Passenger numbers have increased across Northern Ireland’s public transport networks according to new figures released by Translink

 
With the introduction of Glider services connecting East Belfast to West Belfast and to Titanic Quarter, Metro passenger journeys grew to over 30 million

 

Belfast’s Metro bus services recorded a 7.1% increase in passenger journeys last year, Translink has revealed in its annual report. Ulsterbus services, comparable with shire counties in Great Britain, saw a 1.6% increase in passenger journeys. At the same time there was a 5.3% increase on Northern Ireland Railways.

Translink chairman Frank Hewitt said the group recorded more than 84.5 million passenger journeys during the year, the highest number in 20 years. “With the successful introduction of the iconic Glider services connecting East Belfast to West Belfast and to Titanic Quarter, Metro passenger journeys grew to over 30 million. Ulsterbus and Foyle Metro services have also registered growth in passenger numbers and the new Ulsterbus Urby services have been well received.

The recent increases in rail passenger numbers have continued, with passenger journeys during the year reaching 15.8 million, the highest in NI Railways’ 50-year history

“The recent increases in rail passenger numbers have continued, with passenger journeys during the year reaching 15.8 million, the highest in NI Railways’ 50-year history.”

Metro passenger journeys increased from 28 million in 2017/18 to 30 million last year. Ulsterbus passenger journeys grew by 600,000 to 38.7 million. Punctuality of Metro services was recorded at 96.3%, the same as in 2017/18, while Ulsterbus punctuality improved slightly from 94.9% to 95.1%. Bus services are regarded as being “on time” if they are within seven minutes of the timetabled time.

NI Railways’ 15.8 million passenger journeys in 2018/19 represent growth of 11.3% over two years. However, punctuality declined in 2018/19, with 95.7% of local services being within five minutes of timetabled time, compared with 96.2% in 2017/18. Punctuality of long-distance services, measured within 10 minutes of timetabled time, declined from 98.5% to 94.9%.

Independent monitoring of customer satisfaction recorded a slight improvement in the “customer performance index” for Ulsterbus and an improvement from 82% to 83.4% at NI Railways. Despite the success of Glider, the index for Metro reduced from 76.3% to 75.3%.

The annual report records a large increase in capital investment in vehicles. For the bus and coach fleet, investment increased by 67% to £27m. This included purchase of 30 articulated hybrid buses for Glider services and 18 vehicles for associated feeder routes. Also purchased were 64 double deckers, 25 minibuses and 30 Goldline coaches. Part payment was made for a further two Glider vehicles, in response to strong ridership.

No new rail vehicles were acquired in 2018/19 but capital investment in trains increased from £3.8m to £6.2m, covering overhaul of the Class 3000 and 4000 trains and midlife refurbishment of Class 3000 vehicles. During the year, an advance payment of £20.3m was made for 21 additional coaches from CAF which will be inserted into Class 4000 units to lengthen them from three to six cars.

Translink’s performance in 2018/19 has been against a backdrop of continued and very challenging reductions in Public Service Obligation (PSO) funding for bus services, which had not been allocated in the 2018/19 budget

The report explains: “Translink’s performance in 2018/19 has been against a backdrop of continued and very challenging reductions in Public Service Obligation (PSO) funding for bus services, which had not been allocated in the 2018/19 budget. Receipt of in-year PSO funding by DfI [the Department for Infrastructure], associated with running uneconomic but socially necessary bus services, together with growth in fare paying passenger journeys and control of operating costs, has resulted in financial performance which is significantly better than budget.

“Profit for the year (before tax and accounting adjustments relating to pension, impairment and derivatives) was £1.1m, compared to profit of £2.0m for the prior year.”

Translink’s consolidated pre-tax loss for the year was £19.5m, compared with £13.3m for the prior year, primarily as a result of pension adjustments, reduced value of investment properties and movement on derivatives relating to fuel purchasing.

 
This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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