Belfast Telegraph

Translink on brink of insolvency, admits boss Strahan

By Adrian Rutherford

The boss of Translink has admitted the cash-strapped company is "technically insolvent".

In a bleak outlook, David Strahan also repeated warnings that it could even go out of existence unless savings were made.

The publicly-funded transport operator recently posted a trading loss of £8.4m - the biggest in its history. It follows a £13m cut in funding from the Department for Regional Development.

It hopes to achieve savings through management redundancies and cuts to bus and train services.

Appearing before Stormont's regional development committee yesterday, Mr Strahan - who will step down as chief executive in September - spelt out the scale of the financial problems.

"The accounts for the last year reflect the position that Translink finds itself in," he said,

"The loss before tax this year is the largest the organisation has ever incurred - £16.6m.

"That reflects largely the reduction in funding that we received from the department during the year for the provision of services."

Mr Strahan said a three-year plan will return the company to profit. A voluntary redundancy scheme will see 65 managers, administrators and supervisors leave the organisation, saving £3.1m.

Savings will also come from cuts to services, although these are on hold during consultations with unions.

"I've made it clear that if Translink doesn't change what it's doing, our cash reserves will run out," he told MLAs.

He said Translink would lose around £30m between 2014/15 and the following year, and was forecast to incur further losses next year.

Asked by Ukip MLA David McNarry if the solvency of the company was at risk, Mr Strahan conceded it was "technically insolvent".

"Clearly, when you look at the balance sheet, I think you could probably use the term technically insolvent because the group doesn't have any assets, it has net liabilities," he added.

"However, the driver of that is the movement in the pension scheme... next year (it) could as easily swing as much the other way. It is unlikely to swing much further the way it has."

Mr Strahan said he was more concerned by the company's income statement than its balance sheet.

"If we continue to trade at a loss Translink will not continue in existence," he added.

Belfast Telegraph