Belfast Telegraph

Government funding helps Translink get back on track

By Ryan McAleer

Translink is continuing to eat into its own reserves to keep the rural bus network in Northern Ireland running, the transport operator said.

Releasing its annual accounts today, the transport operator confirmed it managed to recover from a £10.9m pre-tax loss in 2017 to a £2m pre-tax profit in the year to March 25, 2018.

More: Phase two of Glider scheme could cost ‘up to £80m’

Government subsidies for public transport were stopped in 2014-15. However, Translink did receive £12m for rural services in 2017-18.

But with no similar funding pledge in the current year, Translink's chief executive Chris Conway said the bus operator is using its own reserves to cover the £13m annual cost of keeping the rural network on the roads.

Mr Conway said the group has around £30m in reserve.

He added: "We are using our reserves again this year but we're working closely with the Department for Infrastructure and Department of Finance to continue to look at how those rural services can be funded going forward.

"We still have reserves to continue to fund that this year and part of next year."

Despite that funding uncertainty, Translink's annual report revealed it had recorded its highest number of journeys in 20 years. The 81 million journeys recorded last year was 3m up on the previous 12 months, helping boost revenues to £222.7m, a £15m increase over the year.

Translink also said a plan to cut costs was well ahead of plan, with £7m of efficiencies delivered already inside two years.

Chief financial officer Patrick Anderson said that factor had been crucial in securing Government help. "It's important to emphasise we only got that money because we have been able to demonstrate good growth in our top line around passengers and a good narrative around efficiency," he added.

The rail network also broke records in the past year, recording a total of 15m journeys, the highest in NI Railways' 50-year history. The Metro service was also up by 700,000 journeys to a total of 28m over the year.

Only the Ulsterbus sector saw a decline, with 300,000 fewer journeys. But the operator said the total 38.1m trips on the service reflected the declining number of school pupils across Northern Ireland. Goldline journeys were up 2.4% year-on-year.

Translink's workforce also grew significantly over the year, up by 230 to 3,911. Plus, 100 people were recruited for the new Glider service across Belfast.

The annual report also revealed chief executive Chris Conway saw his annual pay increase from £163,000 to £169,000 last year, with chief finance officer Patrick Anderson's pay increasing from £121,000 to £125,000.

Belfast Telegraph

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