Serious threat hanging over community transport
In a BBC Talkback programme on May 12 a caller called Gerald, representing private bus operators, claimed that community transport, which is subsidised by the Department for Regional Development, is operating unfairly against private operators. The caller went on to claim - twice - that this practice is illegal.
This claim is patently untrue. Community transport is the most closely scrutinised element of public transport, which must account for every penny of public money they receive.
Not a single penny of Government subsidy goes towards their group operations, which the caller was claiming was illegal and unfair to private operators.
The public need to be aware that there is a serious threat hanging over the future of community transport and ill-informed claims, such as the one to BBC's Talkback, are not helpful at a time when we must fight to save this important service, which is critical to many people in our community who rely on it for many reasons.
The north needs an integrated public transport service which addresses the needs of people, rather than those who operate the services, private or public.
This will only happen when the DRD begins a process of listening to its users and Translink begins appointing directors to its holding company who have the expertise, experience and time to develop bus and train services which will drive us towards the next generation of public transport.
When that time comes, community transport will be a critical element of that change.
JOHN DALLAT MLA
SDLP spokesperson on regional development