Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: No quick fix for our addiction to cars

Editor's Viewpoint

No one will be surprised by statistics showing that only one in 20 journeys in Northern Ireland is by public transport.

The car is king in the province, and that is natural in a largely rural, in places sparsely populated, society.

It is illogical to expect public transport to reach into the hinterlands of Northern Ireland, where 77% of all journeys are made by car.

However, it is disappointing that 65% of trips in urban areas continue to be by car.

In Belfast there are constant complaints about the gridlock, with the increasing number of bus lanes drawing particular venom from motorists, yet the vast majority of those cars have only one person on board.

Motorists continue to use their vehicles in the city, even when alternative transport modes are available.

They find it more convenient and often just jump in their vehicles out of habit.

However, while the percentages are dispiriting, it should be noted that the number of people using public transport is increasing.

It has to be acknowledged that innovative ticketing has made buses and trains more attractive to the public at off-peak periods.

Last year Translink, which operates all public bus and train services here, carried the highest number of passengers in its history - 81m - and is on target to beat that figure this year.

The much heralded Glider bus service, which crosses Belfast from west to east and also takes in the Titanic area, has seen a 25% increase in its passenger numbers since it was launched.

The Glider, with its comfort and facilities such as onboard wi-fi (also available on some Ulsterbus routes) and phone-charging points, is a glimpse of how modern public transport should look.

As ever, the lack of a devolved administration at Stormont is a problem. It is obvious that there needs to be an overarching transport strategy which enables all services to be integrated and, where feasible, enhanced.

Commuters will not get out of their cars unless the alternatives provide comfort, regularity and value for money, and that requires government intervention to ensure the infrastructure - better roads in particular and the eradication of pinch points such as the York Street interchange in Belfast - is put in place.

Sadly, the route back to Stormont for the DUP and Sinn Fein is seemingly impassable by any form of transport.

Belfast Telegraph

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