The figures (in £'000) year ending March 27
Translink results consolidate the trading position of the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company and NI Railways, Ulsterbus and Metrobus (trading as City Bus). The annual report offers a summary of the financial performance of the group.
The financial results for the subsidiary companies need to be interpreted allowing that the underlying commercial performance is underpinned by different forms of Government support which has been reduced significantly. Translink, facing trading losses, is asking that Government should reinstate the fuel duty rebate (withdrawn two years ago) which might attract over £10m each year
The overall trading position in the two most recent years has left an operating and pre-tax loss. As a result, and deliberately planned, financial reserves have been reduced. As reserves disappear, logically that policy cannot continue. In a quiet change in the commercial environment, Translink has been given an on-going contract for at least five years to provide public transport. Government has given a commitment to Translink to ensure that, as a minimum, it is able to meet going concern obligations.
In the year to March 2016, the overall pre-tax loss was £18.3m. £7.8m of this loss was a consequence of extra allowance for pension costs. The trading results of the main subsidiaries, after receipt of earmarked Government funding and excluding the pensions cost adjustment, were: NI Railways, a loss of £2.7m; Metrobus, a profit of £0.7m; and Ulsterbus, a loss of £8.8m.
The continuing annual losses on Ulsterbus, representing nearly 9% of fare revenue, are a challenge to the management and organisation of these services.
Translink has continued a major programme of capital spending, partly on refurbishing railway services but also in the modernisation of the bus fleets.
Government capital grants each year have minimised the impact of capital spending on operational accounts. Capital grants of £50m were received in 2015-16 against capital spending on assets of £45m.
In the group balance sheet at the end of March 2016, the value of reserves and shareholders' funds, calculated after depreciation and impairment of assets was deducted and, critically, after taking account of the actuarial deficit to meet pension liabilities, was a negative £27.5m.