Translink is continuing to work to make Northern Ireland a better connected society, with significant investments in new transport hubs, greener and more efficient trains and buses, more frequent services and the roll-out of a major new contactless ticketing system, writes group chief executive, Chris Conway
People are returning to public transport in growing numbers and are recognising that bus and rail travel makes sense, not only for our environment but for our personal finances; as our wider society deals with rising prices and high fuel costs, public transport fares in Northern Ireland have been frozen, helping to make travel with Translink even more attractive.
Our infrastructure right across the network is being upgraded and enhanced as we step up the modal shift away from the private car; this is essential for the sake of the environment and our economy, with a shift to sustainable transport helping to reduce congestion, improve air quality and make our towns and cities more attractive places to live, work, shop and socialise.
Translink’s climate change ambitions – to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve a 100% Net Zero network by 2040 – are well known, and we continue to make strong progress towards that goal.
We will shortly operate the fourth-largest zero emission bus fleet in the UK or Ireland, helped by the delivery of 100 new zero emission buses for Metro in Belfast, meaning that approximately one third of the Metro fleet is zero emission, with a full zero emission rollout for Foyle Metro in Derry~Londonderry scheduled for next year.
We are also working with the Department for Infrastructure on Glider phase two, which will connect north and south Belfast through the city centre. In the years ahead, we will seek to build upon our existing zero emission bus progress and look to roll this out across the railway network too, with ambitious plans for new infrastructure and rolling stock to support zero emission trains.
The Belfast Transport Hub, recently named Belfast Grand Central Station, is taking shape in the city centre, adjacent to the existing Great Victoria Street Train Station and Europa Bus Centre, both of which it will replace; scheduled to complete in 2025, this Northern Ireland Executive Flagship Project will accommodate up to 20 million passenger journeys every year, provide much-needed additional capacity, and will act as a new public transport gateway for Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole.
Belfast Grand Central will bring trains, buses, bikes and pedestrians together in the middle of the city and enable increased frequency of services across the public transport network. The Weavers Cross regeneration project will offer an opportunity to develop over one million square feet of mixed use space right in the city centre and act as a catalyst for regeneration in the wider area, providing homes, jobs and a new focus for commercial life in the city, energising connections between Belfast, all of Northern Ireland and beyond.
The rollout of our Translink Future Ticketing System – the largest integrated ticketing system in the UK outside London – across our network is underway, with the system now live on Metro services across Belfast. Ulsterbus and NI Railways services will benefit from this development over the coming months, with the entire network migrating to a ‘tap on, tap off’ system in the months ahead.
This will offer more choice and flexibility, and above all, simplicity, to customers, allowing contactless options alongside cash fares and helping to make public transport a quicker, more accessible option for commuters and leisure travellers alike.
The improvement of our rail infrastructure is a major priority – the railway network has suffered from long-term underinvestment, and we are undertaking a major programme of investment across the NI Railways network to enhance signalling, structures and track, as well as stations.
While much focus will rightly be on Belfast Grand Central, Translink is planning to deliver an improved station at York Street, as well as enhancing existing facilities at Botanic, thus improving rail access to Belfast city centre.
New station investments are also planned for Ballymena and Lurgan, as well as for Lisburn West, which will serve a growing commuter requirement. The North-West Transport Hub in Derry~Londonderry continues to win plaudits, having recently received the ‘Best Overall Entry’ award at the prestigious National Railway Heritage Awards.
We have been delighted to work with Irish Rail, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government on the All-Ireland Strategic Rail Review; we await the publication of their proposals later this year and are already working with Irish Rail and the SEUPB Peace Plus programme to deliver an hourly frequency Enterprise service between Belfast and Dublin.
Similarly, our work within the UK Government’s Union Connectivity Review has the potential to enhance public transport connections between major population centres and ports and airports.
Translink’s journey towards a better connected future continues, and we look forward to working with stakeholders and the NI Executive to deliver a public transport network that is everyone’s first choice for travel, today for tomorrow.