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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK
'Broken pledge' on new buses
Executive had pledged more new buses, group says
The Northern Ireland Executive must reinstate its promise to replace 178 of the province's oldest buses, a public transport lobby group has said.

Transport 2000 says the assembly executive made the pledge in its draft Programme for Government published last autumn.

And it claims the pledge has been "quietly removed" from the final version of the document, which says 25 buses will be replaced per year.

The lobby group is to ask the assembly's regional development committee to support its call, at a meeting on Wednesday morning.

There are 178 buses, mostly in the Ulsterbus fleet, which are a staggering 18 years or older

Liz Fawcett
The group's regional representative, Liz Fawcett, said it is furious that the promise had been dropped.

"It's an enormous irony that the executive is providing free travel to pensioners and yet won't spend the money to improve the bus fleet it's expecting them to use," she said.

"In England, the government's promised to get the average age of buses down to eight years.

"Here, the average age of the Ulsterbus large bus fleet is almost 13 years."

She added: "There are 178 buses, mostly in the Ulsterbus fleet, which are a staggering 18 years or older.

"It was those that the executive originally said it was going to replace. If a mere 25 buses a year are replaced, the fleet is actually going to get older."

'Transport poverty'

In its presentation, the committee said it would highlight the problem of transport poverty in the rural areas served by Ulsterbus, which runs Northern Ireland's province-wide service.

"We estimate that almost 40% of households in rural areas suffer from transport poverty," Dr Fawcett said.

"They either don't own a car or find running one a heavy financial burden.

"What concerns us is that more funding is going into roads than public transport in Northern Ireland which is of little use to this large proportion of the rural population.

"The executive needs to start matching its fine words on public transport with action - by devoting a higher percentage of its transport and infrastructure budgets to bus and rail."

See also:

16 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Public transport in 'a mess'
18 Mar 99 | UK
Roads to change
25 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Programme for government in NI
29 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Executive spending priorities outlined
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