Derry bus operator says Donegal companies monopolise bus contracts

A Derry busman has lobbied the Vice-President of the EU Commission's Transport Commissioner over what he describes as the monopolisation of local school transport contracts by Donegal firms.

Willaim Leonard says he has been forced him to sell vehicles and let drivers go as he claims up to 90 per cent of  private hire Home to School transport tenders in Derry and Strabane to Claudy are held by Donegal firms.

The Federation of Passenger Transport NI estimates at least 50 schools in the Derry area use firms from across the border and that this is threatening to put local operators out of business.

Mr Leonard believes the local Home to School market is sewn up by southern firms and argues this could be in breach of a European Commission directive which governs the operation of the international market for bus and coach hire services in the EU..

Mr Leonard says there may be grounds for refusal if a service seriously affects the viability of a comparable service operated under one or more public service contracts.

The local bus operator also argued that non-residents can be refused if the principal purpose of the service is not to carry passengers between stops located in different member states and if it is not carried out on a “temporary basis.”

Since September the FPTNI have been lobbying EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas on behalf of Mr Leonard and his fellow NI bus companies.

And Mr Leonard believes correspondence from the commissioner - based on the advice of experts from the Commission’s Directorate General - shows that the DoE could stop Donegal firms operating in the north.

Mr Leonard also says further correspondence from EU lawyer Krimena Mileva suggests non-resident operators should only be allowed to provide domestic services if they carried out on a temporary basis.

He says the three year Home to School contracts are not temporary.