Belfast Telegraph

Fewer people travelling by car as austerity drive takes its toll

Fewer people are travelling by car in Northern Ireland.

New statistics have shown that the number of new and used cars registered for the first time during October to December 2010 has decreased by 15% compared to the corresponding quarter in 2009.

The statistics released by the Department of Regional Development revealed that bus journeys are diminishing too - but more people are travelling by train.

This is the second consecutive quarter to show a decrease in the number of cars registered for the first time when compared to the corresponding time period in the previous year.

Overall in Northern Ireland, there were 14,154 new and used cars registered for the first time during the quarter, with new cars accounting for 54% of the total.

Vauxhall was the most popular make of new car during October to December 2010, accounting for 13% (1,019) of all new cars registered.

The second and third most popular makes of new car were Ford (813) and Renault (811).

There was a weekly average of 1.40m public bus passenger journeys made during the October to December 2010 quarter, a decrease of 3% from 1.45m in the corresponding quarter of 2009. During the same time period, weekly average bus passenger receipts decreased by 2% to £2.47m from £2.51m.

The weekly average rail passenger journeys in October to December 2010 have increased by 5% to 0.21m from 0.20m compared to the corresponding quarter of 2009. During the same time period, weekly average rail passenger receipts increased by 17% to £0.63m from £0.54m.

Over the period January to December 2010, the pass rate for car 'L' driver tests was 57% for males and 46% for females in Northern Ireland, compared to 50% for males and 43% for females in Great Britain.

Northern Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said that lower disposable income is taking its toll on spending, particularly for 'big ticket' items such as cars.

"The car industry is struggling in nearly all the western economies that are undergoing austerity measures," she said.

"The next few months could however provide some further challenges to this industry as petrol prices rise and the Japanese crisis will cause interruption to both production and supply of parts".

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