The Department of Finance (DoF) is currently reconsidering Hannon Coach’s outstanding application to run an ‘express’ bus service between Derry and Belfast.
However, in new correspondence with the Co. Antrim firm, DoF has said it must decide whether it is in the public interest to determine the application in the absence of a sitting minister.
It’s now nearly two years since Hannon originally applied to run the ‘express’ service. And though its application was originally refused the firm won a successful Judicial Review challenge and is now determined to go ahead with its proposals. It believes it can create 15 new jobs and make a £4m investment in three years.
In a letter seen by the ‘Journal’ DoF’s solicitors indicated that the determination of Hannon’s application for a service permit would normally have been referred to a minister if there was one.
However, the departmental solicitor pointed out that the recently enacted NI (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018, which dealt with the exercise of governmental functions in the absence of a power-sharing Executive, has given it room for manoeuvre.
“Following completion of the consideration of [Hannon’s applications] to the point immediately preceding determination, the Department will then, in each case, and in light of all the available information, consider the terms of the 2018 Act and the Secretary of State’s Guidance and decide whether it is in the public interest to make the final decision on each application in the absence of a minister. If it determines that it is in the public interest to do so final decisions will then be made,” they wrote.