Northern Ireland news

MLAs blast rise in Translink fares

Translink fares are set to increase. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Allan Preston

A DECISION to raise Translink passenger fares will “punish the worst off in society,” MLAs have warned.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced the increase of seven per cent for standard fares would take effect by March 6, blaming the “below inflation uplift” on “significant budget pressures”.

It goes against commitments by the last two Infrastructure Ministers in 2022 to freeze fares.

A statement from the Department for Infrastructure encouraged passengers to use the best value fare options available and to avoid private vehicles where possible “to help address the climate emergency”.

The SDLP's infrastructure spokesperson, Mark H Durkan, called the increase "ridiculous" at a time when energy companies have boasted record profits and passengers struggle with the cost-of-living crisis.

"I understand the pressures Translink face and the efforts of their staff, but when we are encouraging people to use more sustainable forms of transport and to leave their cars at home the last thing we should be doing is creating further barriers and hiking prices,” he said.

“We know how harmful vehicle emissions are to our environment and if we're serious about tackling the climate emergency then we need to take steps to make cleaner modes of transport more accessible, not less."

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said the hike would discourage people from using public transport.

"These proposals are a short-sighted attempt to address the failure to promote and improve the use of public transport. The bottom line is that low-paid and unemployed people will struggle to afford these new fares.

“We should be incentivising the use of Translink’s services through more affordable fares.

"This would help expand our public transport network and move us in the direction of a greener economy.”

Sinn Féin infrastructure spokesperson Cathal Boylan added: “The Tory decision to increase fares in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis will hit hard-pressed workers and families and is in stark contrast to the freezing of fares by then Infrastructure Minister, John O’Dowd only months ago."

Translink chief executive Chris Conway also said: “We understand this will add to the cost-of-living pressures our passengers are already facing, however, we have worked very hard to keep fare adjustments low and indeed having had no fare increase in four years, in real terms, our fares still offer good value".

Pointing to a range of discounts for young people as well as weekly and monthly rates, he said: "We know any increase is unwelcome, but we are confident that bus and train travel is still an attractive and competitive option , compared to private motoring particularly given the cost of fuel.

"It is also the heathier, smarter and cleaner travel choice for a better-connected society.”