| 15°C Belfast

Translink posted £50m profit during first year of pandemic amid growing fears cuts could hit services


Translink chief executive Chris Conway. Credit: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Translink chief executive Chris Conway. Credit: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Translink chief executive Chris Conway. Credit: Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Translink recorded a profit of just over £50m for the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, largely due to the Government pouring more than £200m into the company.

And the company has revealed the significant influx of cash, during a period when passengers numbers plummeted, help to reduce losses of the previous year.

The firm’s three operators each made a pre-tax profit, with Ulsterbus on £35m, Citybus on £12.8m and Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) on £3m for the year to end of March 2021.

The amount of non-capital funding delivered to the company increased by £150m year-on-year, according to accounts for the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company, which trades as Translink.

"Translink operates under a Public Service Agreement with the Department for Infrastructure, in which it is agreed that funding will be made available to Translink for public service routes that are socially necessary but not commercially viable,” a spokesperson said.

“In the year 19/20 of the agreement Translink was significantly under-funded, making a consolidated loss before tax of £65.4m, with Translink using its reserves to remain financially viable.

“Additional funding was made available from DfI in 2020/2021 to correct the under-funding and assist with Covid losses, this generated a consolidated profit in year of £49m which equates to a net loss over the two years of £16.4m with Translink continuing to use reserves to remain financially viable.”

Separate accounts for the operators filed with Companies House showed that Ulsterbus received £88.9m in Covid-19 funding and other subsidies, Citybus £47.6m and NIR £72m.

The profits compare to total losses across the three companies of just over £65m the previous year. Translink managed to cut operating costs by approximately £30m during the reporting period, which would have helped boost its balance sheet.

However, passenger numbers dropped from more than 70m to just over 25m during the

The figures were revealed just days after Translink chief executive Chris Conway warned that without proper investment, there could a “managed decline” in services that would hit rural areas particularly hard.

Giving evidence to Stormont’s infrastructure committee, Mr Conway said the company was facing a possible budget cut of up to 10%, which could mean the loss of more than 1,000 services 12,500 it operates.

His warning of a reduction in rural services provoked a furious response, with MLAs insisting they should be maintained. Mr Conway told the committee that while passenger numbers were rising, the financial viability of the public transport operator “could become a serious issue” under proposed budget cuts.

“If this was the outcome of the budget, this would involve significant cuts to the bus and rail network which would in fact lead to a managed decline of public transport in Northern Ireland, with a significant impact on rural areas,” he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan said: “In rural areas, public transport is a lifeline to many people and any cuts to rural services is unacceptable.”