Translink Chief Exec leaves post

I haven’t seen it anywhere else, but NIRSucks reckons that the man paid 10 times more than the Polish Prime Minister has left his job at Translink.

  • Fair play to Keith Moffatt or anyone else who gets £374,000 in a single year but the problem with all his radical progress in the transport system is its uniforminity or lack of. As far as I can ascertain, in my area, the public transport begins and ends with a poorly run bus service.

  • Miss Fitz

    I think its time we had a radical review of our transport needs and projections over the next 50 years. No-one seems to tackle this issue seriously and comprehensively, or with any level of insight.

    They recently built a park and ride facility outside Sprucefield with a bus to the city centre for £5 a day. It may seem like a small amount, but the equivalent amount in petrol is about £2 per day. If you’re on a budget and have to take the cheapest option for travel, this isnt going to be an attractive option. I havent done any great studies on it, but the parking facility at Sprucefield always seems quite empty. Perhaps they should adopt a low-cost, high-volume approach, and offer it at a pound a day. Bet you wouldnt get room to swing a cat if that were the case.

  • It is indeed true – if you check out this morning’s Good Morning Ulster at around 8:25, the press release was quietly sent out yesterday (a good day to bury bad news, perchance?).

    The Telegraph now has it as well:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/article2108417.ece

    The Irish News appears to have a longer article on it, but I’m too tight to subscribe to it.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    By mutual agreement?

    On that salary?

    Who is kidding who?

    His position was untenable and since it is a state owned company he had to go. The people who apppointed him on his contract, not to say the previous incumbent’s contract as well, should quickly follow.

  • dalek

    Glad to see there’s to be a change at the top in translink but I dont hold out too much hope that muppets replacement will be any better.

    Frankly central government and the “bright sparks” in DRD need to hang their heads over the treatment of public transport and the management of the roads network.

    Firstly what was the point of creating Translink as a single entity in terms of a regional public transport service and then not integrating the ticketing?

    Secondly given the lead in time for major projects like LUAS then the funding design procurement build and start up there is no prospect of any change to Belfast transport infrastructure for 15-20 years because the cogs have not begun moving yet.

    Thirdly when is Newry going to get a functional station with non-neanderthal staff. Also when is Newry going to get an actual service akin to Portadown rather than the current three trains a day in addition to the enterprise. (6.50, 7.10 outbound and 17.15 in bound)?

    Fourthly I agree with Miss Fitz vis-a-vis the park and ride at Sprucefield.Twenty five pounds a week to get from Sprucefield to Belfast is way too much and a false economy. Far better that it cost ten pounds a week and the carpark and buses were full. It makes no economic sense to use this service as it stands.

    fifthly, I have a sixthly,seventhly and eighthly but don’t have the time. Maybe later.

  • Alan Law

    UTV had a report tonight on the boxing day service offered by Translink between Newry and Belfast. Apparently passengers had to go via Dublin. They were not permitted to catch the bus returning from Dublin to Belfast but were forced to catch the Belfast to Dublin service taking a journey time of just over 4 hours. Nuts.

  • dalek

    Welcome to the weird and frightening world of NIR’s Newry City Service!

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least………

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. Given that the USA (especially LV) is supposed to be a mecca for capitalism, and where the car is king etc, even then they manage to do a much better job of public transport – in cities at least – than we do. In Las Vegas, $5 (£2.50ish) gets you a 24 hour pass which you can use on any city bus, for any any number of times during the day. The buses (which are quite cool, you can stick a bike on the front, and there is a sign + audio announcement telling you what the next stop is) run 24 hours and during peak times there is one every five minutes. That means that if you have to take two or three buses to cross town, or need to take several trips during the day, it’s the same price. On Citybus, if you’re travelling (say) from Glengormley to Dunmurray, you’ll have to pay £1.60 to get to town and £1.60 to get back out again. That’s £3.20 and you’ve not even made your journey home again yet.

    I think the issue here is that for public transport systems to be comprehensive and frequent, they need to be subsidized quite heavily. Translink’s subsidy is very small, in fact I’m pretty sure it at least breaks even – a few years ago I remember that it actually underspent and had to return money to the government (meanwhile trains rotted in the depot at York Road due to poor maintenance. Brilliant).

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Comrade Stalin

    A small subsidy !!!!!!!!

    The government buys all their buses and trains, they put up £120 or 160m a few weeks ago for new school buses, in additon to other subsidies.

    Stalin would have been proud of this nationalised company, apart from the salaries.

  • miss fitz

    I’m with the Comrade on this one. I would prefer to take public transport from an environmental point of view. I will be spending all of next year finding ways to reduce my carbon footprint.

