Bus and train service cuts scheduled for 2013

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Translink has said bus and rail services across Newtownabbey will be affected by upcoming budget cuts.

At this month’s meeting of the council’s Planning and Consultation Committee, officials from the transport company said services would be affected from April next year.

They said there would be a gap between the organisation’s financial needs and the funds provided from government.

Councillors were informed that the company’s chief executive and chief operating officer were working hard with the Department of Regional Development to narrow the gap between its needs and the money being made available.

“But there will have to be changes to the service,” Arthur Hamilton from Translink told councillors on Monday evening.

“We will be looking at scheduling, route profitability and staffing levels. If people are not using services it will be hard to justify them continuing.

“However, the negotiations are still ongoing between Translink and the department and it is too early to say what exactly will happen. It will be across the entire network, but we are working hard to minimise the impact.

“There will be a difference in our funding levels, however, full details will be made public when they are known and there will be a wide consultation process.”

Councillors expressed concerns about the potential reduction in services.

Mr Hamilton added: “Even in times of reducing services I would never rule out adding new routes.

“Again it comes down to people using the service, if there is a high level of demand for a service then it could be an option we will give serious consideration.”

Mr Hamilton also ruled out the possibility of Translink being privatised.

He said: “It will not happen, but there is advantages to public/private partnerships. At the Irish Open we worked in partnership with other bus companies and it worked well.”

Meanwhile, during the meeting alderman Billy Ball also asked the Translink representatives about the conduct of their drivers.

He said: “Occasion after occasion people are telling me that drivers are rude to them or just drive off without stopping for passengers.

“I would like to know if customer service forms any part of driver training.”

Sam Todd, who is responsible for local bus services responded: “Over 90 per cent of our drivers provide a first class service and there are those drivers who simply don’t.

“Each driver is trained on customer service and it forms a large part of their training.

“But, we have just got our spring independent monitoring results, which measure customer satisfaction, and they are the best ever for the company. What I would say to people is for them to contact us when they have a complaint.

“Too many times people tell me about instances were drivers have not performed well, but they do not report them.

“There is a number on the back of the tickets for complaints and details will be passed on to managers and training offered if required - but people need to report complaints, it really can be frustrating when they don’t.”