Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Northern Ireland public transport still has a long way to go

Editor's Viewpoint

Public transport in Northern Ireland remains a troubled issue, with a significant number of passengers and potential passengers expressing concerns about timetables, the availability of buses, fares, and other aspects of the services.

The latest report from the Department for Infrastructure, which considered the provision for walking, cycling and public transport, underlined, among other things, that people are reluctant to use public transport because they think it is slower and overpriced.

Less than half of those interviewed - 47% - said they would be likely to use public transport for journeys up to six miles.

Some 36% of those surveyed believe that the journeys take too long, and that cars are quicker, while 27% complained about unsuitable timetables and 19% were put off by what they regarded as high fares.

These findings have been made public some 10 days after the much-heralded Glider system was finally introduced to Belfast, at a cost of £90m.

This means that each of the 30 Glider buses in operation cost £3m each, which is a considerable investment.

There is also the hidden burden on motorists who have been given less road space in and around the city, and who are having to keep an eye on the bus lanes and speed restrictions, as well as navigating the daily hazard on busy roads.

It is too early to pass judgment on the success or otherwise of the Glider system, but with one-in-five people expressing their dissatisfaction with fare levels, Translink has still much to do to make the new service as popular as they would like it to be.

Some of the challenges facing public transport in Belfast are mirrored in rural areas, and earlier this year Translink warned that some people in rural areas may be isolated because of rising costs and the challenge of balancing all public transport needs.

In theory the planners are hoping that much fewer people will use their cars particularly in urban areas, and that they will take to public transport instead.

However until the public transport services raise their game, the transfer of the vast majority of car travellers to buses will remain a pipe dream.

Belfast Telegraph

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