Translink has been a core essential service throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of both customers and staff. Here, chief executive Chris Conway looks at the next steps in the recovery process
As we continue to deal with Covid-19, Translink has a key role in helping the region build back responsibly, getting more people back to the workplace and education and ensuring that Northern Ireland’s recovery from the crisis is sustainable and environmentally sound; this reflects the fact that climate change is still the most pressing existential crisis facing us all globally.
Translink provides a comprehensive public transport network for Northern Ireland, including school buses and rural networks, as well as urban and commuter services. These services are essential to sustaining vital jobs in all sectors across the economy and have been maintained during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is imperative that looking forward, we maintain and expand a comprehensive network to help Northern Ireland recover from the current crisis and deliver a sustainable recovery that tackles climate change and improves air quality while supporting economic growth.
What everyone can be certain of is that Translink will continue to ensure that local public transport is safe – we are deploying ground-breaking electro-static cleaning measures to deep clean all surfaces, in addition to already robust cleaning practices.
We’ll continue monitoring numbers using our services and will maintain our ‘no change’ policy, as well as encouraging contactless payment options wherever possible. Face coverings and social distancing are compulsory on all services and in stations.
Public transport is well placed to help build a green recovery – it is now largely accepted that global climate and air quality enjoyed a significant temporary boost during lockdown as much private transport activity ceased.
This happened while public transport continued to operate and must be maintained. Before lockdown, Belfast was listed as the UK’s 11th most congested city and the opportunity is there to focus on public transport and other sustainable modes, making a positive difference as we build back responsibly.
Before Covid-19, the UK became the first major economy to legislate for net-zero emissions by 2050, something Translink is committed to bettering with our plans to move to net zero transport in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry by 2030, and across Northern Ireland by 2040.
The Urban Transport Group suggests that if wider city regions like Northern Ireland are to make faster progress on inclusive growth, then it is time for more consideration to be given to how public transport can help them to thrive. There is also a great opportunity to promote active and sustainable travel, making roads and streets more accessible for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as public transport.
As we move out of Covid-19, Translink stands ready to continue adapting to our ‘new normal’ and to raise the profile of bus and rail travel as fundamental to supporting a healthy, sustainable, inclusive and responsible recovery in the period ahead.
There is no doubt that public transport underpins Northern Ireland’s ability to build back responsibly, enhancing our economy and addressing climate change, and we look forward to working with a wide range of stakeholders to advance the case.