Hannon urges council not to block bus route

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The firm behind a proposed new Derry to Belfast ‘express’ bus service has pleaded with Derry City and Strabane District Council not to block a proposed new £4m investment that, it says, will create of up to 15 jobs over the next three years.

Hannon Coach, which first applied to the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) for the new service a year ago issued the plea after DC&SDC’s Business and Culture Committee received a deputation from Translink, which warned opening the profitable Derry to Belfast route up to competition would undermine its ability to subsidise rural routes.

The Co. Antrim company has now asked the council, which is due to ratify the proceedings of last week’s B&C Committee at its monthly meeting on Thursday, with or without comment on the Hannon/Translink saga, not to block its bid.

Owen McLaughlin, Hannon Group Marketing Manager, said he strongly disagreed with Translink’s contention that Derry does not need extra capacity or a non-stop express service to Belfast, even though, he observed, it admitted it has no plans to provide a similar service or even on-board toilets.

He said: “The legislation and regulations are very clear here. The Department turned our application down last year and we were forced into an expensive and time-consuming Judicial Review against its original decision. We have been successful in the Judicial Review and been awarded costs, so we are confident that this will go our way this time. To be honest our ‘fight’ to get this is really a side-show. What is really important here, is that people realise just how disjointed the entire approach to investment in infrastructure has been within Northern Ireland. We have Belfast being identified as the UK’s most congested city and huge sums being invested in road upgrades while at the same time the responsible Department is turning down applications to bolster the public transport network with private investment to provide much-need express services that are proven everywhere else to encourage modal shift and get people out of their cars.”

Mr. McLaughlin said the Derry to Belfast route was part of a £9.25m investment to provide a network of express services across the North.