Fix climate change and congestion with better buses

A recent job change, for me, led to a minor conundrum associated with the loss of a free city centre parking space. I could either continue to drive to work and pay for all day parking (£7 is the lowest price I’m aware of) or I could use the bus. I opted for the bus.  The Antrim Road area, where I live, is quite well served by the Metro 1 route. Using the “Belfast Bus Tracker” third party app (App …

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Equalising rail fares – balancing the books but at what cost?

Once upon a long ago – I think way back in the 1990s – I looked at the fares from Belfast Central to every station on the network.  In those days, the Great Northern branch line from Knockmore to Antrim was still open, and I found a few surprises. Chiefly, that Bangor, 13 miles from Belfast Central, had the same fare as Whitehead (15 miles away) and Crumlin (a lot further).  Granted, Crumlin had an unusual fare because the fare …

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All Island Rail Review has been published – but will it hit the buffers?

Regional and rural interventions rail map from All Island Rail Review

Yes, I’m cynical.  You can’t entirely blame me. There is some great stuff in the All-Island Rail Review, published on Tuesday, including some blue sky thinking.  The summary, with my annotations, is below. Short term and decarbonisation Electrify remainder of Belfast-Dublin line, Belfast-Bangor, Dublin-Cork/Galway/Limerick/Waterford (both companies were already working on plans to abolish diesel traction, but NIR I think also intends to electrify the Larne, Portrush and Derry/Londonderry (hereafter referred to as Derry) lines) Increase line speeed to 100mph (currently …

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Early reversal of previous Minister’s policy as fares rise scheduled

Enterprise crossing Craigmore Viaduct near Bessbrook

It shouldn’t actually surprise us in the slightest, and for once I can’t entirely blame the DUP’s collapse of the Assembly. On 25th October, John O’Dowd announced as Infrastructure Minister that Translink fares would “remain frozen for another year”, but today it was announced that they would rise by an average of 7% from 6 March. The Secretary of State made a statement to the House of Commons on 24 November 2022 saying he recognised “that steps will also need …

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Improving the bus experience from Dublin Airport…

luggage, travel, sunlight

I try not to gripe about things too often, preferring to concentrate on human interest stories that might at least offer in a glimpse of light amongst the grimness of the world we live in today. But I’m not a saint and although I tend to steer well clear of much political comment (I’ll leave that in the capable hands of all you other Sluggerites), I do eventually reach a point where I’ve had enough and yes, need to get …

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Why the Circle Line is a dead end siding – but Antrim-Lisburn-Belfast trains can’t be lost

The Circle Line sounds like a great idea.  Go either direction according to your needs,  with a total journey time of 90 minutes or so, you’re no more than 45 minutes from anywhere on it. However, picking up on my comment on Jay’s article, there are certain logistical barriers that mean it is a non-starter in its proposed form. The key assumption I will make in this piece is that the line from Antrim-Monkstown is doubled, including the total reconstruction …

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Ireland commits to funding Enterprise replacement from 2027 – what about NI?

The Irish National Development Plan is a long document, and I have had little time to do more than skim it, but the key headline spotted by Jonny McCambridge and noted by Mick, one of the concrete proposals in the plan, is the replacement for the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise service by 2027. The branded Enterprise service was introduced by the Great Northern Railway in 1947, and at one time was extended to Cork.  NIR relaunched its side of the service in …

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Translink to bring back a trial of later bus services

Translink Chief Executive, Chris Conway has responded to a tweet saying that the company will be resuming a trial of late night bus services. Responding to SDLP Councillor, Seamas DeFaoite he said; A range of later night services were trialled in 2019 but Covid19 did stall any further plans, we’ll start trials again in Nov/Dec as part of recovery. — Chris Conway (@CEOTranslink_NI) August 18, 2021   The transport provider has been trialing this during the latte part of 2019 …

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Tackling Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Apartheid – Part 2, The Solution…

Read part one here… It is clear that Northern Ireland has a stark east-west divide in transport infrastructure. One which fails to fully reflect its population distribution, and raises questions of sectarian policymaking and a Belfast-centric nature to governance here. It is also clear that the era of car dominance in urban areas is slowly drawing to a close worldwide, which Northern Ireland will inevitably catch up with. Climate change and a desire for more liveable towns and cities will …

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Tackling Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Apartheid – Part 1 – The Problem…

Infrastructure has become a hot topic in NI since the London government established a ‘Union Connectivity Review’ (UCR) to recommend projects to strengthen links between the UK’s constituent parts. Since then the media has been consumed by the possibility of a physical connection between NI and Scotland – first in the form of a bridge and more recently an undersea tunnel, christened the ‘Boris Bridge’ and ‘Boris Burrow’ (though I would suggest a more appropriate title should incorporate the name …

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Boris’s burrow? Boring in more ways than one.

