John McCallister MLA has recorded his opinion that public transport in Northern Ireland should be affordable and efficient. It is scarcely a contentious proposition; although I have reservations about his argument that Translink’s services should be ‘vibrant’. I’ve travelled on Ulsterbuses which have been so vibrant they’ve threatened to leave me without any teeth.
McCallister’s statement is in response to Translink’s plan to raise prices, far above the rate of inflation. He expresses sympathy for the company’s predicament, given the current economic climate.
Setting aside the niceties of nuanced political debate, I beg to differ.
Translink is an awful company, with a disproportionate number of rude and unhelpful staff, which has been making a pig’s ear of Northern Ireland’s public transport and it has a damn cheek to ask its long-suffering passengers for more of their money.
Prices on buses and trains here are ALREADY preposterously high. It costs £1.50 to travel a mile and a half into Belfast from the Lisburn Road on a Metro bus. That is substantially more than a similar journey would cost in London with an Oyster Card, and comparison to services in equivalent regional cities is even less favourable. Frequently the driver on a City Bus will turn his nose up at a £5 note.
From Belfast International Airport a newly arrived visitor will be charged £7 to be taken fifteen miles into the city centre. Should he dare to present the driver with £20 in payment he is liable to be given a tutorial in how unfriendly Northern Ireland can actually be!
A Goldliner to Enniskillen costs £10! More than the private service which runs to Dublin Airport!
I’ll not get properly started on the trains, if only for the sake of my blood pressure. The delays, breakdowns and foul smelling carriages where the toilets’ ventilation is routed INSIDE the train! Or the timetabling, which almost guarantees there will not be a service when one would be convenient. Or the routes, which dictate that you can travel almost nowhere without first connecting in Belfast.
On the whole, British public transport is vastly more expensive and less efficient than services offered on the continent. Northern Ireland surely has the worst public transport in the United Kingdom. Translink is responsible. It is doing an appalling job and cannot be allowed to exploit its customers any further.