Translink has claimed that opening up their profitable bus routes to competition could lead to the same kind of devastated rural services found in England after deregulation there.
The company was responding to an application to Derry City and Strabane District Council by private operator, Hannon Coaches, which wants to run a new Belfast to Derry service.
Translink area manager Philip Woods told the Council’s Business & Culture Committee on Tuesday that opening them up to competition on profitable routes would hurt their ability to subsidise service on non-profitable, mainly rural, routes.
“This is about what kind of society we want to live in,” he said. “We are not a commercial company and we still seek government funding.
“Services in England have been devastated with little in the way of rural services after deregulation there.”
Mr Woods outlined Translink’s current services, improvements made in recent years and plans for the future, including investment in the North West Transport Hub.
“Currently, we operate close to a 24-hour service on the 212 route,” he said. “The last bus leaves Belfast at 1am and the first bus from Derry departs at 4.15am.”
He reiterated the company’s commitment to the Dublin route, even after Bus Eireann had pulled out of a partnership.
Sinn Fein Colr. Mickey Cooper said the level of investment planned by Translink was encouraging, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t room for improvement.
SDLP group leader Martin Reilly said better connections to Dublin were essential, as was the early rail service from the city.
In response to a query from UUP Alderman Derek Hussey, Mr Woods conceded that there were no plans to have toilets fitted on new buses in the near future.