Fares hike warning after Translink hit by losses of £8.4m
Translink has suffered trading losses of £8.4m - the largest in its history - after being hit by huge Government budget cuts.
The bus and train operator was lumbered with £13m in cutbacks by the Department for Regional Development during the last financial year.
Those cuts are set to worsen during this financial year.
Passenger numbers were up year-on-year, increasing by almost 500,000, with the number of fare-paying journeys rising by almost 7%.
Asked whether the business could continue in its current set-up given the losses, finance director Stephen Armstrong said "costs need to come down, and fares need to go up".
He added: "Our fare structure is based on getting fuel duty rebate of £10m. If they take that away from us, the whole structure of our business needs to change. Costs need to come down and fares need to go up," he said.
"We need, over the next couple of years, a fare increase marginally above what our costs are going up by, so that we are moving back towards profitability."
Mr Armstrong said Translink had performed "very well against the back of £13m funding cuts".
Its funding has been slashed from almost £80m in 2012 to a little over £64m during the last financial year.
Fares went up across the board, and above the rate of inflation, in February. But Mr Armstrong said a price spike was "unlikely to happen" by the end of this year.
Translink's Ciaran Rogan said the firm aimed to be back into profitability within two years.
It's also cutting back managerial and staff costs, with around 65 people set to go under a voluntary exit scheme, with a further 100 expected in the scheme's second phase. It employs around 3,800 staff across Northern Ireland.
Translink also posted a profit before tax loss of £16.6m, due to "one-off accounting adjustments".
The latest results are due to be presented to the Assembly today.
Story in brief
Northern Ireland's bus and train operator Translink has suffered trading losses of £8.4m in the last year. That's the biggest loss since its inception back in 1996. The heavy losses were blamed on severe cuts in its budget from Stormont, with cash dropping by £13m in the year 2014-15. It says it aims at returning to profit in two years.