Lack of express service ‘forcing people into cars’

THE COMPANY denied a licence to provide a non-stop coach service from Enniskillen to Belfast has said it is now investing in Europe as the North is a “laughing stock” with regard express services.
As reported in the Herald in April, after years waiting on the Department of Infrastructure to rule on their application for a permit for an express service from Enniskillen to Belfast, Hannon Coaches had its application eventually turned down.
Hannon group marketing manager Owen McLaughlin recently addressed the Stormont Infrastructure Committee on the issue, where he pointed out the current public transport provision in the North, where fully express services are virtually non-existent, was forcing more drivers onto our roads.
“The main reason people cited to explain why they would not travel by public transport was that it takes too long and the journey is quicker by car. That is the number-one reason,” he said.
“The only way to get people out of their cars successfully is to shorten journey times to make them comparable to using a car and for there to be inter-urban connectivity, which means express, non-stop services of the type that we tried to offer.”
Mr McLaughlin said Hannon, which operates a very successful Glasgow route, was now investing in mainland Europe, adding the barriers to operators here were “laughable”.
“We are left in a position where, in Northern Ireland, getting an express service permit is considered to be a matter for the Minister, which, I suggest, makes us a bit of a laughing stock in the rest of the UK,” said Mr McLaughlin.
“Standard transport economics evidence and advice from one of the UK’s leading experts in the field has been labelled insufficient to secure a permit on a vacant route.”
He added: “In England, Scotland and Wales, and, I believe, in the Republic of Ireland, you do not even need a permit for an express service.
“In Great Britain, you do not even need to register it. It is laughable that we have those barriers here. Those barriers were all stamped out in the rest of the UK over 40 years ago.”
Mr McLaughlin said the North was the only place in Europe that doesn’t have express coach service between its urban centres.
The Enniskillen service was one of a number of planned routes Hannon had been planning as part of a £11 million investment, which would have created scores of jobs. That investment will be made in Europe now instead, said Mr McLaughlin.
“We are better off opening up in Paris, as we did, or further extending across Europe,” he said. “That is what we intend to do.”

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