Venue: Lavery Room - City Hall
Contact: Eilish McGoldrick, Democratic Services Officer
Apologies were reported on behalf of Councillors McAteer and McDonough-Brown.
Declarations of Interest
No Declarations of Interest were reported.
Translink - Late Night Services
The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting in October, it had agreed to invite Translink to attend a future Committee to discuss its night-time provision of services, in regard to a Motion previously raised in relation to the need for late night public transport services, and also write to Translink to outline its concerns in relation to the potential for night-time services to be cut over the Christmas period for 2023 and to clarify Translink’s plans for the Winter months.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. D. Bannon, Belfast Area Manager, representing Translink to the meeting.
Mr. Bannon presented a video on the launch of the late-night service in the run up to Christmas and outlined the positive consultation which had taken place with stakeholders of the city.
He provided an overview of the planned routes which included:
· NI Railways Midnight Mover - Trains would be in operation from 1st- 22nd December 2023 inclusive;
· Metro Nightmovers – Metro buses would be in operation from Friday 24th Nov until Friday 22nd December inclusive (earlier start date to coincide with the Purple Flag event) and highlighted the promotional single fare of £6 to be offered for all Metro special departures; and
· Ulsterbus Nightmovers (Goldline/Urby) - several additional late departures from Europa Buscentre on Friday and Saturday nights from Friday 1st December until Friday 22nd December.
He highlighted that this would be a commercial service to cover the costs of running the additional service and, due to financial pressures, Translink would be unable to run the same service as last year. He also pointed out that, to make the additional service viable, Translink Smartcards and concessions would not be applicable.
During Members questions, Mr. Bannon explained further that the Christmas Late Night service was a starting point which Translink would like to grow, develop and support in the future. He advised that longer-term late-night services and funding options were being considered.
In response to a Member’s question regarding the potential for anti-social behaviour on the late-night service, he advised that the Trade Unions and Safety Representatives had been consulted and highlighted the driver protection safety measures that were in place.
Mr. Bannon described that if required to meet demand that contingency plans were in place if additional buses were required for the late-night service.
In response to Members suggestions for additional routes to be added to the late-night service, Mr. Bannon advised that this could not be considered for this year but additional routes would be explored for the future.
The Committee noted the information which had been provided.
The Chairperson introduced Mr. D. McFarlane, Divisional Roads Manager, Mr. G. Salmon, Network Traffic Manager, Mr. P. Thompson and Mr. D. Williams, Section Engineers, to the Committee and they were admitted to the meeting to present their Annual Report.
Mr. McFarlane provided an overview of works completed across the Council area during the year 2022/23 and outlined the initial proposals for schemes to be undertaken in the year 2023/24.
He advised that the Secretary of State provided all NI Departments with budgets for 2023/24 and the Department was managing a 14 per cent reduction in its 2023/24 Resource budget allocation when compared to 2022/23 on a like for like basis. Despite every effort to reduce spend across the Department and its Arms Length Bodies, it was still faced with a significant funding gap.
He highlighted that the opening Capital budget for structural maintenance of the road network in 2023/24 was £85m, which was welcomed but still fell well short of the £143 million (£192m at today’s prices) required annually to maintain the road network in a reasonable condition.
He informed the Committee that the Department’s ability to spend its budget allocation was dependent on having sufficient contracting resource to hand to deliver the work. Following the legal challenges to the award of asphalt resurfacing contracts in 2021, the Department had successfully procured a new term contract for the Council area in March 2023. Regrettably, it had meant that limited planned work took place during 2022/23 but progress was now being made to deliver much needed resurfacing across the Council area. The Department was developing a Procurement Enhancement Programme to further improve the procurement and delivery of contracts.
He stated that Capital funding had continued to be provided for Active Travel schemes given the requirement of the Climate Change Act (NI) 2022 to invest into walking, wheeling and cycling. The Department had put in place a range of measures to increase delivery of high-quality active travel infrastructure throughout Northern Ireland.
He advised that the Department was working closely with Councils to better understand their five-year active travel programme and developing an appropriate grant and support framework for the delivery of greenways. He pointed out that DfI had commissioned a Northern Ireland wide Active Travel Network Delivery plan which was due for consultation in 2024. When completed, this Plan would provide a firm basis for the prioritisation of delivery of active travel infrastructure within and connecting our towns and cities. Mr. McFarlane reported that the Plan would complement and take account of the greenways network and advised that DfI were also implementing changes in the procurement of their active travel supply chain to ensure sufficient design resources are available to deal with increased demand in the coming years.
He stated that, due to the acute budgetary pressure, the Department was currently continuing with a Limited Service policy for routine maintenance activities such as defect repair, grass cutting and gully emptying. The Limited Service policy allowed the Department to repair defects greater ... view the full minutes text for item 4.