Belfast Telegraph

Translink extends fare freeze

By Clare Weir

Public transport users have been told they won't have to pay more to travel after Translink announced it was extending a fare freeze.

It was introduced last year but will now extend into early 2015 at least.

The bus and rail firm made the announcement as it revealed it has "broken even" with a profit of £300,000 in the last year, according to its latest set of financial results.

The plunge from a £9.1m profit from the same period the year before, has been attributed to a number of one-off activities.

Profits in 2012-13 had been boosted by the sale of land near the Westlink and a one-off payment from the 2012 Olympics. However, the company has said that having predicted losses, the better-than-forecast results mean the fare freeze can continue.

Passenger numbers for 2013-14 totalled 79.5 million, beating the set target of 78 million and representing an extra one million more fare-paying passengers who chose to use the bus or the train.

NI Railways journeys were up by over 15% to 13.1 million, the highest since the 1960s and representing an increase of over 92% over the last decade.

Goldline and Metro services also saw slight increases but Ulsterbus services reduced overall.

Translink also said that congestion problems related to Belfast's bus lanes – which caused punctuality problems with the Metro and Ulsterbus services – have been "rectified".

That claim has been reflected by recent statistics from the Department for Regional Development which showed that 11,000 fewer vehicles per day are coming into Belfast's "core city centre streets" since the implementation of the Belfast On The Move scheme.

That represents a drop of 16% since 2010, and the volume of traffic during morning rush-hour is down by a third.

There have been claims that bus lanes were hampering trade in Belfast city centre. But Translink cited a survey by business advisors PricewaterhouseCooper which suggested that 52% of people come into Belfast by bus and rail and half of shoppers using Metro services spend more than £35 per visit.

The company is also set to replace handheld ticket machines currently used on NI Railways.

It is consulting on a new system – which could include customers using 'contactless' bank cards to pay for tickets.

However, the report noted some significant risks to the company.

They included a failure to maintain good employee relations, a failure to agree new school contracts and the security threat.

Belfast Telegraph

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