I do not promise an absence of any further puns in this piece. So last Sunday the big news was: we can’t put a bridge over the top of the Beaufort’s Dyke, so sure we’ll just build a tunnel round it.  It’ll only be 25 miles long. Except… The Channel Tunnel is 37.92km (23.57 miles) from the English coast under Shakespeare cliff to the French coast at Sangatte.  It takes a further 9.14km (5.68 miles) to reach the tunnel mouth …

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Change here for Ballinderry, Glenavy, Crumlin and… Aldergrove?

Wesley Johnston very kindly gave me some old NIR, UTA, GNR and even NIRTB timetables owned by his father, and it got me thinking. I’ve long been an advocate of reopening Lisburn-Antrim for commuter services, but what would a train service look like? The 1977 NIR timetable is the benchmark, rather than the much slower timetable which applied by the mid-1990s.  10 minutes Antrim-Crumlin, 5 minutes Crumlin-Glenavy, 6 minutes Glenavy-Ballinderry, 9 minutes Ballinderry-Lisburn including a stop at Knockmore. Trains call …

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The week a public transport advocate said rip out a bus lane…

Or near enough. I’ve got to be honest, last week I heard the complaints about Queens Road while on holiday in Copenhagen, and initially I thought… they’ve got to be exaggerated. But then more and more details fed through, and it became clear that the Department for Infrastructure had based traffic figures for Queens Road on seven or eight years ago, a lot earlier in the development of the Belfast Rapid Transport project, with Catalyst Inc at an earlier stage …

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The North West Transport hub: is Waterside Railway station really closed to trains?

I wouldn’t be much of a railway enthusiast if I didn’t want to see trains returning to the inside of the original Waterside station.  It’s an iconic image: a train, perhaps headed by a steam engine, with the carriages stretching back into the darkness of what is actually a well lit area, but don’t spoil the atmosphere.  Something which has not been seen in Northern Ireland since Waterside station closed in 1980, but can be experienced at Dublin Connolly when …

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Could we be on the cusp of better weekend bus services?

Last Friday for Culture Night, Translink extended their bus services from 11pm until midnight. I have always been incredibly frustrated that even on weekends our services end at 11pm, leaving people dependent on taxis or walking to get home. Belfast is a relatively small city, but I have always been a firm believer that even on the main arterial routes there was a case for continuing the bus services onto midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. On Culture Night, I …

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Why extra competition for Translink could in fact make things worse. Far worse.

Brian let me see his post before he published it earlier on today, but it lacks context. That context is the purpose of a private company, ie to make money. As I’ve outlined before, here, here and here and probably other places besides, there are several fundamental problems with the operating model in Northern Ireland. The first is that Translink is expected to run loss-making services on no more than the cash it gets in the farebox and for concessionary …

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We need to remove the Translink monopoly on bus routes to deal with congestion and get people out of their cars…

If you commute into Belfast by car, you will know it is a pretty hellish experience. Congestion is getting worse. At peak times the Westlink is like a car park. Trains are already at capacity, so the best option is to increase bus usage. The Guardian has this to say about the benefits of bus services in England: The M25 has 790 miles of lanes. If these are used by cars carrying the average load of 1.6 occupants, at 60mph …

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Interview with Translink CEO Chris Conway

Thursday afternoon in the Europa Buscentre, and knowing I’ve been scooped by the Business Telegraph (the price of blogging), I meet with Chris Conway in the conference room.  We’ve met before, as I happened to be at Stormont for an Autism event on the day Translink launched Train and Bus week, but this chat has been pre-arranged to talk about the new ticketing systems. Phone is recording the audio (no boos today), and we dive fairly quickly into the new …

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