Northern Ireland

North-West students facing ‘crippling’ train fares

‘Rail fares dropped and discount cards extended to all students would result in a significant uptake in public transport’ – Cara Hunter MLA

A train runs under the Peace Bridge in Derry
Student train fares between Derry city and UU, Coleraine have been described as “absolutely crippling” by MLA Cara Hunter (SDLP).

An MLA has described train fares between Derry city and Ulster University in Coleraine as “absolutely crippling”.

SDLP representative Cara Hunter said she has been inundated with complaints about Translink’s pricing structure on the predominantly student route.

It comes as Translink announced another price hike in fares.

“Different travelcards entitle some students to discounted rail and bus fares, however, huge problems arise when someone is a part-time or evening student or attending a training course. They are not eligible for the 24 Plus card discount,” said Ms Hunter.

“This policy primarily disadvantages women, who may be studying part-time because of caring responsibilities.”

The East Derry representative said she also found the pricing policy on the Derry to Belfast rail route “very strange”.

“A day return train ticket from Derry to UU in Coleraine, currently costs £19. However, if a person continues the journey to Belfast, the fare is £21 or £23 depending on whether or not they buy a return ticket,” said Ms Hunter.

The SDLP’s Cara Hunter welcomed the extension of funding for Nexus
Cara Hunter - Students facing ‘absolutely crippling’ train fares. (Liam McBurney/PA)

“This means students, who are predominantly on low incomes, going to UU, Coleraine are effectively being charged nearly £20 a day for a 38 minute train journey, in comparison to the additional £2 or £4 train passengers pay for the additional hour and 20 minute journey to Belfast. This makes absolutely no sense.”

Ms Hunter said she had two major concerns regarding Translink’s pricing and policy on the Derry to UU, Coleraine and the north west and the east.

“It would actually cost someone less to drive a car. Where is the incentive to use the train, to be green?

“I think Translink should drop the rail fares slightly and extend the availability of discount cards for all students, this would undoubtedly result in a significant uptake in public transport,” said Ms Hunter, who has submitted several assembly questions to the infrastructure minister.

A spokesperson for NUS-USI said it had called for free transport for all students and apprentices, so no one “missed out on education because they can’t afford to get to class or placement”.

“This is hitting students from the poorest background hardest and it simply isn’t good enough. The government must step up and provide sufficient support to learners across Northern Ireland.”

A Translink spokesperson said: “The 24+ Student Railcard offering discounted rail travel is available for students in full-time education.

“Translink offers a wide range of good value fares for passengers travelling between Derry and Ulster University, Coleraine. These are tailored to suit more infrequent users and include North West iLink cards offering unlimited travel in the area, three-rail day flexi tickets and other multi journey cards for both bus and rail travel.

“Passengers who travel more frequently get the benefit of more savings with greater discounts.”

The Department for Infrastructure was contacted.