    Unfortunately, a daily journey from Rostrevor to Belfast is just not a practical option either by bus or train. The bus option is fair, but it actually costs more than using a car. The train from Newry gets into Belfast at 9.45 am, not too impressive for anyone needing to be in work at 9am.

    Unless you find out what the people need and want, you arent delivering a service appropriate to the context. As we all become more aware of the pressing nature of climate change, and the onus to change our habits, this issue will become more and more prominent in our lives.

  • dalek

    Miss fitz

    There are two earlier trains at 6.50 and 7.10 from Newry to Belfast. Also Rooney International Coach hire run buses that pass through Rostrevor at around 6.30 and 7.00 and a weekly ticket is £35 which is cheaper than petrol. All of these will get you into Belfast before nine.

    dont go anywhere near Ulsterbus though…expensive,unreliable,2hrs to get from rostrevor to belfast and surly drivers.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The government buys all their buses and trains, they put up £120 or 160m a few weeks ago for new school buses, in additon to other subsidies.

    Not disputed, though I have two points :

    – I should have made clear that the government does not – as far as I can tell – appear to subsidize Translink’s *operational* expenditure, although you rightly point out that there have been cash injections for *capital* spending in recent years. Translink seems to get a hell of a lot of new buses, which I’m not convinced are strictly necessary.

    – regarding school buses, whose budget did this come out of ? Aren’t school buses paid for out of the DEL budget ? I would imagine that school buses are not to be used for other public transport.

    Are there any hard numbers around for Translink’s accounts ? (they are not on their useless website)

    Moffatt’s salary seems outrageous, but it is probably par for the course for public sector management. I’d say that problem is pretty widespread. Moffat seems to get a hell of a lot of credit for renaming Citybus and shaking up the routes a bit; the new trains were brought in on the initiative of ministers in the NI Assembly so he can hardly take credit for those.

    The “flagship” Enterprise is no longer good value. Since the free transport for pensioners was brought in, some of the early morning trains particularly at weekends are crowded to the point where people are having to stand in the vestibules. Standing room only for a £35 ticket is outrageous – and I’ve not even mentioned the dirty and poorly maintained state of the rolling stock. Lately I’ve taken to riding the Aircoach to Dublin. A little less comfortable, but it’s less than half the price, more frequent, and you always get a seat. The stupid Enterprise timetable is completely up the left, it departs at all kinds of silly and irregular times.

    These people aren’t interested in running a modern public transport service. In the case of the railways, I’m damn near sure there’d be a case for privatization.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    CS

    No the school buses are ordinary buses that can be used for any purpose and are not exlusively school buses, they can be used on normal routes.

    They are also paid for providing the school service by the DEL.

    They publish accounts I believe, you could try asking them for a copy.

  • miss fitz

    Thanks Dalek. I didnt know about the earlier trains, and I thought the Rooney bus only went at the weekend with students. Will be sure and give them a try when next going to the big smoke.

  • Butterknife

    The problem also is that at Translink the trade unions are strong. I believe a fitter etc gets paid trice the mimimim wage etc. Also for the public annoucements on trains etc the drive is responsible for ‘turning it on’ and they won’t do it as its part of their contracts i.e. they want more money.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The problem also is that at Translink the trade unions are strong.

    A unionized workforce is an easy target to hit if you’re taking the blame for making a mess. So why have Translink’s management never publicly accused the union over these problems ?

    I don’t think the unions are the issue. I think it’s the crap public service mentality of the Translink management. These are the people who failed to ensure that enough drivers were hired to run a full timetable this year. These are the people who fail to ensure that trains are properly maintained and that the timetables match demand. These are the people who fail to lobby the government for an increased subsidy to run necessary, but unprofitable services.

  • Crataegus

    I can never quite grasp why many chief executives are paid the amount they are, often all they are is care takers. It is not as if they are either building the business or taking any personal risk whatsoever. Employ under such conditions and what you get is mediocre.

    £374,000 is £7192 a week and about £180 per hour. Very cosy and I would suggest it is part of the problem. Put the management out to tender, get someone keen, with energy, with new ideas, out to prove themselves and with a more interesting approach to salary. Forget about track record, running buses is different from making shirts or whatever.

    I wish I could get my hands on Translink’s assets, if they were open to deals of mutual benefit I could certainly bring them in considerable income, build their infrastructure and possibly increase their business potential, but then I am in the business of looking for opportunities, that is how my mind thinks, I am a vulture.

    During the autumn I was sitting in my car and sizing up some shops as a potential development site and I happened to notice two buses leaving the end of the line at the same time, both going down the same road. Now it may well be that they diverge a mile further along the route, but it seemed very odd that they didn’t depart say 10 minutes apart for both were heading to the city centre. People have been complaining about this sort of thing for years and still it happens, so where is the management?

