25% reduction in public transport journey times?

CLAIM: Translink spoke about their hope that the Glider would reduce journey times on public transport by 25%.

CONCLUSION: ACCURATE WITH CONSIDERATION. The current journey time between Dundonald Park & Ride to Belfast city centre has been reduced by 24% (from 45 minutes to 34 minutes). For the McKinstry roundabout to Belfast city centre route, the journey time has been reduced by 7%, affected by the Bank Buildings fire.

What is the Glider?

The Glider is a bus rapid transit system in Belfast, Northern Ireland, created to enhance the effectiveness of public transportation in the city by connecting east and west Belfast and the Titanic Quarter via the city centre. The service is operated by Translink.

How much reduction in public transport journey times has Glider made?

On 25 August 2018, Cindy Stubberfield, the Glider project engagement manager, was interviewed by Ivan Little and quoted saying that she hoped that the journey times would be cut by “25% to 30%”. This aspiration was also presented on Translink’s website and corporate advertisements.

FactCheckNI wrote to Translink on 4 January 2019, asking for evidence in regards to its claim. Translink replied that it had not yet made any measurements. We requested its baseline measurements, which Translink supplied us, by email, on 25 January 2019:

“The baseline figures for measuring journey time improvements delivered by the Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) programme are based on morning peak inbound figures from 2013. The 2013 figures are used because this reflects journey times prior to the start of the BRT delivery programme and roll-out of the associated infrastructure and operational improvements.”

The figures below are journey times for the morning peak inbound journey in 2013:

  • 45 minutes — Dundonald Park & Ride to Belfast city centre
  • 44 minutes — McKinstry roundabout to Belfast city centre

On 3 April 2019, Translink supplied us the following figures, which show the initial measured savings, taken as an average of Monday to Friday, morning peak inbound journey times for the period of February 2019:

  • 34 minutes — Dundonald Park & Ride to Belfast city centre
  • 41 minutes — McKinstry roundabout to Belfast city centre

The figures above show a journey time improvement of 11 minutes (24.4%) between Dundonald Park & Ride and Belfast city centre, and a 3-minute improvement (6.8%) for the McKinstry roundabout to city centre journey, respectively.

The Translink Information Governance Team explained that the McKinstry roundabout to Belfast city centre journey time was impacted by the Bank Buildings (Primark) fire on 28 August 2018, resulting in approximately 50 extra buses being diverted via Millfield and Wellington Place during morning peak time.

In order to achieve the aspiration of a 25% reduction in journey times, the Glider system offers greater passenger capacity, on-street ticketing machines, and an expanded frequency of service.

Conclusion

Official figures from Belfast Rapid Transit provide evidence of an improvement in reduction journey times on public transport on the Glider bus service. The reduced journey time target of 25% reduction was achieved on one route (Dundonald Park & Ride to Belfast city centre). However, this reduction has not yet been achieved on the second measured route, though Translink offer mitigating factors (primarily journey diversions caused by the Bank Buildings fire) to explain the 7% reduction. (FactCheckNI hope to revisit this claim over the next year to assess whether the planned reductions are being met now that buses are once again able to travel through the city centre.)

How-to

Research for this fact-check article included emailing representatives from Translink, as well as with the Department of Infrastructure (which has an oversight role of Trankslink and its holding company, The Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company).

We also used an online archive service called “Wayback Machine”, which captures copies of webpages throughout the World Wide Web. This is a useful service when website publishers replace their webpages. To learn more about this service, please read our how-to guide.

Image: “GliderBus-Belfast-TitanicQuarter-P1510189” by Simon SMILER used by license CC0.