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Free travel pass ban overturned by EU 13.11.14

A GOVERNMENT decision to deny additional bus transport providers access to the Free Travel Scheme has been overturned by the European Commission.
The landmark decision will be watched closely in Inishowen following the closure of the Lough Swilly Bus Company and the ensuing inability of other local bus companies to honour the free travel passes.
The EU decision was made following an intervention by North and West MEP Marian Harkin.
She first questioned the denial of access to the scheme to a bus company in Co Cavan - Leydon Coaches - in May last year and was told that a decision by the previous Government had blocked access to new applicants.
“I considered this decision to be contrary to EU competition law and pursued the matter at European Commission level," said Ms Harkin.
The "significant disadvantage" to any bus provider which could not take passengers under the Free Transport Scheme was, in her view, "a clear infringement of EU competition legislation".
“This is why I pursued this case on behalf of a constituent and I am very pleased at the outcome which once more indicates the positive role which the EU plays in standing by the Small & Medium Enterprise sector in Ireland and throughout the Union," she added.
 Marian Harkin MEP.
Following the collapse of the Lough Swilly Bus Company on the 19th April 2014 and the inaction of both the Department of Social Protection and Transport we would like to express our anger and frustration at the lack of Government public transport policy towards Inishowen and in particular it’s most vulnerable elderly citizens.
The Lough Swilly Bus Company was the main public transport provider in Co Donegal including Inishowen until its collapse last April.
The ensuing inability of pensioners and other free travel pass holders to use their cards was criticised by several groups including Buncrana Senior Citizens' Committee.
Its secretary Jim Henderson called this summer for an immediate reinstatement of the scheme.
Mr Henderson said: "The minimum we expect is to have is an immediate honouring of free travel passes on the existing temporary bus service.
"We are outraged with this Government’s neglect of the peninsula. This not only impacts our elderly population but also the general public and local tourism industry."
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