The Northern Ireland Audit Office has said people in NI are “still wedded to the car”, despite a £1.1bn investment in public transport.
A report said statistics show commuters are less likely to use public transport to and from work than a decade ago. The study looked at the performance of buses and trains between 2002 and 2014. “The Department of Regional Development (DRD) needs to do more to attract people onto public transport,” auditor general Kieran Donnelly said.
Rail passenger journeys doubled over the decade to 13.2m. However, bus journeys increased by just 1.5%, with a rise in Metro passengers offsetting a fall in those using Ulsterbus. During that time £1.1bn was spent by the DRD on its regional transport strategy, but Mr Donnelly said numbers on public transport “have not increased significantly”. However the report did say bus fares in Belfast “are relatively competitive” with other UK cities.
Morning peak hour bus speeds are “getting slower” on the city’s arterial routes. Rail tickets are also “generally cheaper”, but journeys are “relatively slow”.
The Audit Office said the DRD has made “little progress” in shifting the balance of funding from roads to public transport. It also pointed out the Belfast Rapid Transit System, which had originally planned to be operational by 2012, has been delayed until 2017.