22/08/2006

Changes to NI public transport revealed

Transport Minister David Cairns has today announced major changes to the way in which public transport services will be planned and delivered.

The announcement goes along with the commitment, which was announced at the conclusion of the Review of Public Administration in Northern Ireland, that the new local authorities would be involved in the planning of bus services.

The Transport Minister said: “What I’m announcing today are proposals to benefit the travelling public which build on the substantial investment we have made in public transport services. The new local authorities will have responsibility for planning, designing and securing public transport services, both bus and railway.

“Translink will continue to be the main providers of public transport services. However, the arrangement will make it easier for private sector operators to become involved in the provision of public transport services.”

He continued: “Government is committed to improving public transport services. Over the three year period to March 2008, we are spending some £400 million on public transport. This is funding the purchase of new buses and trains and is improving the quality of public transport infrastructure.

“I am proposing that the functions of the new local authorities in relation to public transport should be carried out by them acting together in the form of a Passenger Transport Authority.”

The Minister added that the public transport system in Northern Ireland should continue to be regulated, ensuring that public transport services are integrated in terms of routes, timetables, fares and ticketing, but without preventing the introduction of new and innovative services.

He continued: “There should be changes in the way that public transport services are given financial support and that there should be a movement away from capital funding for the purchase of new buses towards revenue funding for routes and services.

“The changes that I am announcing will result in a three-tier structure with a top Government tier responsible for broad policy, legislation and regulation, including the regulation of operators; a middle tier responsible for designing and managing services and securing their provision from a third tier comprising transport operators. There would be arrangements for consumer input at all levels.”

The new arrangements are designed clearly to outline roles and responsibilities and therefore identify exactly who does what.

In line with this, the Passenger Transport Authority for Northern Ireland will be responsible not only for securing the provision of bus services, but also for providing or securing the provision of common services such as bus stations, ticketing mechanisms and information services.

Work on the new arrangements will be taken forward in parallel with the overall programme of action to implement the Review of Public Administration.

(EF)

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