Belfast Telegraph

Report highlights public transport funding gap

By Symon Ross

Northern Ireland’s investment in public transport is falling well behind the rest of the UK and the Republic, according to a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The report said that in the past decade England, Wales and the Republic have invested twice as much in public transport per head of population than Northern Ireland, while Scotland currently invests five times more.

This situation is unlikely to change over the next decade, says Pwc, noting the Executive plans to invest £3bn on Northern Ireland’s regional road network, while the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland has only £725m earmarket for public transport.

It contrasts this with the Republic’s National Development Plan, with over £11.4bn committed to additional public transport.

On a positive note the PwC report did say that where Northern Ireland has invested in public transport, particularly in Translink’s Metro and NI Railways new rolling stock, the results have been successful.

It highlights that the launch of the rebranded Metro bus network led to a 15% increase in use, while NI Railways’ £80m carriage and station improvement programme saw train usage rise by 60%.

“Northern Ireland’s historic approach to transportation policy is more aligned to the American, private-car model, than the European, public-transport model.

“The result is traffic congestion that costs the local economy around a quarter of a billion pounds a year, while a growing dependence on road transport is increasing the region’s carbon footprint,” said PwC transportation and ticketing specialist Christopher Watt.

“Yet where investment in public transport has occurred, the outcomes have been remarkable.

“An integrated approach to planning, economic development, land use and public transportation should underpin a revised Regional Transportation Strategy with the objective of offering quick, comfortable and value-for-money public transportation.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Regional Development said: “DRD is looking with interest at the views set out in the PwC publication ‘Bridging the Gap’.

“The publication recognises the investment that has been made in public transport in line with the Regional Transportation Strategy which was developed by the devolved administration for the period 2002-2012, and public transport use has indeed grown as a result. Significant future investment is also planned, not least in the development of a pilot Rapid Transit system for Belfast as a means of reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

“The process has begun to review the Regional Transportation Strategy, and part of that review will be to consider future investment needs, looking at the balance between roads investment and public transport investment. It will also look at the type of initiatives mentioned in the PwC report — and other sustainable policy initiatives - as further ways of attracting more people to use public transport.”

Belfast Telegraph