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Council urged to soften stance on planned new Belfast-Derry coach route


Aodh Hannon, boss of Hannon Coach

Aodh Hannon, boss of Hannon Coach

Aodh Hannon, boss of Hannon Coach

A council which opposed plans for a bus company's new route from Belfast to Londonderry has been urged to reconsider its decision.

Hannon Coach, based in Aghalee, Co Antrim, 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.

Last month Derry City and Strabane District Council wrote to the Department for Infrastructure to say: "The view of the members was that they would not be in favour of a service permit being granted in this instance."

But SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who hails from Aghalee, believes the council should take a fresh look at the business's plan.

She said Translink is not providing an adequate service connecting the two cities, and welcomed Hannon's new potential express route.

"They built up the business over the years, and have now diversified into coaches. They gave me a presentation of plans in terms of an infamously poorly served route from the public sector," she said.

"It was a very impressive presentation which ought to complement existing service provision to connect the main two cities.

"I'm disappointed that Derry council, seeking to reply to a consultation, did not give the applicant the chance to present their case. It was going to create additional jobs in Derry with almost immediate effect.

"Translink have the monopoly by and large in many services. I have spoken to people who use the route regularly. They think it's long past the time that other operators should see if they could provide a better service."

If approved by the department, the buses could run from Translink's bases.

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

A Derry City and Strabane District Council spokeswoman said it "received communication from Hannon Coach advising that in their opinion, the information presented to members at last month's full council meeting was lacking in detail and clarity leading to some 'confusion' around what is being proposed".

The spokeswoman said the correspondence was brought to members of its environment and regeneration committee on June 14 "in order for members to consider the views of Hannon Coach and in light of the correspondence to seek any further views that member".

The council also said members "indicated that they had no further comments to make in relation to this matter and were content with the response that had been issued to the Department for Infrastructure".

Aodh Hannon has grown his haulage company Hannon Transport into a £22m business, before going on to set up a steel sales firm and later, Hannon Coach.

In an interview with Business Telegraph in May, he said: "I more or less started off with one truck in 1994. I drove the truck myself until I was up to six or eight trucks," he said.

"I went out one day and bought a truck. I started doing a lot of UK business and general haulage business."

He then expanded into the Netherlands and set up an office in Holland, offering daily departures for the flower business. Hannon Transport also opened an operation in Co Dublin.

Hannon Coach was set up late last year, operating mainly in private bus and coach services.

Belfast Telegraph