24 February 2015
Question Time: Regional Development Monday 23 February 2015
Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, discussed the rise in the use of public transport during today’s Question Time. Since 2011, Translink has recorded that the number of passenger journeys has risen from 77 million per year to 80.5 million – a rise of around 4.5%. The Minister believes “that success reflects my Department's investment in modernising the bus fleet and the introduction of new trains. In conjunction with Translink, I have sought to improve passenger facilities and infrastructure, provided more park-and-ride opportunities to encourage car users to access public transport for at least part of their journey and, where possible, introduced road priority measures for buses to speed up services that would otherwise be held up by traffic congestion.” Mr Kennedy also affirmed that any proposals by Translink to reduce the frequency of journeys should be taken to public consultation and any subsequent decisions should take the results of the consultation in to consideration. Patsy McGlone countered that the recent announcement of fare increases by Translink may keep people in their cars. The Minister agreed that fare increases are never welcome but highlighted that recent increases have been below the rate of inflation and compare favourably to increases in the rest of the UK. He remains confident that the use of public transport will continue to grow.
The Minister also discussed the concessionary fares travel scheme. Metro Translink and the Belfast Bus Company are two of the operators who provide concessionary fares on behalf of the Department. Historically the scheme has been underfunded. An extra £9.5m has been allocated for 2015-16 but this has been based on current passenger numbers and fares – an increase of either will quickly result in pressure on the budget. New operators entering the scheme will also result in an increase on the financial resources currently available. The Minister added “given that the scheme attracts support from all sections of the community and across all parties, I encourage all Members to show their support for it by canvassing their colleagues in the Executive to ensure that appropriate funding is allocated to my Department to cover all existing and future commitments with the concessionary fares scheme in place.”
During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on local road issues, the appointment of a new Translink Chief Executive, the Londonderry rail project and the Mobuoy Road vesting order.