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 of your Quantity Surveyor who has their ear to the ground and knows very well what the going rate is for the materials needed for … Read 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 one hand and the Minister, Danny Kennedy, and his Departmental officials on the other. I have written before about the difficulties faced with the 2015-16 … Read 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 main model followed in GB outside London was to deregulate bus transport.  All publicly owned bus companies, including municipal fleets, were privatised, either by sale … Read 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 every day because I have to drive to other offices during the day. It sickens me when I see dozens of cars flying up the … Read 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 her – that he would disappear until they were gone. Later that evening there was a voice at the parlour door. “Mary, bring me some … Read 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 friend Wesley for recommending me once again. Having received an advance copy of the NIAO report into DRD: the effectiveness of public transport in Northern … Read more

Welcome to International Sheldon Cooper Day (not forgetting Maurice Moss)

I may have mentioned before that I have had an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis since February 2014, and as World Autism Awareness Week draws a close today with World Autism Awareness Day, a day to wear blue (sorry folks, my contribution to that effort is to wear blue jeans (as usual) since I completely forgot to do anything else) I thought I would review Perspectives, the final flagship event of Creativity Month in Northern Ireland, held at Skainos on Tuesday. … Read more

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 of the latest TomTom traffic index. My good friend and actual expert on the subject, Wesley Johnston, was unavailable and recommended me to comment on … Read 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 by more than £12 million, and they used £12 million in reserves last year to avoid a fare rise – so the real shortfall is … Read 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 its Stormont launch last Monday night, but at the time I wasn’t available to go along anyway. My key question, as a trade unionist and … Read more

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 up by 10p each – it isn’t clear, for example, whether Metro smartlink fares will also rise by 10p. Where I want to start the … Read 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 Autism Diagnosis team (I was diagnosed in February) and met representatives from the Disability Employment Service of DEL and the Cedar Foundation. The aim is … Read 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 – something korhomme discusses here, and I comment on briefly with regard to locations. What stands out is that Sir Liam considers the Northern Ireland … Read 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 staff who have not reached the top of their payscale as part of the payrise.  In the police, for example, you would move up the … Read more

Belfast Telegraph and City Centre bus lanes

And I thought I’d stopped commenting on transport for a wee while.  Hey ho. Jim Rodgers is quoted in today’s Belfast Telegraph as calling for a formal review of city centre bus lanes, backed by Gavin Robinson.  I’m not going to retread ground I covered on Friday and Saturday, but I do want to make a few comments. As I’ve already noted, I think the bus lanes were brought in too soon.  Implementation should have been more closely tied to … Read more

A closer look at the DRD budget consultation

Having written at length about Belfast commuting in a post written after midnight the other day, and which I have to admit showed it, I wanted to look more closely at the DRD consultation. Current expenditure The baseline cash available for “current expenditure” is reduced from £344.6 million in 2014/15 to £322.1 million in 2015/16, but this masks the true savings required to stand still.  These are as follows:- £ million 2014-15 Opening budget 344.6 Remove funding to freeze car … Read more

Transport options for Belfast. Who gets priority on our roads?

Andy Boal explores the transport options for Belfast It’s been interesting to read the responses to Brian’s post, but I’ve had a good look at the DRD’s proposed budget cuts and the consequences for public transport. It’s grim reading. Before we get into that, let’s start with a few principles. First of all, there is limited roadspace in Belfast, and a lot of people trying to use it.  It needs to be prioritised. Secondly, a lot of drivers have little or … Read more