First hints of September timetable changes

Translink have announced the following key facts about the September timetable change:

  1. 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.
  2. Headcount will be reduced via natural wastage, avoiding compulsory redundancies for front line staff, ie drivers, conductors and station staff – “While there will be a reduction to the overall workforce, this is being addressed through a recruitment freeze, redeployment and natural attrition.”
  3. A joint working group with Unite (the largest single union in Translink, although some depots have more GMB staff) and perhaps also DRD will examine the long term impact of a reduced budget for the company.
  4. £3 million in long term savings have been identified in management and efficiencies (ie they won’t all happen in one year!)

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, service cuts and fare rises are no reason to celebrate in a situation where diversion of car users to buses and trains is essential for the sake of those who can’t go about their business without private transport, but I’ll try and keep abreast of the impact on affected services.

  • murdockp

    took a bus from international airport to belfast city centre. shocking experience £7.00 for a 20 year old bus with tired decor, uncomfortable, noisy and in poor shape.

    took a bus from Dublin to drogheda and Stanstead London to Stratford. similar distances and the buses were very comfortable coaches and cheaper per mile as well.

    the problem is translink like all NI agencies is run by incompetent fools.

    the only answer is to privitise the lot and we will start to see these companies compete for passages rather than a state owned company that doesn’t give a damn.

  • chrisjones2

    Oh wash your mouth our with soap!!! How dare you suggest that anything in NI shouldn’t be run by the State

  • Catcher in the Rye

    competency is nothing to do with whether or not there is a budget to buy new buses. If the airport-Belfast bus route was privatised, for example, who says the new owner would buy new buses ? It would still be a monopoly.

  • AndyB

    Try going Bristol-Bristol Airport. No competition despite being privatised, and same price cash fare for less than half the distance. See also bus services to Heathrow.

    The reason for that is that fares to airports always come at a premium, and worse, people pay them. That’s why it’s cheaper to go to Antrim than to the International Airport, and to get the bus to Knocknagoney than to the City Airport.

    Stansted and Dublin both have competition, which pushes their fares down, but it has to be emphasised that, as experienced in Bristol, privatisation does not necessarily mean buses from multiple companies competing for passengers, let alone cheaper fares.

    It’s also worth pointing out that the buses on the Airport route are not 20 years old. The liveried single deckers are four years old, and the liveried double deckers are ten years old – a lot younger than you suggest. In fact, Ulsterbus and Metro between them are operating only a handful of buses built before 2000.

    See my earlier articles on the subject, which also explain that any privatisation of services will be done on a model similar to that in London, ie tendering groups of services to a single supplier, so that all but a very few routes will have no competition whatsoever.

  • murdockp

    it is everything to do with it. translink do nothing to attract customers and never will as there is no incentive to do otherwise as everyone gets paid even if busses run empty. the private sector will fight for customers. note it is not a monopoly as customers have a few transport choices this is about getting people out of cars.

  • murdockp

    but in the UK the bidders pay to secure the routes. Gatwick express cost a few hundred million jut to secure the rights to run the trains. I am no fan of belfast international as I think it should be shut but the point I make is I don’t expect anyone to pay to run this service. I just want it run well by some one who gives a dam. translink are a poor operator of public transport both trains and busses.

  • AndyB

    Actually, that’s completely untrue.

    Translink has to attract customers in order to live within its means. If buses run empty, they get no income, and the company goes bust because, as a Government owned company, they are required to aim for break even.

    Private companies will only fight for customers to the extent that it maximises their profit. Buying new buses (which I should remind you are currently paid for in full by DRD as Translink doesn’t make enough money to buy them themselves) damages profitability.

  • AndyB

    Again, that’s not true either.

    First of all, that’s not how buses run in GB.

    Outside London, accredited bus companies give notice that they wish to operate a given route, and do so, charging as they please. In practice, unless there is a lot of money to be made (something true of only certain routes in NI), most routes are left to be run by a single operator, charging what they like.

    Bus companies are invited to tender to operate unprofitable routes. Whoever charges the least to the council wins.

    In London, it is true that routes are tendered, and bus companies tendered to operate bus routes as near monopolies, paying a fee to TfL in return for keeping the fare income. The proposed NI model is either this or its opposite, where bus companies are paid the tender sum to operate the services but hand over the farebox income to DRD.

    I would suggest you carry out as much, or, better, more research than I have done. Start with my essay at

  • murdockp

    My stats show that public transport use by the NI general public is much lower than the rest of the UK and the assembly financials should me that that Translink has been receiving state aid from the NI Assembly for years which is why it is only half privatised.
    If Translink was doing its job right as a provider, public transport use in NI should be similar to the rest of the UK but it is not as it is such a poor service.
    I work in UK twice a month and the services offered in NI are very poor by comparison to the rest of the UK and Irish Republic.

  • murdockp

    Any company owned by the NI government can be run with incompetence that would never be tolerated in the rest of the UK and it will be bailed out again, and again and again for ever more.

  • AndyB

    Perhaps you’d like to explain why on the whole the services are more expensive in both GB and Ireland.

    Have a look at my review of the NIAO report at and my bumped BelTel article at and also note that the NIAO report confirms that public transport is comparatively underfunded.

  • AndyB

    When has Translink ever been bailed out?

    Reality is that it’s had its subsidy cut.

  • murdockp

    translink received £80m in 2012 and £64m in 2013 as a subsidy which is no different to RBS and LloydsBank also receiving cash injections. that is a bailout as it is state aid. the labour government used to do this sort of thing with British airways, rolls Royce and british lay land until the EU stopped them. NI gets away with it due to the peace process.

    as for current trading they now have a £16.6m loss that is either covered by the NI assembly or they go into administration.

    if you don’t see a limited company unable to meet its financial liabilities without state subsidy as being ‘bailed ou’t we will have to agree to disagree.

  • AndyB

    And that is different in what way from the subsidies that the privately owned bus operating companies in GB receive to operate services there, particularly the big five?

    In any case, those figures aren’t actually correct, as an EIR request response I hold shows. They’re actually £81.2m and £73.9m respectively for revenue (farebox), including pensions, and the figures reveal that Translink’s loss-making bus services are entirely covered by their own profitable bus services. A further £66m and £31m respectively went on new buses, trains, and infrastructure works.

    The revenue figures include fuel duty rebate (paid by DRD until 31/3/15, and still by Department of Transport in GB to all bus operators as a direct subsidy in respect of diesel); public service obligation (subsidy for loss-making services – NIL for buses in NI, but substantial for trains); concessionary fares (by far the largest), a tiny amount for rural transport fund, and assistance with pensions.

    That’s the reality we live in. Public transport subsidy per head in NI is substantially less than in GB – and it is falling.

  • AndyB

    Actually, there’s another misunderstanding. Translink is not privatised at all, and no part of it has been in private ownership since well before NITHC was established in 1967.

  • chrisjones2

    So whats the relative breakdown of the losses made by

    Buses in Belfast?
    NI Railways?

  • AndyB

    They haven’t shown that in the annual accounts for years, quite possibly right back into the 1990s. Citybus used to make a loss and Ulsterbus a profit, but I think this has been reversed in more recent years because Metro runs a better and more attractive service than Citybus ever did.
    Until the 2014/15 accounts are published, it won’t be possible to say whether operations (ie farebox, fuel duty rebate, rail subsidy and concessionary fares against fuel, wages and routine maintenance) are profitable or not. The waters are further muddied, because all head office functions are centralised and so are their costs.