Overend voices fear over future of public transport in Mid Ulster

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ULSTER Unionist MLA Sandra Overend has said an increase in priavte operators delivering public transport could adversely affect rural areas like Mid Ulster.

The assembly member was speaking after she voted against a Stormont committee recommendation to bring further private operator involvement into the delivery of public transport.

“We made it clear during the debate that we do not support the privatisation of Translink, something which this report clearly threatened,” said Mrs Overend.

“If this report was to be implemented, rural routes would be disproportionately affected, with very many of them coming under threat. At present many routes across Northern Ireland are unsustainable in economic terms but that does not mean they shouldn’t operate.

“This would include a number of routes across Mid-Ulster. Translink currently absorbs these costs by using the resources from more profitable routes.

“Private operators would understandably be reluctant to take up unprofitable rural routes, with a result that these would be cut, with all of the negative knock-on effects that this would have. Rural dwellers that depend on these bus services could become increasingly isolated, many could find it difficult to commute to work, and hard pressed businesses in our smaller towns could also be hit.”

She also said increased privatisation could lead to substantial fare increases.