Belfast Telegraph

Work on £175m Belfast transport hub to start in 2018, says Translink boss

Translink chief executive Chris Conway
Translink chief executive Chris Conway

By John Mulgrew

Translink boss Chris Conway says he is confident work will begin on a new £175m transport hub for Belfast early next year as it begins seeking contractors to start the project.

Belfast's new proposed development is set to replace the Europa Bus Centre and Great Victoria Street train station complex.

Mr Conway says he is confident work could start early next year on the Belfast Transport Hub, which he believes will receive its funding from Stormont.

Meanwhile, work should also start next year on another new hub for Londonderry.

"We have planning applications in for the Belfast Transport Hub and North West Transport Hub," Mr Conway said.

"And, all being well, we will start construction on both of those projects next year as well."

He says he's confident the £175m bill for the scheme will be paid for by Stormont.

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"Capital funding is under less pressure than resource funding," he said.

"From a capital funding view, it's a flagship project and the capital funding is effectively set aside for that at this point in time

"We have been through the economic business case with the Department (for Infrastructure) and it is now with the Department of Finance, and we should have that passed very shortly."

He said, with hopes planning will be in place later this year, that work could begin early next year.

"With planning in place, budget in place, and we have started procurement for the early works."

And any attempt to attract private investors, which included a trip to Cannes for the international MIPIM property expo, would be to add further developments to the scheme, such as retail, office space and a hotel.

He was speaking as Translink revealed its annual accounts for 2016/17, which saw passenger numbers increasing by around 1.5 million to just short of 80 million.

However, Translink is still running at an operating loss of £10.9m for the year, and says around £12m a year from Stormont is required.

"If you take last year, and the first six months of this year, we have seen strong growth in Metro and NI Railways, and good growth in Goldline," he said.

Meanwhile, the new Belfast Rapid Transit system, linking east and west Belfast, is due to be unveiled in September next year.

And he said there are no plans to call an end to free travel for some 3,000 Translink staff family members, which he said was not done at a cost to the transport operator.

Asked what had contributed to improved passenger numbers, he said: "We have been doing Bus and Train Week, which is a good opportunity to promote public transport," he said.

"In terms of projects, we have finished the Enterprise (Belfast to Dublin train) refurbishment programme."

He said an increased frequency on the Belfast to Derry train route, which now runs hourly, and new fleet has also helped Translink in the last year.

A new ticketing system, which includes vending machines and contactless payments, will also come in next year.

Belfast Telegraph