Bus firm wants to put £4m investment case

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The marketing manager of a private Antrim bus firm has written to Derry City and Strabane District Council to outline how a new express bus service it wants to run between Derry and Belfast will create 15 new jobs and result in a £4m investment in the local economy.

Owen McLaughlin, of Hannon Coach, wrote to the council’s Chief Executive John Kelpie last week, after some councillors had expressed concerns that the proposed new route would compete with, and potentially undermine, existing Translink services to and from Belfast.

At the council’s full meeting in May, councillors proposed writing to the Department of Infrastructure (DfI), conveying these concerns and urging it not to grant Hannon Coach a permit for the proposed new service.

Whilst a public consultation period closed on Friday, Mr. McLaughlin has indicated that the company would still like to have the opportunity of briefing the council on a proposition that, he claims, will create upwards of 15 new jobs, while bringing 25,000 to 30,000 tourists to Derry every year.

“Our proposed service will bring investment in the region of £4m to the area and permanent jobs,” wrote Mr. McLaughlin.

“We believe that it will also have huge benefits for tourism in Derry, the business sector in general and increase the ability of people who do not have access to a car to make quick and cost-effective trips to see friends and relatives in the greater Belfast and Londonderry areas,” he added.

But Mr. McLaughlin expressed dismay that councillors had discussed the proposal without having “sufficient information...to come to an informed point of view”.

Despite the consultation period having now closed, Hannon, still wants an opporunity to present its case.

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council explained how it received correspondence from DfI advising that the department was currently considering the Hannon application and that in considering any application for a new Service Permit the Department has an obligation to take into account the views of defined interested parties including the relevant District Council. The spokesperson explained how members discussed the proposal and expressed concern at the potential impact it could have on current Translink services.

The Council spokesperson explained 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.