Boss blames cuts for Translink loss
Severe budget cuts are to blame for Translink's biggest ever losses, a Stormont scrutiny committee has been told.
Even though passenger numbers increased over the past year, the public transport operator has recorded pre-tax losses of £16.6 million - the worst in its history.
Chief executive David Strahan warned the only way to protect frontline services was to increase funding.
He said: "We have been with a massive in-year shock in terms of funding. If this was in GB these services would have gone long ago. You can't say to an organisation here is package of money and here is a suite of services we want you to provide and then say we are going to cut the funding you receive by 20% but we want you to provide the same services.
"That is not tenable."
Mr Strahan, who is due to quit his post to become a gospel preacher in September, was briefing MLAs on the company's annual accounts.
He added: "The accounts for the last year reflect the position that Translink finds itself in - the loss before tax is the largest the organisation has ever incurred, at £16.6 million.
"That reflects largely the reduction in funding that we received from the Department (of Regional Development) during the year for the provision of services."
A three-pronged plan including price hikes and service reductions is expected to bring the publicly funded company back into profit within three years, MLA's heard.
A voluntary redundancy scheme, which has now closed, will also see around 55 managers or supervisors leave by the autumn, saving £3.1 million.
Ten other individuals are due to exit through measures not outlined to the committee, although Mr Strahan acknowledged there may be "one or two" mandatory redundancies.
"We will meet our target of £3.1 million," he said. "We may exceed it. That is something I am pleased about."
Criticism of fuel hedging, which has cost Translink £7 million, was also rejected. Mr Strahan, a former Phoenix Gas boss, insisted that the practise had benefited Translink to the tune of £1 million over the past five years.
Meanwhile, there were heated exchanges between rival MLAs over the level of cuts imposed on the Department of Regional Development.
Ulster Unioinist MLA Adrian Watson, one of Stormont's newest recruits, clashed with the DUP committee chairman Trevor Clarke while trying to defend his party's only minister, Danny Kennedy, who has been scathing of the reduction to his departmental budget.