Union raise need for additional £6 million to protect bus and rail services with First Minister and deputy First Minister at Stormont Castle

May 6th 24 hour strike action by Unite members in defence of our public transport

Unite Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, has confirmed that representatives of his union met with First Minister, Peter Robinson, and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, at Stormont Castle yesterday (Wednesday, April 29th) to discuss alternatives to the cuts to frontline services.

“Unite sought, and obtained, a meeting with the First Minister and deputy First Minister to discuss the alternative to slashing bus and rail services.

“We understand the cost of avoiding these damaging cuts would only amount to £6 million – a meagre sum in the context of the overall NI budget.

“Governments across Europe have well-funded, long-term strategies seeking to develop public transport as a means to encourage a move away from chaotic daily traffic congestion. In a local context, that would require investment in extending rail coverage across Northern Ireland, expanding our bus service schedules and an aggressive strategy of reducing fares to encourage greater uptake. The cuts to our public transport service will undermine any progress in that direction.

“A step-change to investment in public transport can yield huge social, economic and environmental benefits. We are asking that the NI Executive as a whole reconsider the false economy of ‘saving’ £6 million at the cost of undermining our bus and rail services. Funding for public transport should be viewed as a public service rather than as a subvention to a stand-alone business.

“In the context of adequate funding for frontline services, Unite would be keen to engage in a thoroughgoing review of NITHCo and Translink structures and activities to improve efficiencies, particularly at corporate management level. It is in everyone’s interest that we have a highly efficient, world-class, publicly-owned integrated public transport system offering real value-for-money to the taxpayer”, Mr Kelly concluded.

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Paula Geraghty

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