By Thomas Carmichael
The announcement that Translink is on the brink of collapse has brought uncertainty to its more than 4,000-strong workforce. With a deficit of £29 million, the further cutting of already poor transport services has the potential to leave many parts of Northern Ireland, particularly rural and working-class inner city areas, without public transport, potentially having a devastating impact on the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.
Asked what the future for Translink would be if additional public money was not provided, John McGrath – the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Infrastructure – said, “If you ended up only running what was profitable, you’re talking about bits of Metro, some of the Goldline routes or you could look at – it’s not in a scenario anywhere – but you’d just close down the railway.”
Workers and trade unions must watch the situation closely to guard against any possibility that the crisis may be used to start Translink down the road to full privatisation, like Royal Mail before it. Davy Thompson of Unite has already publicly stated, “Unite members in public transport have taken industrial action to defend public transport services in the past and we stand ready to do so again if a genuine threat to jobs and services emerges.”
We need to demand investment in a fully public, free, accessible and efficient transport system, which could improve the lives of workers by cutting commute times and removing the financial burden of daily bus or train fares. Such a system also has the potential to vastly reduce the number of cars on the roads and would play an important role in the crucial fight against the looming climate catastrophe. In a society where just over 2,000 billionaires control as much wealth as the bottom 60% of the planet, according to Oxfam, there should be no doubt that the wealth exists to make such a system a reality in the immediate future.