Concessionary Fares Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 17th January 2017.

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Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance 2:30 pm, 17th January 2017

T8. Mr Carroll asked the Minister for Infrastructure whether he has considered, under the concessionary fares scheme, introducing free transport for people who are partially sighted and their aides. (AQT 663/16-21)

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I have had various conversations with Translink officials over the past number of months and up to this point about our fare structures and what we can do to enhance passenger numbers. Translink has taken a number of exciting and innovative decisions in the run-up to Christmas to attract people on to public transport. That has been hugely successful. The number of people using our Metro services has gone through the roof, and the number of people who, most importantly, use the Ulsterbus rural service has gone up as well. There is an onus on Translink now — I am certainly more than happy to work with it over the next number of weeks — to develop a system that gets as many people on to our public transport as possible. Fares will be very much part of that.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

I thank the Minister for his response. I make the point that the cost of introducing such a measure is not very high and that the scheme exists in parts of England and Scotland. I do not know what the state of play will be in the next few months or whether the outgoing Minister will be a Minister in a future Executive, but if he is, I ask him to consider seriously introducing the scheme.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I am more than happy to look at schemes that get numbers on to our buses. If we extend such a project, it will cost a lot more money. Those are the sorts of implications that roll out of either Tory austerity or, as I said, the effects of a hard-line Brexit — I am aware that the Member and his party campaigned for Brexit — and budgets are being hit. There are therefore consequences to some of these decisions. My focus and that of my Department is on getting more people on to public transport and making our public transport system more sustainable. As I said, I am more than happy to look at any way of doing that.