    Comrade
    I also have given up on the Enterprise to Dublin the bus alternatives are unquestionably better. Part of the problem is that Translink have little real interest in their rail network. I think they see it as a liability rather than an asset.

    Interestingly the buses in London are cheaper than Belfast. 80p but about to go up.

    There is another problem with transport and it is to do with the Planning Service. You need to integrate public transport into new development proposals. For decades with the Roads Service we have been planning solely around cars. It will take 50 years and hikes in the cost of oil to move us towards more sustainable forms of planning and in the meantime we are going to be paying through the nose as petrol prices increase. To take a few examples we restrict the development of retail in Belfast City centre yet we allow the endless growth of ‘ring road’ retail development. We restrict office development along our arterial Roads (transport routes) to a few thousand square feet to encourage City centre locations, yet for many these are unsuitable, expensive locations, and we then wonder why some of our arterial roads are run down and why places like the University area are packed. Someone needs to have a serious look at much of our planning policy and someone, well briefed and with a clear head and low tolerance for waffle, needs to ask a number of senior planners what exactly do they think they are doing and if they want to remain in employment. It really is that bad!

  • dalek

    Miss fitz

    The rooney bus is a second incarnation of the student bus to which you refer.

    for the last 3 months or so they have been running 7 buses each way monday to friday excepting bank holidays between newry and belfast. The early services serve rostrevor and warrenpoint also as do the last three in the evening. unfortunately their website seems to be down at the mo so cant link you to the timetable.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I can never quite grasp why many chief executives are paid the amount they are, often all they are is care takers. It is not as if they are either building the business or taking any personal risk whatsoever. Employ under such conditions and what you get is mediocre.

    In all honesty, the chances are that we are talking about market forces here, rather than the government blindly paying people twice what they need to be paid. It certainly isn’t the only place where it happens, look at the salaries of chief executives within the FTSE100. Still, it is right to highlight it as outrageous.

    I don’t think it would be allowed in the private sector, since shareholders would be expecting that money to be invested, banked for a rainy day, or passed on in dividends. I guess public sector appointments follow a completely different dynamic.

    During the autumn I was sitting in my car and sizing up some shops as a potential development site

    Bloody capitalists, always on the lookout for someone new to exploit. We will bury you!

    I also have given up on the Enterprise to Dublin the bus alternatives are unquestionably better. Part of the problem is that Translink have little real interest in their rail network. I think they see it as a liability rather than an asset.

    In the case of the Enterprise, I think they certainly see it as an asset, but what they don’t understand is that they need to reinvest some of the money they are making out of it in order to keep it running smoothly. That is why I made my point about privatization; a profit-maximizing entrepreneur, faced with competition from Aircoach, would either cut fares or work on making the service more attractive. There is basic shit that they need to be doing – making the timetable more frequent and predictable; improving the timekeeping and speed (we were promised 1hr30 – at one point they got it down to 1hr50 for the trip, but now it’s 2hr10); keeping the rolling stock clean and fixing up bad upholstery etc.

    I think you’re right about the rest of the network being a millstone around their necks. Face it, it’s far cheaper and easier to run buses, and when your job is to run both you’re going to concentrate on the cheaper and easier part. The trouble is that only rail has a consistent track record for being able to get people out of their cars. The Bangor, Lisburn and Larne corridors have a real opportunity to be a DART-style commuter belt around Belfast. Translink work by trying to match the anticipated demand, but what they should instead be doing is providing a fixed, regular service like the DART. Make it work and the demand will follow.

    Interestingly the buses in London are cheaper than Belfast. 80p but about to go up.

    Belfast’s buses are the most expensive for a journey of any length that I have encountered in any city I have ever visited, which is why I’m under the impression that Translink breaks even on an operational level. When I was in New York City a year or so back, there was a $24 one-week pass that would allow me to go anywhere on the subway or the buses in the entire New York area. Translink’s 1-week freedom of Northern Ireland pass costs £50 or $100, over four times as much. Go figure.

  • Crataegus

    Comrade

    Bloody capitalists, always on the lookout for someone new to exploit.

    I wish I had Translinks assets! A common problem with many transport companies is the under utilisation of existing resources. Their salvation is in front of their eyes if they care to look.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Crataegus, what have you in mind ?

  • Crataegus

    Comrade

    They are sitting on lots of land, some in prime locations, which if developed might increase the usage of their services and also bring in some income. (well actually a heck of an income without any risk to them if they are clever)

  • Comrade Stalin

    Crataegus,

    Can you expand on your thinking a bit ? I can’t think of many areas where they are sitting on high value land – with the exception of the Great Victoria Street site. This is a subject that really puts me into rant mode.

