Almost £30million needed to prevent collapse of NI Transport network
A stark warning has been issued in Stormont about the future of NI’s public transport network.
In 2015/16, funding provided to Translink by Stormont was cut and its budget has struggled to recover.
John McGrath, from the Department for Infrastructure, told a Stormont committee the viability of Translink is “in jeopardy”.
The department is Translink’s primary source of capital funding, and one of its main sources of revenue income.
In 2015/16, the annual subsidy provided to Translink for the public transport network was reduced by some £13m, in line with a series of wider savings that the then Department for Regional Development had to make.
Mr McGrath said while Translink had managed to maintain the rail and bus network by drawing on its reserves, it is now “running out of options”.
The department’s deputy secretary told MLAs on the Infrastructure committee that if no further investment was provided to Translink, it faced going into 2021 with a deficit of about £28m.
“I doubt there are the savings there to balance the books and yet run the network,” he added.
UUP MLA Roy Beggs who attended the meeting has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that funds are secured for public transport in next year’s budget.
“Due to the low level of subsidy for transport over the past number of years, Translink have indicated that they have drained their reserves and cannot continue to provide the current bus and rail services with the current level of public subsidy. Public transport enables the community to get to work and to school.
“It is also important in avoiding social isolation and in fighting Climate Change.
“The Northern Ireland Executive must ensure that essential public transport services continue to be provided.”
“During questioning I pressed officials to advise what specifically would happen without an increase in support for public transport.
“They confirmed that without increased funding, NI Transport Holding Company Directors, who are responsible for Translink, would have to prevent insolvency by very significant reductions in bus and rail services, with few services being viable on their own.
“My former colleague Danny Kennedy repeatedly warned of the dire situation facing Translink when he was the DRD Minister, but those calls fell on deaf ears at previous Executives and Translink now finds itself in a very precarious position.”