Belfast Telegraph

Bus firm challenges refusal of licence for Belfast-Derry service

By John Mulgrew

A bus company is seeking a judicial review over a decision to block its attempt to compete against Translink on the Belfast to Londonderry route.

It is understood Hannon Coach is awaiting a decision from the courts after the Department for Infrastructure denied the firm a licence to operate the service.

The company said it was still interested in the Derry route, but didn't wish to comment on the legal proceedings.

Hannon Coach, headed by Aodh Hannon, is also applying for licences to run routes to locations including Newcastle, Armagh, Cookstown, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Omagh and Coleraine.

Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph revealed the Co Antrim firm was applying for a licence to run a new service between Belfast and Derry, before branching out into other routes.

However, it was denied a licence. That is a decision the firm is now challenging.

Owen McLaughlin, group marketing manager of Hannon Coach, told the Belfast Telegraph this week: "We are doing it (the new routes) because we have taken a look at the market.

"There is a gap in the market, that is clear.

"There is no one providing these express services.

"We are prepared to put the investment in, and we are confident there would be good demand for it.

"It's about a modal shift (replacing a saturated means of transport with another to make the first less congested).

"This was always our plan, to provide Northern Ireland with the express network it needs."

Earlier this year the company revealed it will provide a passenger drop-off and express exit route for coaches to the SSE Arena in Belfast.

The coach business is the latest venture for transport and steel operator Hannon Group, and will create up to 80 jobs by 2020.

It is hoped the agreement with the Odyssey Trust will speed up the time it takes to get to and from the arena when big events, from ice hockey games to concerts, are taking place.

Belfast Telegraph

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