SOUTH Belfast SDLP councillor Gary McKeown has said that action must be taken to make public transport in Belfast more reliable. 

The call comes as he revealed that nearly 80,000 Metro services didn’t run as planned over the past year.

Translink’s response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Botanic Councillor revealed that 7.6 per cent of Metro journeys over the past year were cancelled, late or terminated before reaching their destination, which equates to 78,695 journeys. 

Responding, Councillor McKeown said: “Thousands of people across Belfast rely on Metro buses to get around the city every day.

"We need this service to be punctual and dependable, but unfortunately the figures show massive gaps in reliability.

"Not only does this cause inconvenience, but there are also safety issues with people being left to sit at bus stops in the cold or alone with no idea if another bus will come along. I’ve had older people get in contact with me who have been stranded when their timetabled bus didn’t show up.

“What we also don’t know is what times of day the problems are worst – if the services are running fine during quieter times, it would suggest significant issues in the morning and afternoon when people are trying to get to and from work or school.

"In real terms these figures show that nearly 80,000 services were disrupted, meaning thousands of passengers will have been inconvenienced, leaving many people at risk of being late for work, missing important appointments or having to make alternative travel arrangements at the last minute, with the potential for additional costs."

A Translink spokesperson said: “Translink operates around 6K Metro services every day to a high standard of punctuality and reliability, and we continually monitor and adjust services where we can to maintain a high-quality service for our customers. 

“Coming out of the pandemic during 2022, we’ve experienced many challenges in relation to driver availability and other factors including traffic congestion, road traffic accidents, road works /road closures and other reasons outside of our control. 

“A robust and sustained action plan is having a very positive impact on our service performance in 2023 with reliability across Metro trending above 98% from the start of this year as we continue to see passenger numbers grow back to pre-covid levels.  

“We remain committed to keeping people connected and helping Northern Ireland build back greener.”