Integrated Transport: Ballymoney

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 6th July 2021.

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Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP 2:30 pm, 6th July 2021

T3. Mr Storey asked the Minister for Infrastructure whether she will give serious consideration to an integrated transport facility in Ballymoney, the only regional town without such a facility, so that bus and rail services are integrated in a way that gives passengers the best possible experience, given that, although it is an issue that she has sought to champion, Ballymoney, where he lives, does not have integrated transport, meaning that when you step off a train, you cannot get a bus from the train station: you have to walk to the centre of the town or to the outskirts of the 30 mph zone. (AQT 1523/17-22)

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for his question. If I am being honest, we could do a lot more about having a more integrated transport system if we were to look at how all the components of a transport system come together. It is about maximising active travel opportunities and encouraging people on to public transport. It is also about the role of taxis — we had a debate earlier about the importance of our taxi industry — our private bus operators and community transport, and how all of them come together. The Member may know that my officials are working on the regional strategic transport network transport plan, which will look at our transport system — bus, road and rail — up until 2030. That will go out for consultation later this year, and I encourage the Member to respond to the consultation.

If the Member wants to write to me about the particular issues in Ballymoney and make specific asks, I am happy to look at whether there is something that we can do in advance of the regional strategic transport network transport plan. I am certainly happy to hear him out and have the case made to me at least.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Minister for giving us that opportunity, and we will respond. Will she also keep in mind that it is not just about the impact that it has on local commuters in Ballymoney? The town of Ballycastle is very dependent on its bus connection to Ballymoney for the train service, which has been a phenomenal success. Will she ensure that regional towns like Ballycastle have interconnectivity so that, whether you are a visitor or a resident, there is an integrated approach to transport? It is not a case of either/or; it is a combination of both rail and bus services.

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for his question. Some people say that I speak very passionately about rail connectivity, but I do so because it has been neglected. It is a huge untapped resource on our island and in Northern Ireland in particular. I do not say that because I want it to grow to the detriment of our bus network. I believe in growing our public transport network. For me, it is very much about looking at both networks to see how we can maximise that resource. The Member will know that there has been significant investment in our bus provision and in hydrogen buses, for example. I am very much committed to greening the public transport network, including the bus network, and I will remain committed to doing so.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Member is not in his place for the next question. Therefore, I call Declan McAleer on the screens, please.