Belfast Telegraph

Bus firm in bid to take on Translink over nine routes

 

By John Mulgrew

A bus company is planning to challenge Translink with up to nine new express routes out of Belfast.

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

It says the planned £10m investment could bring up to 70 jobs.

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

But it suffered a blow after the Department for Infrastructure denied Hannon Coach a licence to operate the route.

It said it was unable to issue the bus service permit for a number of reasons.

Owen McLaughlin, group marketing manager of Hannon Coach, said: "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.

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

"Some of these routes in their entirety will not make a profit, some runs won't, but overall, we think it needs the network as a whole."

He said the outlay would approach £10m over three years.

Mr McLaughlin added the firm is in the process of submitting the separate applications, and that it could receive a decision on some of them before Christmas.

He said some of the existing routes, such as those to Enniskillen, stop more than a dozen times.

"People from Fermanagh don't want that," he said.

Translink said: "We are aware of a number of applications by Hannon Coach.

"We await the decision of the Department for Infrastructure in relation to the applications."

Earlier this year, speaking about why it turned down Hannon's application to run a service to Derry from Belfast, the department said that, due to the high level of existing service and fare levels, it was "already adequately and economically served".

Belfast Telegraph

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