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Cuts in bus services should be a last resort, not a first option - Lynch
Published: 11 December, 2014
Sinn Féin MLA Sean Lynch has serious concerns about the pending cuts to rural and community transport and town services, following the draft budget of the Department for Regional Development.
As the Deputy Chair of the Committee for Regional Development, Lynch questioned Department officials at the last meeting about the scale of the cuts.
"The scale of reduction to Translink in 2015 - 2016 is estimated to be £15 million. The Department has stated that, whilst some further efficiency savings can be made, a reduction of this scale would "…inevitably lead to a combination of increased fares and reductions in, and the cessation of, some bus services".
"An indicative list of towns and cities across the North that have been identified as routes for either cessation or reduction of services focuses on the least profitable routes. These correlate almost entirely with rural towns and routes and have provided Translink with the opportunity to "cherry-pick" profitable routes whilst discarding unviable but vital routes.
Although acknowledging the difficult economic conditions faced by many agencies, the Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA said the loss of such services to the area would be a devastating blow.
"Translink, like many other departments, agencies and businesses, no doubt are facing reduced revenue grants, however there has to be a balance when decisions about withdrawal of services are being made," he said.
"After hosting the Community Transport Network NI campaign launch last week and hearing testimonies from a number of users, I realize how vital public and community transport is to the area.
"Urban services are essential to combat social exclusion, and help create better mobility and access to facilities for all. Older people in particular need access to essential services. Many households have no car and many even in car-owning households do not have access to a car, or are too young or too old to drive. Buses enable non-drivers to access jobs, shops, education, training and services. They also help create less traffic within the urban environs thus reducing log jams. Cuts in services to the public must be a last resort, not a first option". ENDS
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