Larne Line fare increase: Consumer Council urges Translink to …

Translink train at Carrickfergus station.  Photo: Tim Cully

Translink train at Carrickfergus station. Photo: Tim Cully

The comments follow a restructuring of rail fares in Northern Ireland by public transport operator Translink. The changes, which came into effect on November 6, saw the price of a single journey from Larne to Belfast rise from £8.20 to £9.60 – an increase of around 17 percent.

A number of other routes were also affected, with increases ranging from 20p on a single ticket from Portadown to Belfast to £1.30 on a journey from Antrim to Belfast. The Larne line had the biggest increase of £1.40 on a single ticket.

A Translink spokesperson said the price hike – the second to affect the route this year following a network-wide increase in March – was due to reduced funding levels for public transport from the Department for Infrastructure, following the Northern Ireland budget allocation. “Translink is taking steps to restructure its rail fares to create a standardised pricing structure across the NI Railway’s network,” the spokesperson added.

“The new structure will see fares more closely aligned on a cost per mile basis across the network, which will mean that route subsidies are consistent across the network.

“Around half of adult single fares for passenger journeys will be unaffected; however, some routes/journeys have historically received higher levels of subsidy and fares have been kept lower. These will now follow a standardised pricing structure."

Translink confirmed there will be no increase in iLink fares, while yLink cards – free to all 16 to 23-year-olds – will also continue to offer 50 percent discount on adult fares.

Commenting last week, David Cowan, Translink’s director of commercial operations, said: “We have carefully carried out this review and worked hard to keep any increases to a minimum. Typical increases will be around 50p on a standard adult single fare.

“We understand for some, this will be unwelcome news; previously, our funding levels allowed us to support these inconsistent fares across the network. However, with reduced funding levels we have had to make these adjustments, given the pressures on Translink finances.”

Story continues

Regarding service frequency on the line, the public transport operator said it keeps all its services under continuing review: “As with any requests for additional services or alterations to existing service provision, passenger demand, operational costs and funding are taken into account.”

However, the increases have been met with frustration by the Larne Line Passenger Group, which was formed in 2005 and has since lobbied for new trains, better timetables and enhanced park and ride facilities along the route.

Highlighting that the line had already seen fare increases in March, a statement from the group said: “The group feels the Larne Line has again been targeted by fare rises unfairly.