Public transport fare hikes and service reductions to be debated

June 29, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

Following the recent announcement by Translink that fares are to rise from today (Monday), representatives from Newry and Mourne District Council are to meet with Translink officials to discuss the issue, according to Councillor Pat McGinn.

Councillor McGinn said that in the light of the recent announcement of fare increases, the options for fare reduction opportunities should be more widely available to travellers.

“Most people recognise the current economic reality facing Translink, but it is essential that the same recognition is also given to local people who use public transport,” Mr McGinn said.

“Passengers who pay cash will be facing fare increases whilst passengers using Smartlink or Link cards can avoid them. The problem is that very few who use Translink services are availing of this option and not all journeys and services are covered.”

The Councillor said that he fully agrees with the Consumer Council which has called for Translink and the Department of Regional Development to look at how they can encourage people onto public transport across the north.

“It is essential that we all remain committed to ensuring that public transport across the north of Ireland meets public need by being affordable, accessible and efficient.”

Service cuts

Commenting on the revelation that Ulsterbus services from Newry are to be reduced or cut altogether, Mr McGinn says he will be requesting a meeting to be convened between the Council and Ulster to discuss the service changes.

It’s believed the Newry to Monaghan and the Rathfriland to Newcastle via Bryansford route are to be axed, while the Newry to Belfast service is to be reduced.

“Whilst it is essential that Ulsterbus outline to Council their rationale for such decisions, it is also important that local representatives have an opportunity to express their view on specific changes that have been proposed,” he said.

Failing policy

Meanwhile SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley says the Department of Regional

Development needs to ‘fundamentally review’ its policy on public in the wake of the announced fare increases.

“The recent announcement is evidence that the Department of Regional Development’s public transport policy is failing,” Mr Bradley said.

“DRD is obsessed with road building at the expense of sustainable transport alternatives. It’s no surprise that road usage is up 17 per cent and that private car journeys are increasing exponentially.  Putting up public transport fares sends all the wrong messages and will be a further disincentive to switch from car to bus or rail.”

Mr Bradley says rural areas are particularly poorly served by public transport and called for Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, to put sustainable transport at the top of his agenda.