Belfast Telegraph

Council is treating us unfairly by opposing our new Belfast to Derry service, says coach firm

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By John Mulgrew

A bus company says it is being "unfairly treated" after a council officially opposed its plans for a new express service between Belfast and Londonderry.

Hannon Coach wants to run an express service from Belfast to Derry and back operating up to 20 times a day between the cities as part of a multi-million pound investment.

If approved by the Department for Infrastructure, the buses could run from public transport provider Translink's bases.

But last week Derry City and Strabane District Council held a discussion during its monthly meeting, and raised concerns over the impact of another operator on the existing Translink service.

The council has now written to the department and says "the view of the members was that they would not be in favour of a service permit being granted in this instance".

The letter, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, says that "members indicated that they believed that this would have a negative impact on the service currently being provided by Translink".

Hannon Coach - headed by Aodh Hannon - has written to the council to say it believes it has been "very unfairly treated".

"Following the article in the Belfast Telegraph we have received a flood of overwhelmingly positive feedback and support via social media for our proposed Derry/Belfast express coach service", the company said.

"However, after a five-minute discussion at last week's meeting of Derry City councillors and without any consultation and with no detailed information on the proposal, the council looks set to recommend to the Department for Infrastructure that it rejects the proposal.

"We feel very unfairly treated here. The councillors have made no attempt to talk to us or understand our proposal in any way."

In a letter to the council, it says that "taken in isolation, there is no way the councillors can have been expected to understand the regulation nuances" surrounding the legislation around applying operator licences. To be considered an 'express', each passenger journey must include a 'closed door' element, which is not less than 30 miles.

The council said it was contacted by the department, which "has an obligation to take into account the views of defined interested parties including the relevant district council".

The council added that the "views of members have been sent to the department".

"Any correspondence from the private operator will be brought to the attention of elected members," it said.

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