measures have been put in place to protect staff, including enhanced cleaning regimes, minimising contact between staff and customers, encouraging the use of prepaid tickets and contactless payments, hand-washing and the use of gloves.

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He added: “At the minute we don’t really have an issue with social distancing, there is plenty of space on all of our buses and trains and we will be taking further measures around social distancing in the future.

“We have to work through that at this point, but certainly it’ll be less than 50% of the current capacity, it really depends how long social distancing is required for.

“It’s hard at this point, I don’t think any of us have a crystal ball to know how long we are going to be on lockdown for.”