Vandalism cost Translink £550k in Northern Ireland last year
Assembly member queries how company deals with issue
The cost of clearing up after vandalism to Translink property and premises last year in Northern Ireland was a staggering half a million pounds, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The most significant amount of that bill was spent on repairs to Northern Ireland Railways property, which was £319,331.
Details of this huge financial pressure on an already over-stretched public purse have led to one Assembly member calling for Translink to reveal how it plans to tackle further incidents of vandalism and anti-social behaviour and deter future attacks on their facilities.
Mid Ulster DUP MLA Keith Buchanan uncovered the information after tabling a question to the Assembly's Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard.
The minister explained that, in 2015/16 alone, the costs incurred by Translink due to vandalism were a total of £551,359.
This figure represented damage of £132,353 to Ulsterbus property, £99,675 to Metro stock, and £319,331 to NI Railways property.
In the previous year, Translink incurred costs totalling £618,071 to its property, with the largest amount of that attributed to vandalism of NI Railways.
The worst year for vandalism to Translink property was 2013/14, when the company sustained costs of £755,643.
Mr Buchanan said the money channelled to clearing up damage associated with vandalism could be "better spent" elsewhere by the transport sector.
"I have been asked many times by constituents, for example, about upgrading bus shelters in rural areas and that prompted me to ask the question about just how serious the problem with vandalism to public transport is," he continued.
"I understand vandalism is not the fault of Translink but the question arises about what the company plans to implement in order to bring this figure down.
"I would also be interested to see a breakdown of the £319,331 cost of vandalism to NI Railways property over the last year. Does that constitute vandalism of seating, for example, paintwork damage or physical damage to the lines?"
Mr Buchanan said he intends to conduct further research into vandalism to public transport over the coming months.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that a bus route in west Belfast remained indefinitely suspended following incidents of anti-social behaviour, while an Ulsterbus service in the Brownlow area of Craigavon is currently omitted from the Lurgan to Portadown route, and a half-mile diversion is in place in Portavogie for an evening service between Greyabbey and Portaferry due to attacks.
Figures released this month to Upper Bann MLA, John O'Dowd, showed there had been a total of 24 incidents of buses having to be withdrawn for at least one evening because of anti-social behaviour. And last November the Belfast Telegraph reported how Translink had offered a cash reward of £1,000 for information leading to a prosecution after stones were thrown at a bus on Ligoniel Road in Belfast.
Responding to the most recent statistics provided by the Infrastructure Minister, a spokesperson for Translink told the Belfast Telegraph: "We strongly condemn all instances of vandalism and would encourage any witnesses to report anti-social behaviour to Translink or the PSNI."