Traditional Unionist Voice MLA Jim Allister has taken up the cudgel on behalf of Bready busman William Leonard over what the latter describes as the uninhibited influx of Donegal firms into Londonderry.
Mr Leonard says his own bus firm was put out of business as a result of breaches in ‘cabotage’ regulations that deal with haulage and bus transport in the EU.
For eight years Mr Leonard has been arguing that the award of school bus contracts to non-domiciled companies from the Republic of Ireland doesn’t comply with European law.
Now the TUV MLA has freshly quizzed the Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan about the practice.
He asked him “to outline the applicable licensing obligations for bus companies from the Republic of Ireland, when tendering for and operating school and other delivery contracts locally.”
Mr Durkan said: “The rules which apply to the international carriage of passengers are set out in EC Regulation 1073/2009. In essence Regulation 1073/2009 allows operators from another Member State to provide services on a temporary basis.
“Bus companies from the south of Ireland may tender for local contracts provided they are properly licensed in their jurisdiction, hold an international operator’s licence and the contracted service is considered temporary.
“The service involving the carriage of school children and other such groups falls within the category of ‘Special Regular Services.’ A Special Regular Service must be covered by a contract between the organiser and the carrier which specifies the route, stopping places, group covered and schedule of service.
“To operate a Special Regular Service an operator must also carry on the vehicle a certified true copy of the valid community licence and a copy of the contract which should include the schedule of the service and the timetable.
“The majority of school contracts are awarded for a three year period which would not be considered temporary. If the services provided are not deemed to be temporary they can only be undertaken by a bus operator who holds a Northern Ireland Bus Operator’s Licence.”