Fares are set to increase by around 7%, with the changes coming into effect on 6 March. Translink has said that the fare review which resulted in the increases had been requested by the Department for Infrastructure because of pressures on their budget allocations.
Mr Muir has called for a change in funding arrangements for bus and rail services that would put provision on a more sustainable financial footing, and has warned of the general impact of underinvestment in bus and rail services in NI.
“Whilst other countries such as Germany and the Republic of Ireland have cut fares to encourage the use of public transport, the move to increase bus and rail fares in Northern Ireland is a regrettable and retrograde step,” said Andrew.
“It has however been made necessary due to the historic underinvestment in bus and rail services here, with Northern Ireland ranking bottom of the league in terms of financial support and coming in at the lowest spend per head on public transport compared to the rest of the UK.
“These fare increases, which are inevitably only going to drive people away from considering public transport as an option, are especially disappointing in the midst of both a climate emergency and a cost of living crisis
“The planned rises will hit the poorest the hardest, with households already struggling with rocketing energy, food and other living costs.
“Whilst the overall package of fares involves many rises, the planned increase in the discount available to 16 to 23 year olds via the yLink card from one third to 50% is welcome, and highlights positive interventions that can be done to encourage people to travel by bus and train.
“At the end of the day, it’s scandalous that Translink is forced to operate services on a wing and a prayer, reliant upon in-year monitoring rounds and depleting reserves to deliver essential services connecting communities and enabling key workers to travel from home to work.
“We urgently need a restored Executive, ministers, and a budget to chart a course towards net zero which involves long term sustained investment in public transport. Attractively priced and high quality bus and rail services are a vital part of the work needed to both tackle climate change and assist people enduring the cost of living crisis.”