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Kennedy hits out at ‘irresponsible’ public transport strike plans

A second planned public transport strike a day before the General Election has been branded “irresponsible” by Transport Minister Danny Kennedy.

The 24-hour stoppage has been called by the union Unite and is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, May 6.

The union says it is a further escalation of the action taken by members against ongoing proposed cuts.

But today Mr Kennedy criticised the proposals which he says come in the middle of a consultation on public transport services.

Mr Kennedy, an Ulster Unionist MLA who is standing for Westminster in Newry and Armagh, said: “Translink is currently consulting on proposals to change a small number of its services. This is not about cutting services, rather it is ensuring that the company delivers the most effective and efficient service possible.

“To date Translink has received around 5,000 individual responses. All of these responses will be evaluated and the process will not be complete until the end of May.

“For the trade unions to call a strike in the middle of this process and so close to a general election is irresponsible. It will only anger and alienate those people who they claim they are trying to protect. It will also impact on schoolchildren who will be preparing for or taking exams at this time.

“I would ask Unite to think very carefully about this proposed strike and of the impact it will have on the public.

“I am committed to improving and protecting public transport and have made it clear on a number of occasions that I have no plans to privatise Translink. This proposed action will damage the service Unite is claiming it is trying to protect.

“Translink management are prepared to meet with Unite to discuss this matter. I have recently met with Unite and remain willing to meet them again.”

The action comes after the latest consultation to a reduction in NI Railways services which would be introduced by the summer.

The consultation runs until May 1, and it focuses on early morning, evening and Saturday services on both the Bangor – Portadown – Newry Railway Line and the Larne Railway Line.

Translink is faced with a £13mill (approximately 20%) reduction in Government funding for 2015/16 .

Translink says the consultation aims to identify what is most important to customers to help it best design the rail network to operate within allocated resources while protecting those routes most essential to customers.

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