East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party MLA Roy Beggs has today voted against the privatisation of Translink public transport services. The Ulster Unionist Party was the only Executive Committee party not to agree to adopt a report which suggests the franchising out of certain Translink routes.
Speaking after the debate, Mr Beggs said;
“I was shocked to read the DRD Committee report which we were asked to adopt today which made provision for the privatisation of some Translink services.
“Under the Ulster Unionist Party Minister, Danny Kennedy, we have seen passenger numbers increase every year on the Larne Line with extra park and ride facilities added at Carrickfergus, Larne and Jordanstown. We have seen new trains, running more frequently with a more convenient schedule.
“It is for precisely these reasons that I believe Translink should remain under the control of the Department for Regional Development. I strongly hold the opinion that private sector companies could not continue to service some of the loss making routes, such as those responsible for serving rural communities. Given the potential threat to rural bus services in East Antrim, and also a section of the Larne railway line, I am very disappointed that all the other East Antrim MLAs voted to accept the Report.
“While I fully support small businesses and a free market economy with less government intervention, I feel that it is imperative that Translink continues to report to the DRD Minister, in order to safeguard rural routes, and provide a fair public transport service for all.”
DRD Minister Danny Kennedy also opposed the Committee Report. He said:
“Although profitable routes may be attractive to private providers, the privatisation that the Committee suggested would inevitably result in widespread service cuts, which is something that I am not prepared to support. I think that some Members are getting confused by the difference between privatisation and what is called franchising out both profitable and unprofitable routes; there seems to be little difference in the suggestion or its implication that that is a form of privatisation.”
Operator Translink uses its profitable routes to subsidise less lucrative ones such as rural services.