Ulsterbus Tours to close as Translink targets £20m in cost savings

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Translink’s long standing coach unit to close in order to maintain front line services

Due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the resulting impact on revenues, Translink has carried out an internal review to reduce operating, overhead and management costs, with a target of saving £20m whilst maintaining front line services.

The Northern Irish public transport operator said that the review is a necessary step towards ensuring a sustainable public transport network to support communities, the environment and the economic recovery in Northern Ireland post Covid-19. As part of its plans, Translink has announced a withdrawal from the Ulsterbus Tours business, blaming the long-term impact of Covid-19 on the tours market.

Chris Conway, Translink’s Group Chief Executive, said: “The Covid-19 economic impact has left public transport globally in a very challenging funding situation. Translink welcomes the response from the NI Executive and Department for Infrastructure with emergency Covid-19 funding, however it is important to recognise the impact that Covid-19 will have on revenues for some time to come. We are targeting savings of £20m and as such, we have had to make some very difficult decisions.

“We aim to reduce the impact to employees as far as possible and are committed to maintaining front line services. As a result, these changes will have a minimal impact on frontline operational employees’ jobs, who continue to deliver scheduled bus and train services. However, in driving improvements to internal processes, we anticipate it is likely there will be a number of redundancies in management and overhead functions.

“We will be starting a process of consultation with employees and trade unions over the coming days.

“Public transport will have a vital role to play in Northern Ireland’s green and responsible recovery and this review, alongside wider Government support will ensure we can deliver on this,” Chris concluded.

Unite the Union told the Belfast Telegraph that Translink’s plans could mean up to 54 compulsory redundancies. Unite’s Deputy Regional Secretary Davy Thompson said the announcement is concerning: “This is the first time in living memory that we face the threat of compulsory redundancies in Translink and reflects the particular challenges posed by the Covid pandemic against the backdrop of the long-term underfunding of public transport,” he said.

“Unite will enter consultation with Translink on this proposal with the aim of fighting for every job and countering the ripple effects that are likely to arise from the decision to withdraw from Ulsterbus Tours. We wish to make clear at the outset that our engagement is predicated on no impact to the provision of rural services or socially-vital services to deprived urban communities.”

Davy suggested that public transport in Northern Ireland has been ‘underfunded for years, if not decades, leaving it in a precarious state entering this crisis.’

“If the Northern Ireland Executive and the Westminster government are serious about a green transition we need to see a sharp increase in funding,” he told the newspaper.

In April, Translink said it needed an additional £100m to continue providing Northern Ireland’s public transport network as a result of the fall in passenger numbers, and in June received an additional £20 million from the Department of Finance.


Ulsterbus Tours 133 is seen making a final visit to the Cheltenham Gold Cup meeting in March 2020. RICHARD SHARMAN