Publication of Northern Ireland Transport Statistics 2015-16

Date published: 29 September 2016

The latest edition of Northern Ireland Transport Statistics, containing statistics for 2015-16 is now available.

northen ireland transport statistics 2015-16

This compendium publication is produced by the Analysis, Statistics and Research Branch (ASRB) of the Department for Infrastructure and contains information on vehicle registrations, driver and vehicle testing, the road network, freight, road safety, public transport, air transport, accessible transport and other transport statistics in the north of Ireland.  The publication is available on the ASRB website at:

Key points

Vehicle Registrations

  • At 31 December 2015, there were 1,103,082 vehicles licensed in the north of Ireland, an increase of 2% from last year (1,081,727) and an increase of 5% since 2011 (1,053,338).  85% were Private Light Goods (PLG) vehicles and 8% were exempt from duty.  Over the period 2005 to 2015, licensed vehicle stock increased at a greater rate in the north of Ireland compared to the rest of the United Kingdom; stock increased by 20% in the north of Ireland, compared with 13% in Scotland, 11% in England and 10% in Wales.
  • In 2015, the number of Private Light Goods (PLG) vehicles per 1,000 population aged 17+ in the north of Ireland was 653, an increase of 4% since 2011 (625).  Over the same time period, there has also been an increase of 4% in Great Britain (616 in 2011, 642 in 2015).  Since 2009, the north of Ireland has consistently had more PLG vehicles per 1,000 population aged 17+ than Great Britain.

Driver and Vehicle Testing

  • The overall pass rate for car ‘Learner’ driving tests in the north of Ireland in 2015-16 was 55%, a decrease of 1 percentage point since 2014-15 (56%) and an increase of 3 percentage points since 2011-12 (52%).  The overall pass rate in Great Britain in 2015-16 was 47%, the same as in each of the previous four years.
  • In the north of Ireland, the pass rate for touch screen theory tests for private car drivers in 2015-16 was 47%, a decrease of 2 percentage points since 2014-15 (49%) and a decrease of 14 percentage points since 2011-12 (61%).  The Great Britain pass rate in 2015-16 was 49%, a decrease of 2 percentage points since 2014-15 (51%) and a decrease of 12 percentage points since 2011-12 (61%). 
  • Historically, for the practical driving test, the pass rate for males is higher than the pass rate for females.  This year continues the trend with 60% of males passing the practical car driving test in 2015-16 compared to 51% of females.  In contrast, for touch screen theory tests, the pass rate for females is historically higher than the pass rate for males.  In 2015-16, 49% of females compared to 46% of males passed the car touch screen theory test.

Road Network

  • During 2015-16, maintenance (structural, routine and winter) accounted for 22% of the £372 million spend on our roads.  New construction and improvement accounted for 25% of the money spent, while public lighting accounted for 4%.  There was a decrease of 12% in expenditure on the roads when compared to 2014-15. 


  • During 2015, 45.1 million tonnes of freight were lifted within the north of Ireland and transported by road by heavy goods vehicles, a decrease of 2% from 2014. 

Road Safety

  • The number of road deaths occurring as a result of reported road traffic collisions has decreased by 6% from 79 in 2014 to 74 in 2015. 

Public Transport

  • During 2015-16, there were 38.8 million passenger journeys on Ulsterbus, a decrease of 4% from both last year (40.3 million) and 2011-12 (40.6 million).  For Metro services, 26.4 million passenger journeys were taken in 2015-16, similar to 2014-15 (26.3 million) and an increase of 2% from 2011-12 (25.9 million).
  • There were 13.5 million rail passenger journeys made in 2015-16, an increase of 1% from 2014-15 (13.4 million).

Air Transport

  • In 2015, Belfast International airport was the 12th busiest commercial airport in the UK with 4.39 million terminal passengers.  This accounted for 2% of all UK terminal passengers.  George Best Belfast City airport was the 17th busiest UK commercial airport with 2.69 million terminal passengers, accounting for 1% of all UK terminal passengers.
  • Palma de Mallorca in Spain was the most popular international route from Belfast International airport with 137,405 passengers flying there and back during 2015.  Malaga in Spain was the second most popular international route with 117,770 passengers and Alicante in Spain was the third most popular with 114,865 passengers.

General Transport

  • In 2015, there were 2.03 million sea passenger movements between the north of Ireland and Great Britain ports (including the Isle of Man), a 3% decrease from the previous year (2.10 million) and a 5% decrease since 2011 (2.13 million).

Transport and Disability

  • In 2015-16, 305,137 SmartPasses were held by older people (60+ SmartPass and Senior (65+) SmartPass).  Comparing this to the 2015 mid-year population estimate of those persons aged 60 and over, there was an approximately 79% uptake of these SmartPasses.
  • In 2012-2014, almost a fifth (18%) of persons aged 16 and over, who were surveyed, reported having a mobility difficulty.  On average those with a mobility difficulty made 589 journeys per year in 2012-2014, 41% less than those without a mobility difficulty (992 journeys per year).

Notes to editors: 

1. Background to Transport Statistics Publication

Northern Ireland Transport Statistics is an annual compendium publication and contains a variety of transport information.  The data are collated from a number of sources including the Driver and Vehicle Agency, Translink, the Civil Aviation Authority, TransportNI and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

2. Official Statistics

This is a National Statistics publication and therefore follows the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.  You can find further information about the Code of Practice at:

3. Further Information

For further information please contact:

Analysis, Statistics and Research Branch
Department for Infrastructure
Clarence Court
10-18 Adelaide Street
Belfast BT2 8GB

4. Media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office on 028 9054 0007. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.

Share this page

Back to top