Northern Ireland

David Strahan warns Translink 'could go out of business'

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Media captionDavid Strahan warned that Translink "could go out of existence", as Mark Simpson reports

The chief executive of transport firm Translink has warned it could go out of existence unless it increases fares again or makes cuts to services.

David Strahan was addressing the Regional Development Committee at Stormont.

Meanwhile, MLAs were briefed on redundancy proposals for Translink on Wednesday.

The company confirmed it is considering around 150 redundancies as part of new cost-saving measures.

The plan is for it to be a "voluntary exit" scheme.

It has also emerged that Translink estimates a loss of £14m in 2014-15 and that it wanted an (average) 10% rise in fares this year, but the minister responsible opted for less than 5%.

Final details of cost-cutting, and the effect on the number of bus and rail services, have yet to be agreed.

In February, fare increases of about 4% came in to effect on bus and rail journeys in Northern Ireland.

However, Mr Strahan said due to further cuts in the 2015/16 budget, further fare increases of up to 10% could be needed.

"If we do not take action Translink is not a sustainable organisation and it will not be here in the future," Mr Strahan said.

"No-one wants to see a fare increase, that's not why I joined Translink, no-one wants to see anyone lose their job.

"However, the result of the funding reductions we're facing is that we have to take action.

"Ultimately it will be for the minister to decide where it falls in terms of fare increase vis a vis service optimisation."

Services cancelled

Earlier, a union said it had seen a leaked Translink document proposing the cancellation of 20 town bus services.

It follows a warning from Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy about the impact of savings of £60m he has to make.

He said cuts to next year's budget would mean his department would not have enough money to fund basic services like traffic light repairs. Translink will also face major cuts.

The Unite's Davy McMurray said an internal Translink briefing document stated that 20 local town services would be cancelled.

He said the document also said schedules would be reduced on the rail line and Belfast's Metro service.

"Instead of a bus coming every 15 minutes or a train every 20, it'll be every half an hour or every three quarters of an hour," he added.

"We reckon that from bus drivers, train drivers and engineering staff, you could be looking at 200 jobs going."

'Hardest hit'

On Wednesday, Mr Kennedy said transport was "most likely" to be hardest hit by the cuts.

Image caption Unite said a leaked document suggested some town bus services would be cancelled

"You simply cannot cut to the level of £60m and expect to maintain all frontline core services," he said.

"My department will be working and will continue to work with the service providers to explore ways of ensuring that we provide as much service in a cost efficient manner and to seek to minimise the impact on the end user."

In a statement, Translink said: "As a consequence of the reduction in government funding of 2015/16, Translink is considering measures that would need to be taken to adapt to these cuts and their associated impact.

"As part of this, we are currently reviewing how we can best design our network to work within our allocated resources while protecting the routes most important to our customers.

"No decisions have been taken at this stage over 2015/16 service efficiencies and we will engage with local stakeholders should any local service changes be proposed."

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