Departmental warning over future collapse of Translink, Northern Ireland’s public transport provider, reflects consequences of long-term underfunding
Collapse of Translink would leave swathes of Northern Ireland without public transport and would spike carbon emissions through forcing a return to the car
Unite Regional Coordinating Officer for public transport, Davy Thompson called on the Stormont Executive to act quickly to address the funding crisis threatening the future of Translink’s publicly-owned public transport provider after Department for Infrastructure public transport expert, John McGrath, told the Infrastructure Committee that the company was in jeopardy as a result of years of underfunding.
“Unite represents the overwhelming majority of drivers, engineers and inspectors employed by Translink, Northern Ireland’s public transport provider and today’s expert evidence comes as no surprise. In 2015, members of our union brought public transport services and Northern Ireland to a standstill repeatedly to defend against austerity-driven threats to town centre routes, rail services and rural runs.
“The way our public transport is chronically underfunded in Northern Ireland is nothing short of a disgrace. Translink sustains scores of routes which are uneconomic but are a lifeline to rural and deprived urban communities through the process of cross-subsidising the losses with the surpluses generated by the 15 percent of routes which are profit-making. That is only possible because of the fact that Translink runs all public transport services and because it is publicly-owned.
“The collapse of Translink would be truly disastrous for Northern Ireland. The loss of the ability to cross-subsidise routes would mean that entire swathes of Northern Ireland would be left without any bus services whatsoever, inner city and working-class communities living in towns across Northern Ireland would lose their town centre runs, and already inadequate rail services would be cut further.
“The Northern Ireland Executive parties committed themselves to meeting the challenge of climate change but that verbal commitment means nothing if they allow our public transport services to collapse through underfunding. Unite members in public transport have taken industrial action to defend public transport services in the past and we stand ready to do so again if a genuine threat to jobs and services emerges”, Mr Thompson said.