Belfast Telegraph

Translink spends £155k a year on company cars

By Adrian Rutherford

Translink is under fire again - this time over its use of company cars.

The public transport operator is spending £155,000 a year on a fleet of vehicles for staff.

It comes days after this newspaper revealed how the firm ran up a £174,000 taxi bill in a three-year period.

The latest disclosure will raise questions at a time when Translink is being forced to make savage cutbacks.

Bus routes are being scaled back while plans to make 150 staff redundant are also under consideration.

SDLP MLA John Dallat said an urgent review of Translink's finances was needed.

"At a time of drastic cuts to bus services and workers being threatened with redundancy, this type of spending must be seriously examined," he said.

Details of Translink's use of company cars emerged after Assembly questions from DUP MLA Tom Buchanan. Transport Minister Danny Kennedy confirmed that £774,127 had been spent on vehicles in the five years to April.

Mr Kennedy also confirmed that 40 Translink staff are currently provided with a car.

Translink said most were operational staff within its management and engineering departments.

"This includes managers within bus operations, ie area managers, depot and service delivery managers, and bus fleet engineers who between them cover approximately 60 operating sites," it said.

"Rail infrastructure engineers who are provided with cars are generally those responsible for maintenance of track, signalling and all aspects of structures. These staff are also involved in the organisation's on-call arrangements.

"Such use is often required late at night or early in the morning."

However, Mr Dallat, who sits on the Assembly's regional development committee, said it was hardly an endorsement of public transport.

"Given that Translink has been spending a lot of money on taxis, and now we learn it is spending money on company cars, it doesn't augur well for the main aim of its business, which is to encourage people out of cars and on to buses and trains," he added.

Mr Dallat said there was an onus on the Department for Regional Development, which is responsible for public transport, to examine spending.

Declan Allison from Friends of the Earth also queried the company's use of cars.

"Translink's company car figures tell a story of a Northern Ireland wedded to the private car, and of an inadequate public transport system," he said.

Translink said it was phasing out the use of company cars for senior staff. "Translink has not included cars as part of packages to executives for several years and is removing company cars as employees leave the organisation," it added.

Last week we reported taht although Translink's expenditure on taxis has fallen from £70,494 in 2011-12 to £38,888 in 2013-14, it still equates to £160 a day on average.

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