Committee rejects proposal to write to Airporter over free bus passes

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Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Environment & Regeneration and Committee has rejected a proposal by People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann, that it write to the local Airporter bus firm and ask it to restore free bus travel for pensioners.

Colr. McCann raised the matter after a minute referring to the firm’s move from its old base on Culmore Road to Foyle Street was mentioned during committee business.

He argued that the council should write to the company and ask it to reintroduce free concessionary fares to people over 65 and people with disabilites, which were withdrawn in 2017.

He complained: “Appeals for Airporter management to change their minds have got nowhere.”

He went on: “I propose that we write to Airporter, copy the letter to the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) and request that they go back to the status quo ante.”

SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins said she would not be supporting the proposal because it was not under the aegis of the committee.

“I’m led to believes this is a private company. We have no remit,” she said.

Colr. Dobbins said her understanding was that Airporter was “not being paid by the government to process the free passes.”

DUP Alderman Ryan McCready concured and said the council had “no grounds” for getting involveed.

Sinn Féin Colr. Sandra Duff said the concessionary fares had been withdrawn because of an issue Airporter had had getting ticketing equipment installed on their buses.

“This was putting them into financial hardship,” she said.

She nonetheless agreed that it was an issue and something that could be looked at.

Colr. McCann’s proposal fell when it failed to win the support of any other members.

Two years ago Jennifer McKeever, an Airporter director, told the ‘Journal’ it had had to withdraw concessionary fares because under DfI regulations and data protection law it was not allowed to store data gleaned from passengers’ 60 plus SmartPasses. This would have meant manually inputting a 15 or 16 digit pass number every single time a fare was transacted.

She said the company had requested access to automatic scanning hardware used on Translink bus driver consoles but had always been refused.