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£500m spent on public transport, but 71% of trips still made by car

By Brett Campbell

A survey has shown that car use in Northern Ireland has remained consistently high since 2011, despite more £500m of investment in public transport over the period.

The latest Travel Survey, which collects yearly transport data for the Government, revealed that 71% of all journeys here between 2014 and 2016 were made by car - almost the same as every year since 2011.

Only 43 - just 5% - of the 897 annual trips taken on average by each person here were made by public transport, which the report acknowledged was "no real change".

The Department for Infrastructure, formerly the Department for Regional Development, has given Translink £363m of capital funding and £179m of revenue funding since 2011 in order to promote and enhance public transport.

Friends of the Earth Campaigner Declan Allison told this newspaper he believed there should be even more investment despite the results of the survey, which he acknowledged were disappointing.

"Public transport, walking, and cycling are under-resourced and underfunded," Mr Allison insisted.

"With over 80% of the total transport budget spent on roads, it's not really a surprise that there has been no significant increase in the use of public transport."

Mr Allison also stressed that the spending trend should be reversed so that "the lion's share of the budget" was allocated to public transport to make Northern Ireland a low-carbon, climate change-proof economy.

He blamed an "unsustainable pattern of development" for causing car dependency.

A spokesman for the Department for Infrastructure said the survey was only based on a representative sample.

He also cited Translink data to show passenger numbers had increased.

"Looking at the actual number of public transport passenger journeys reported by Translink, it has increased from 77.2m in 2011-12 to 79.9m in 2016-17," the spokesman added.

The survey found that people in Northern Ireland travel an average of just over 5,700 miles every year - around 16 miles a day.

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