By Richard O'Reilly
Unite the union has called on the Department of Infrastructure to reject an application from a private coach company for a license to operate an express service between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry:
Unite Deputy Regional Secretary, Jackie Pollock said: “The application made by Hannon coach is for an express service operating directly between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. They seek to base their service in the Europa bus centre, Belfast and Foyle Street station in Derry/Londonderry and compete directly with Translink’s Goldliner service operating from these publicly-funded transport hubs."
Unite says the Belfast to Derry/Londonderry service is Translink's most lucrative, and Unite called it an example of 'cherry-picking' by private sector bus operators.
Jackie Pollock added : “Contrary to private sector who are solely focused on profit, Translink’s business model allows the cross-subsidisation of uneconomic routes by those routes which generate a surplus. Fifteen percent of routes, principally the Goldliner express services, subsidise the eighty-five percent which operate at a loss.
“If private sector operators are successful in their plans to target routes which are income-generating, the resulting revenue reduction will force the discontinuation of dozens of non-profit making routes which are vital to rural and deprived communities and those facing isolation.
“Coming only days after Belfast City Council publicly supporting the extension of taxi access to bus lanes in Belfast, this is the second major threat posed by the private sector to our integrated public transport system in a week.
“The Department of Infrastructure must reject this application and uphold the policies of the Northern Ireland Executive which sought to safeguard our public transport sector”, Mr Pollock finished.