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Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. The provision of bus stops is an operational matter for Translink. However, I have been informed that in the past five years, 306 bus shelters have been erected in rural areas through a contract with Adshel. In addition, Translink has continued to improve facilities for passengers by providing timetable information, improving signage where required and making repairs to existing bus stops.
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his response and the work that his Department has carried out to date. Indeed, recently there has been a great increase in the number of bus stops, of bus stop signage and timetables in rural areas of north Antrim.
Will the Minister tell the House what his Department’s policy is in relation to the provision of bus shelters? Furthermore, what percentage of bus stops have shelters?
My Department’s Roads Service entered into a 15-year contract with the bus shelter provider Adshel in 2001 to provide approximately 1,500 bus shelters across the North. The provision and maintenance of those shelters is funded by Adshel through advertising revenue at no cost to the Department. All councils, with the exception of Fermanagh District Council, have signed up to that contract, which restricts them from providing advertising shelters from any other source. All councils, in addition to Translink, are permitted to provide additional non-advertising bus shelters at their own expense.
When my Department receives a request for a bus shelter, it consults Translink to ensure that there is either sufficient usage or potential for future public-transport growth at the proposed stop. That ensures that the best use is made of the limited resources available.
Since Translink does not maintain central records on the number of locations of bus stops, it is not possible to provide the percentage information requested by the Member.
I am not sure that the Member actually asked a question; however, my Department is striving to provide more transport in rural areas. Not only is Translink required to fund loss-making services in rural areas, it also provides rural community transport across the North.
If the Member wants more transport, I will be happy to hear him in Budget debates argue that the Department for Regional Development (DRD) rather than the Department for Social Development (DSD) should receive more money.
Since a review of Translink’s passenger charter is due in the next few years, will the Minister examine the need for buses to stick to their timetables not just at the beginning and end of journeys but also at the stops in between, as is the case at present? Does he agree that such a change could improve reliability, particularly in rural areas?
A central aim in departmental policy is to get more people to use public transport. As the representative of a rural area, I am conscious of the provision of public transport in rural areas and of the need to improve public transport continuously to achieve our aim of getting people out of their cars and into public transport. Therefore anything that can be done to improve that would certainly be examined.
As the Member said, Translink’s passenger charter is up for review. If mechanisms come forward during that review to improve service, particularly in rural areas, I would be happy to examine them.