Translink rural services may face axe due to funding pressures, MLA fears

SDLP South Down MLA Sinéad Bradley
Brendan Hughes

TRANSLINK passengers are facing potential service cuts next year – and rural communities could be "where the axe falls first", an MLA has warned.

The public transport operator has an annual £12m funding shortfall that has previously been covered by making efficiency savings and dipping into cash reserves.

Translink earlier this year warned that this is not sustainable, but the SDLP's Sinead Bradley says Department for Infrastructure (DfI) officials have suggested issues could arise by 2018.

"DfI has told us that Translink is facing an annual deficit, primarily from Ulsterbus. In previous years that has been funded from efficiency savings and the company's cash reserves," she said.

"That will no longer be possible from next year, leaving service cuts the only area left. And you can be sure, it'll be rural communities where the axe falls first."

The South Down MLA added: "This further underscores the need for an executive to make funding decisions in line with the needs of our communities."

In response, Translink said spending on public transport in the north is lower than in regions of Britain but the level of service coverage is "much higher".

A spokeswoman said: "Translink has been running at a loss for the past three years and has been utilising its own reserves to maintain the public transport network coverage, however, this is not sustainable.

"Translink has been very active in improving its financial position through revenue growth and cost efficiencies (£6m in 2016/17). However, there remains an annual estimated shortfall of approximately £12m (£2m rail and £10m bus).

"There is an urgent need to address compensation levels being paid to Translink."

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