    Now, it is self evident that the GVS station is in a far better and more convenient location than Central. A sensible person might think that if it were expanded, and some sidings added and the ample land on the Westlink side of the station used to upgrade the station to a full-size facility, then it would be much more sensible as the main Belfast terminus, with Central downgraded to a halt.

    But no. Translink instead chose to refurbish Central, and maintain the land around GVS as – tada – a place to park old buses. The Europa bus station appears to get the prime consideration. Passengers arriving on the island’s premium train service find themselves deposited in a shiny new station which is still on the outskirts of the city with precious few buses linking them to the centre.

    You just don’t get the impression that the people at Translink are putting the travelling punter first.

  • dale

    brief comment..Central isn’t central! GVS is and has loads of space!!!! No Brainer!

  • dalek

    dalek not dale

  • Crataegus

    Comrade

    Translink owns a lot of land all over the place. Think of all the bus and train stations, think of the rail lines and the land beside them. Because it is beside a mode of public transport this land should be intensively developed. So the stations at say Mosley Mill or Templepatrick could easily have offices and apartments over with restaurant and shop on ground floor and a multi storey car park. The people living in the apartments or working in the offices may decide to travel by train. What could be easier (if it were anyone other than Translink). Also the more people around the stations the more people will come there and the safer people will feel particularly at night. The stations become part of the town rather than a way out of town.

    What many fail to realise is the price of land has gone through the roof. Many houses are worth more as development sites than as abodes, this is due to the DOE policy of trying to locate 60% of new housing on brown field sites. To further that policy they have severely restricted re-zoning. What the muppets in the planning service fail to realise is that much of the potential ‘brown field sites’ are in fact owned by government bodies (in the widest sense) and are not available. The result will therefore be the systematic devastation of the Victorian suburbs which have large gardens, and the ruthless replacement of commercial with high density residential. Development land is scarce.

    With regards GVS you are right there is masses of land when you include the area running parallel to west link. You can easily develop over bus and rail stations. It would be a superb location for offices, apartments, hotels etc.

    Also Central station is plain daft. Who in their right mind would have what is in effect a single storey structure on that site!!!! Also you have a section of line with a good views over the Lagan and as you approach Botanic a prime area for office development. The stadium should have been located here right over the station and Translink should have been in there to the fore promoting it. That said, as you state, Central Station is, due to location, basically a halt.

    If you are ever in Montparnasse Station Paris, take a few minutes and go up the small and (almost hidden) stair on the left hand side of the station (if you are facing the trains). It will eventually lead to a rather interesting garden complete with playgrounds, ponds, weather measuring devices etc all surrounded by a large and frankly mediocre office development which forms a square. All of this is built over the railway. This is how we should be thinking for central Belfast, no surface carparks, bus parks, or railway stations. Get the density way up.

    To develop you don’t need cash if you have land all you need to do is form a partnership with a developer(s). You are in fact putting a large percentage of the collateral needed on the table. You can accrue direct financial gain by a percentage of the profit and-or income as a percentage of rental. You also gain as your stations become an integral part of the developed city.

    When I get back to Belfast I have been asked to look at co-operating in a high rise development on the Lagan which would have been unthinkable 10-15 years ago, so certainly in my opinion, in the current market anything is possible.

  • Comrade Stalin

    So the stations at say Mosley Mill or Templepatrick could easily have offices and apartments over with restaurant and shop on ground floor and a multi storey car park.

    Well, Translink has no business being a property developer, so lands which do not directly relate to their core business should be sold off, and the proceeds reinvested in their services. As a matter of principle, I would not be in favour of a state body getting involved in property development. BTW the same applies to NITHCo’s car park business. I would much rather they concentrated their efforts on running an effective public transport service.

    The logic of what you’re saying is certainly correct, but I think over the years a lot of that land has in fact been sold off for development. The entire area surrounding Central (including Maysfield leisure centre, and the Markets estate) was all a massive yard owned by the GNR at the time. At this stage with the exception of GVS and Central, I cannot think of any significant areas of unused land in Translink’s possession. Sure they have a lot of real estate in the form of the railway tracks, but those by nature are long and narrow, and not really suited for developing in and of themselves.

    On your examples – Templepatrick, well, sure. But I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to live in the immediate vicinity of the Mossley West station. The feral people from the nearby estate routinely smash and destroy all the fittings in it within weeks of their replacement. I doubt the station is heavily used at all, probably because it would be so intimidating to enter or leave the place at night.

  • Crataegus

    Comrade

    the principle is right the examples are random. It is the early hours in Perth just now so NI not top of my mind.

    Don’t underestimate the value of odd shaped sites or sites that appear unattractive at present! Being able to turn such into good developments is where the money is to be made.