Belfast Telegraph

Car's the star as Northern Ireland people ditch public transport

By Adrian Rutherford

The number of cars on the roads in Northern Ireland is rising as people snub public transport.

Environmental campaigners have warned we are locked in a "car-first" transport policy as official figures showed bus journeys had dropped in the past five years while the number of licensed vehicles had increased.

We also have more private light goods vehicles – driven by the so-called white van men – relative to our population than the rest of the regions in the UK.

And some 34% of households here have two or more cars – a higher figure than England.

Today's report from the Department of Regional Development also revealed:

  • There are 25% more cars and vans registered here compared to a decade ago, with our vehicle stock rising faster than anywhere else in the UK
  •  78% of households in Northern Ireland have access to a car or van
  •  More people are injured in road accidents here relative to our population than in England, Scotland and Wales;
  •  Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Ford remain the most popular car choices.

The figures are mapped out in the Northern Ireland Transport Statistics bulletin for 2013/14, which also revealed that 1,066,504 vehicles were registered here at the start of this year – up 2% from five years earlier.

That figure included 890,484 cars – a 3.4% rise on the 2009 rate. There were also 634 private light goods vehicles for every 1,000 adults in Northern Ireland – higher than the 624 GB average.

At the same time, 40.5 million journeys were made on Ulsterbus last year – down 3% on 41.9 million five years ago.

The Belfast Metro service had a similar number of journeys last year compared to 2009.

Declan Allison from Friends of the Earth said people needed to learn to leave cars behind.

"Northern Ireland remains locked into a car-first transport policy," he added.

"If it is to be a sustainable, low-carbon society, we have to move out of our cars for public transport, walking and cycling instead.

"That won't happen until buses are affordable, reliable and frequent, and walking and cycling is safe.

"Much could be achieved if the balance of the transport budget was shifted from an emphasis on private cars to focusing on sustainable transport options."

There was, however, an increased use of rail during the period, with 13.2 million journeys in 2013/14 – up by 15%.

But the number of vehicles registered here has soared by 25% over the past decade, compared to 16% in Scotland, 15% in Wales and 11% in England.

Around 78% of households here have access to a car or van, more than England's 75%, and 34% of homes here have access to two or more cars.

The report also suggested our roads were much more dangerous.

It compared the number of injuries per 100,000 of population for each of the four regions and found Northern Ireland had 318, England 230, Wales 191 and Scotland 169.

Between 2012 and 2013, the number of reported road casualties – people killed, seriously or slightly injured – here rose by 2% from 9,010 to 9,187.

Factfile

  • 25,507km of public road in Northern Ireland
  • £436m was spent on our roads during 2013/14
  •  734,299 full vehicle tests for motorcycles and cars completed here during the period, with an estimated test failure rate of 20%
  • 56% pass rate for learner driving tests last year – 63% for males and 51% for females
  •  1,126 Ulsterbuses and 288 Metro buses on the roads.

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