We are reliant on our airports and seaports to access key markets and destinations, whether that is for pleasure, business or education, or simply to visit families and friends. The connections to our airports and ports will be increasingly important in creating the conditions for prosperity and will be key to our ability to compete in a global, skills-based and innovative economy, not simply for markets but for investment and talent. The City Airport has an important role to play in providing that access and already has a significant market share of short-haul domestic services, aided by its accessibility to the city centre.
There are currently no plans to provide a new rail halt at George Best Belfast City Airport. My immediate railway priorities must be to maintain and improve passenger capacity and remove bottlenecks on the existing rail network. However, that does not preclude new halts where passenger demand justifies it and additional finance is obtainable.
I have started preparations for the development of a new Belfast metropolitan transport plan. The plan will provide an opportunity to consider the roles that private cars, trains, buses and taxis can all play in connecting Belfast City Airport. However, linking the airport more directly by rail may not necessarily be the best way to serve this important gateway in the shorter term, particularly as it is currently served by a very frequent, recently upgraded bus service to and from the city centre.
It does not necessarily follow that, if you have a train halt, you will provide a better service for business and investment. A very successful bus service runs to and from the airport, and many investors who come in and out of the city use it. Indeed, I have used it. It is very reliable and a very welcome service for those who want to invest in the city and the region.
I thank the Member for his question. As I understand it, the airport provides an on-demand shuttle bus service between the airport terminal and the railway halt at Sydenham.
I thank the Member for his question. The Belfast hub is a flagship project for the Executive. I look forward to working with Belfast City Council colleagues in delivering what I think will be a transformative project, not just for the city of Belfast but for the entirety of the North. It is key to developing our public transport network, and I very much look forward to doing all that I can in the years ahead.
There is no doubt that Brexit and the EU referendum result is a huge challenge. The Belfast transport hub is one project that would likely have benefited from up to 40% funding from the EU, and that is money that will now have to be found from elsewhere. It is a challenge that I am up for meeting, because, as I outlined to the Member, the project has a transformative effect.
As I stated previously, I am commencing work to refresh the full suite of my Department's transport plans.
Work on the regional strategic transport network transport plan will begin in the very near future. That will be followed by a series of local transport plans, including the Belfast metropolitan transport plan, which I mentioned earlier. The plans will be developed to coordinate with the delivery of local development plans. Local transport plans will be developed in my Department but working closely with council officials.
I go back to the issue of the airport. What discussions have there been with Translink and the airport about improving access, particularly to early flights, to enable interconnectivity for business travellers?