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Local politicians raise misgivings over new bus route

Hannon Coaches have applied to provide a faster bus service to Belfast

CONCERNS have been expressed that the planned new Enniskillen to Belfast bus route could damage rural services in other parts of Fermanagh if current operator Translink loses out on profits.
As reported in last week’s Herald, the near £10m proposal by Antrim-based Hannon Coaches for the new express service could see three times daily buses departing Enniskillen on weekdays and twice on Saturdays.
Translink’s current Goldline route is a 2 hour 15 minute journey from Enniskillen to Belfast with a total of 15 scheduled stops including two significant detours into Dungannon and Lurgan’s Loughview Park and Ride.
However the new private route would have just two stops at Fivemiletown and Ballygawley which would make journey times for passengers both 20 percent cheaper and faster than the current 261 service.
The Department for Infrastructure is currently engaging with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in relation to the proposed route ahead of a decision on Hannon’s permit application in early 2018.
The council is to make recommendations to DfI about concerns of displacement from the main Translink route, which is dependant on profit generations to subsidise other local routes.
UUP Cllr Alex Baird told the monthly council meeting in Enniskillen: “While I’m all in support of free enterprise and competition, I would have some concerns about a company coming in and creaming off a money-making run.
“Ulsterbus presumably make some money on the Enniskillen to Belfast run because of the frequency and occupancy. However it’s that profit that goes to subsidise other routes around the council area that aren’t particularly well serviced and they would be less so if there’s less profit.
“Maybe this firm would like to balance off by putting on a direct route between Enniskillen and Altnagelvin Hospital to compensate.”
Sinn Fein’s Stephen McCann questioned the plan by Hannon’s to terminate the service at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter rather than a more central location like the 261 which operates out of the Europa Bus Centre.
“You would like to think that there would be some sort of central stop,” he added.
His party colleague Debbie Coyle noted that if granted, the new service would operate at the same times as the Translink buses and still not provide the people of Fermanagh with access to Belfast’s airports.
The Fermanagh Herald contacted Translink for their response to the proposed application for a rival bus service between Enniskillen and Belfast.
A Translink spokesman said this week: “We are aware of a number of applications by Hannon Coaches. We await the decision of the Department for Infrastructure in relation to the applications.”


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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA