Translink: Passenger Delays

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 17th January 2017.

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Photo of George Robinson George Robinson DUP 2:00 pm, 17th January 2017

1. Mr Robinson asked the Minister for Infrastructure whether he will review the strategy that Translink has in place to minimise passenger delays in the event of a breakdown of, or delays with, Northern Ireland Railways services. (AQO 903/16-21)

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

The performance of bus and rail services provided by Translink, including NI Railways (NIR), is independently monitored, and results are published twice a year. The results of the spring 2016 monitor were published on 22 September 2016 and showed that NIR exceeded the charter targets for punctuality and, overall, achieved a perfect score of 100% for reliability, which is a very creditable performance.

Detailed analysis of punctuality data is compiled per services and reviewed on a daily, weekly, monthly, 26-week and annual basis by NIR. Poorly performing services are then monitored, and action plans are developed to enhance performance. When disruption occurs, NIR acts immediately to minimise delays and return services to the planned timetable. My Department monitors performance on an ongoing basis as part of the conditions of the service agreement that it entered into with Translink in October 2015.

I am aware of a number of delays on the Derry to Coleraine line that arose in early December 2016 following the activation of new signalling. It is clear that the performance issues at that time were not satisfactory, but Translink has worked hard with the contractor to address the issues during the bedding-in period. I am also aware that, following the recent refurbishment project, the Belfast to Dublin Enterprise service experienced a series of service delays.

In response to my concerns, a joint service improvement team has been established, representing NI Railways and Irish Rail, with the objective of addressing performance issues associated with the Enterprise service. I expect to see improvements in those services.

Photo of George Robinson George Robinson DUP

I thank the Minister for his reply. Having experienced a lengthy delay on the railway and having observed at first hand the disruption to passengers and staff, I urge the Minister to have an urgent conversation with Translink about replacing the current strategy, because it is not fit for purpose.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I regularly have conversations with Translink. We have discussed the recent delays on the Derry to Coleraine line, which the Member alluded to. The delays are down to barriers at Bellarena and a faulty track circuit at Castlerock. You go too far by suggesting that we need an entirely different approach and saying that the standard is not what it should be. I go back to my original answer: the 2016 results showed a perfect score of 100% for reliability. That is a fantastic score, and fair play to all those who achieved it.

Photo of Jennifer Palmer Jennifer Palmer UUP

What action is the Minister taking, in conjunction with the PSNI and the Justice Minister, to address the constant delays on the North/South corridor at Lurgan due to security alerts?

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her question. As I said, in response to my concerns, a joint service improvement team has been put in place to look at all the different aspects of how we improve the line. The team will not be looking at security issues alone, but I have no doubt that that may be something that it looks at.

Photo of Justin McNulty Justin McNulty Social Democratic and Labour Party

Minister, in recent days, you have been spreading fake news, making statements about Newry rail services and Narrow Water bridge. How can that work when your colleague the Finance Minister has not even brought forward a Budget? Are you not ashamed of making empty promises to the good people of Newry and Armagh, whom I am proud to represent, filling them full of hope about improved rail services and developments that may never happen? Are you not ashamed of yourself? You are putting out fake news.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

The only person who should be ashamed is the Member. The people of Newry will experience improved rail services as a result of me making these decisions. I am not sure whether the Member has been aware, or been awake, in recent weeks, but I will remain the Minister for Infrastructure over the next number of weeks. I have had conversations with Translink, and we have talked about the enhancements that are needed in Newry.

That is why they are now going to review the situation with services in Newry and enhance them where necessary.

That is the situation. This is not fake news. I do not get into the realm of fake news. As I said, the people who I have been talking to in Newry over the past few days are, obviously, different from the people who the Member for Newry and Armagh has been talking to over the last few days. Local people are excited by the fact that they are going to see improved rail services —

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

This year. I have also announced, as you have seen, a joint initiative between ourselves and Dublin about improving the service line. This is not fake news.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton Speaker

Before I call Mr Sydney Anderson, I should inform Members that question 7 and question 13 have been withdrawn.