It was interesting to read in your paper that the head of transport policy at the Consumer Council has stated DRD needs to design public transport services to take people where they want to go.
Also, our Audit Office’s report on “effectiveness of public transport in Northern Ireland” highlights the huge growth in rail passengers, which have doubled in the past decade. But most important, DRD are advised to set targets to achieve a modal shift to public transport. We are further informed that, significantly, the mainland UK department responsible, spends twice as much on public transport, the exact opposite to what happens here, even allowing for the large spend on new rail and bus rolling stock. Hence our public transport is being starved of equality investment, in comparison to road expenditure. How does this fit with modern policy?
The public here have demonstrated their enormous support for rail travel. Witness, for example, the hundreds of cars at NIR stations, with long lines of them parked along the roadside at Moira, such is the pressure on the P&R rail parks there. All this appears to be missed by our politicians. Disproportionally, billions have been spent on roads here, yet congestion continues to grow, with Belfast a top contender for UK’s most congested city. A much-needed transport hub is in plan for Belfast’s Gt Victoria Street, but if access is mainly by bus, is it really a great advance?
Several strategic reopened rail links need added to our current system. Such would change matters dramatically. More roads will simply grow car commuting and catch-up congestion, as DRD has proved already.
A policy is urgently required to bring all our population within at most 10 miles of a rail station, with a major priority given to reopening a few strategic rail links to achieve this. With Belfast the obvious focus of our economy, three rail links to Newtownards, and on to Downpatrick and Newcastle, the main line from Portadown to Dungannon and on to Omagh, and a reopening of the main cross border line from Portadown to Armagh and on to Monaghan and Enniskillen, would achieve this target and take hundreds of cars off our congested roads at a stroke. With much of the trackbeds still in situ relative cost would be minimal, but provide work for our under pressure construction industry. In addition freight could be profitable on the latter link too, to rail connected Larne harbour.