Northern Ireland

More needs done to encourage public transport use, MLA warns

The average fare price for standard train and bus tickets rose by 7% earlier this year.
The average fare price for standard train and bus tickets rose by 7% earlier this year. The average fare price for standard train and bus tickets rose by 7% earlier this year.

PUBLIC transport costs should be reduced in a bid to encourage more people in the north to use bus and train services, it has been suggested.

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark Durkan spoke out following new figures showing the number of public transport journeys being taken in the north remains below pre-Covid pandemic levels.

Figures released this week by the Department for Infrastructure show there were 73.5 million journeys in 2022/23, compared to 83.4m in 2019/20, with ticket sales down to £172m from £181m.

Mr Durkan, his party's infrastructure spokesperson, said it was "concerning but understandable" that journeys were down.

Read more: Translink rakes in £172m in fares - but half have a free ticket to ride

In March, Translink raised the average price of standard fares by around 7 per cent, while a consultation is also underway on raising the eligibility age for the free travel SmartPass.

"In Northern Ireland there remains a heavy reliance on private vehicles with 70% of all journeys made by car," Mr Durkan said.

“This situation has resulted in a reduction in revenue generated by ticket sales...that will have an impact on the provision of public transport here which was already struggling to remain viable and steps need to be taken to improve sustainability.

"Instead of a 7 per cent increase in fares, focus should be placed on incentivising and reducing costs for public transport. We need to do everything in our power to encourage more people to use it."