Belfast Telegraph

Bus firm slams Translink monopoly and denies cherry-picking new route

By John Mulgrew

A coach firm accused of "cherry-picking" a new route between Belfast and Londonderry has criticised Translink for having a monopoly on transport.

This newspaper revealed last week that Hannon Coach wants to run an express service from Belfast to Londonderry and back, operating up to 20 times a day in a multimillion-pound investment.

If given the go-ahead by the Department for Infrastructure, the buses could operate from Translink's bases at the Europa Bus Centre in Belfast and Foyle Street station in Derry.

Trade union Unite's deputy regional secretary, Jackie Pollock, called on the department to reject the application.

"The application made by Hannon Coach is for an express service operating directly between Belfast and Londonderry," he said. "They seek to base their service in the Europa Bus Centre in Belfast and Foyle Street station in Londonderry and compete with Translink's Goldliner service operating from these publicly funded transport hubs."

But responding to claims of cherry-picking from the union, a spokesman for Hannon Coach said: "Translink got first dibs on this. Their service agreement gave them exclusive rights to operate anything.

"They got everything they wanted for five years, and only then did the permits come out - the process to allow other people to go for the rest of the routes.

"People have accused us of cherry-picking, but they (Translink) harvested and shook the tree and have everything on a five-year basis.

"The legislation states they would be given most of (public transport), around 50%, but they have 99.9%.

"The only stuff that is left are areas they didn't apply for."

But Unite claimed the move could harm public transport provision. "Contrary to the private sector, which is solely focussed on profit, Translink's business model allows the cross-subsidisation of uneconomic routes by those routes which generate a surplus," it said.

Hannon Coach is the newly formed business from long-established Co Armagh company Hannon Transport, which turns over more than £20m a year.

The firm believes the new service will knock 10 minutes off the journey and lead to an increase in the number of people, including tourists, visiting the city and the north-west.

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