Belfast Telegraph

Stormont to investigate all aspects of Translink

By Adrian Rutherford

The company in charge of Northern Ireland’s public transport system is to be investigated by a top Stormont committee.

A “full-blown” inquiry is set to be held into company practices at Translink by the regional development committee, it was announced yesterday.

It comes days after members criticised salaries and benefits paid to senior management at the company, which faces losses of £22m over the next two years.

Last week it emerged that some bosses are entitled to car allowances worth £9,000 on top of their six-figure salaries.

The grant is offered to the company’s eight-strong management team — even though six of them earn more than £100,000.

Three of the eight were provided with company cars in place of the allowance.

The officials, along with their families, also travel free on buses and trains.

Regional development committee member David McNarry said that while the inquiry’s terms of reference were still to be finalised, he expected the probe to be “full-blown”.

“The committee has been left with no choice other than to go down the route of an inquiry into all aspects of Translink and its holding company,” he said.

“It needs to be wide-ranging.

“We have a monopoly organisation that has just got £29m to buy 145 buses. Then, a few days after meeting the committee, Translink claim that because of cuts they won’t be able to buy a single bus for the next two years.”

SDLP regional development spokesman John Dallat MLA (below) said that the inquiry must be comprehensive.

“Although the terms of reference have yet to be drawn up, I have insisted that the inquiry be as comprehensive as possible and that a few fundamentals should be included in them,” he said.

“Most primarily, the capital funding of future projects; the Enterprise service to Dublin and the reopening of the Knockmore line, which would allow direct trains from Derry to Dublin; the earnings of public, school and private-hire transport and the provision of rural transport — (these issues) are all necessary.

“I have also proposed that the relationship between the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company, Translink and NI Railways be looked into.

“This inquiry must be as comprehensive as possible to ensure that best public confidence and value for money is gained.”

It is anticipated that Translink will make a profit of £2m this year, but will then start to make significant losses, with a deficit of £11.6m expected in 2013/14 and £10.5m the following year.

DRD had expected the company to prepare a plan which would allow it to break even financially across the group.

A Translink spokesperson said: “We welcome all opportunities to engage with the committee for regional development.”

Background

Translink is facing losses of £22m over the next two years. Earlier this week it emerged that the transport company will not be able to buy a single bus in that period due to cutbacks. There has been criticism of the high salaries and benefits paid to some of Translink’s senior managers. Its chief executive Catherine Mason is Northern Ireland’s highest paid public-sector official, with a total salary package of £198,000.

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