Public transport infrastructure 'vital for inward investment decisions'

At the Bus and Train Week stakeholder event at the Europa Hotel are (from left) Chris Conway, Translink; Sir Peter Hendy; and Richard Kirk, director of ICE Northern Ireland

PUBLIC transport investment in Northern Ireland must not lag significantly behind the rest of UK or it risks holding back economic development in the region, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy told a Belfast audience yesterday.

The former Commissioner of Transport for London, speaking as part of Bus and Train Week, pointed to figures in a recent Audit Office report that shows government public transport spend per capita in Northern Ireland is 60 per cent of that in England and Wales and 40 per cent of that in Scotland.

And this, he claimed, highlighted the importance of increased spend in integrated transport infrastructure to improve economic and social fortunes in the region, aiding connectivity and creating growth, jobs and houses.

Sir Peter was the guest of Translink and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), who brought together stakeholders from the business community, tourism, education and healthcare sectors, community and social inclusion groups, as well as environmental bodies to discuss the importance of public transport to the economy and in the creation of a prosperous, sustainable and inclusive modern society.

“The evidence is very clear from across the world about the importance of strategic investment in public transport to modern successful cities and regions - well beyond just mobility itself," Sir Peter said.

"Conservatively, research shows that investment in the right sort of public transport scheme generates value of up to three to four times the initial investment and that sort of positive return should not be ignored by any region.

“Public transport can also help leverage private sector investment into a city or region as can be seen by Translink's exciting plans for the new Belfast Hub – which is a massive regeneration project in its own right for this city.

"While it's clear that a number of important public transport schemes such as this have been prioritised in the draft programme for government, the fact that public transport spend per capita here still lags significantly behind other parts of the UK should be concerning and risks holding back economic and social development here.”

Translink chief executive Chris Conway said: “Public transport is recognised as a lever for economic development and wealth creation and promotes social integration, limits air pollution and represents an efficient use of resources. It makes our towns and cities more competitive and more attractive places to live in, invest in and visit. We know for example that public transport infrastructure is now a key ingredient to inward investment decisions.

“Against this backdrop, we will continue to make the case for increased funding for public transport as well as champion an integrated mobility strategy that requires collaboration between all modes of transport and an investment in integrated infrastructure.”

ICE director Richard Kirk said: “A moving economy relies on the mobility of people, goods and services. Traffic congestion can seriously harm the competitiveness of cities and towns, affecting travel time reliability and business productivity.

"By transporting large numbers of people more efficiently, public transport has a major role to play in alleviating congestion and smoothing traffic flows. In order to make Northern Ireland a better place to live, work, invest and visit we must invest in mobility which includes active travel, roads and greenways.”

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