Author Archive | Andy Boal

Aperture opens at Corrymeela

It is a rare occasion that a Slugger writer gets to report on Alan Meban. Corrymeela Executive Director Colin Craig chaired a discussion this afternoon which asked the question, “Are we done with the Good Friday Agreement?”, also featuring Alan McBride and Gerry Kelly. Our Alan linked the Good Friday Agreement with his then church’s more…

First hints of September timetable changes

Translink have announced the following key facts about the September timetable change: Service frequencies will be reduced on some routes – they “have been able to protect the geographic coverage of the network albeit with some reduced frequency on some services,” which doesn’t entirely rule out service amalgamations. Headcount will be reduced via natural wastage, more…

Budget in review

The increase in the National Minimum Wage for over-25s to converge on the Living Wage was a masterstroke, one which finally recognised that businesses, regardless of ability to pay, tend to pay staff as little as possible. The increase will lead to the median wage increasing due to pay leads, so that £9.35 may well more…

Bus lane cameras: the first three weeks (UPDATED)

There is one authorised vehicular route into the restricted part of Belfast city centre – via High Street.  Donegall Place has been one way for several years, but it and Royal Avenue only ever permitted buses to enter.  The signs at the junction with Bridge Street ban all traffic from passing except buses, permit holders, more…

Further on James McConnell and Islam

The three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have many things in common, and perhaps the most significant is that they all claim exclusive truth. That is to say, there are elements in each faith, belief in which is mutually exclusive, such as the differing views of Jesus between the three faiths – he cannot more…

Coleraine-Waterside Phase 2 contract awarded

With the controversy well recounted over the escalation of costs for the upgrade of this section of railway line, I think I should start this post with a little explanation well known to those of us who have ever been involved in procurement, whether public sector or private sector. Basically, and regardless of the skills more…

Committee for Regional Development has “No confidence” in the Department’s budgeting abilities

Having had a motion of no confidence in the DRD’s ability to budget passed in the Assembly last night (including recycling my own reference to Oliver Twist but not necessarily as cleverly), a relationship which has at best been difficult appears to have descended into outright hostility between the Committee for Regional Development on the more…

Experiences of bus privatisation in GB

As threatened a number of times, I’ve finally pulled together this piece on why bus privatisation isn’t all it’s made out to be (cross-posted to my own site, where I’ve included a bibliography) I simply want to walk through the scenarios for privatisation we have seen in GB since 1986 and their pitfalls. Deregulation The more…

Bus lane cameras good news – an alternative news story

See the Tele’s editorial for why I’m writing this. Law-abiding motorists across Belfast today welcomed news that a mobile camera would be roaming Belfast to detect and fine drivers illegally using bus lanes on arterial routes across the city. City centre worker Isobel told us “I have to sit in my car in traffic queues more…

The voice at the parlour door and the looming NI cuts

My dad tells the story of a TV or radio drama broadcast decades ago while he was living in Dublin.  The protagonist’s wife gave him some of the food – special “party bread” – she had prepared for a gathering of some friends, on condition that he kept out of the way and didn’t embarrass more…

£1.1 billion running public transport to stand still

I have to say, I hate listening to my recorded voice, so it’s probably as well that I haven’t listened back to myself on Good Morning Ulster or Radio Foyle breakfast.  I did watch myself talking to Kevin Sharkey on BBC Newsline, which is a bad idea for the shy.  I have to thank my more…

2015-03-31 10.20.13

Belfast the most congested city in the UK? (and 14th in the world)

Belfast congestion tends to disappear into insignificance when you are crawling for 10 miles along the M77 in Scotland at 8 o’clock on a Tuesday morning – it gives a whole new perspective on the hill section of the M2, and certainly on Victoria Street in the City Centre. Today’s Belfast Telegraph carries the results more…

No surprises as Translink warns of fare increases and service cuts

Before you keep reading this, check my earlier articles here, here, and especially here. BBC News is reporting that David Strahan, current Chief Executive of Translink, has given a gloomy outlook to the Committee for Regional Development on fare rises and service cuts.  Missing from the media reports is that their subsidy is being cut more…

Christians on the Left Stormont launch

Some weeks ago, Barton Creeth talked to me about Christians on the Left, the (relatively) new name (since 2013) for the Christian Socialist Movement, which was founded in 1960, tied to the Labour party in GB, and whose current director is Dr Andrew Flannagan, originally from Portadown.  Its Northern Ireland grouping was due to have more…

NI Railways fare poster

Details emerging on Translink fare rises

Hat tip to Martin Baumann, who sent me this photograph of a poster today. I’m still waiting to hear, as are all of us, what the impact in cash terms will be on Ulsterbus and Metro, beyond a statement in December that Metro cash fares (and by extension the three lowest Ulsterbus fares) would go more…

New service for Adults with autism

Rather underreported in the media (with the creditable exception of the Newry Democrat) is the Belfast Adult Autism Advice service (BAAAS), which I visited yesterday afternoon. Available from 1.30pm to 4.30pm every Tuesday in Belfast Central Library, I came into the room to be welcomed by my own Occupational Therapist from the Belfast Trust Adult more…

Donaldson in review

It is a pity that coverage of the Donaldson review has focussed on his comments on the number of hospitals in Northern Ireland relative to its population.  It is true that he remarks on this, but his report is a lot broader than considering whether skills are being spread too thinly across too many hospitals more…

Public sector pay: behind the headlines

The Belfast Telegraph has been looking at Civil Service pay again. Behind the headline of a 3% increase in average Civil Service pay between 2013 and 2014 lie a few more facts. The first one is that almost uniquely in the public sector, the Northern Ireland Civil Service treats the annual increment paid to all more…