Additional reporting by Alan Healy
UK public transport operator National Express plans to develop a significant coach route network in Ireland on the back of unveiling an initial service in Dublin.
“National Express Ireland has ambitious plans to become an established part of the transport landscape in Ireland and will be looking for opportunities to expand,” a spokesperson said, without giving specific details.
The company will, next month, launch a bus service connecting Dublin Airport to Dublin City Centre, in direct competition with Aircoach, Airlink, and a number of smaller operators.
The service will initially run three routes up to 24 hours a day under the Dublin Express brand, which will be operated by Kilkenny-based company Bernard Kavanagh Coaches.
National Express said it plans to roll out “a phased expansion” of its initial Irish network.
The second phase of that growth will see it expand to routes linking Dublin Airport to locations in south county Dublin, with the enlarged service set to come into operation in the second half of this year.
The move marks the first time National Express has expanded its coach division outside of the UK.
The group, however, operates rail services in Germany and schoolbus services in the US.
National Express’ Irish expansion follows UK rival Go-Ahead announcing, in November, a second Irish bus contract.
Go-Ahead already operated a number of routes for Dublin Bus, including one linking parts of north Co Dublin to Dublin Airport.
Separately, a Galway startup has launched a new online platform that connects bus companies with customers to arrange transport.
JourneyBid.com allows coach companies to bid for jobs and provide quotes to potential customers.
The company does not own any fleet but acts as a broker, receiving commissions from each booking.
A recent Goodbody report into the private bus and coach industry in Ireland said that it operates more than 234m vehicle miles per annum and has an estimated turnover of €307m.
Tracy Hadnett, JourneyBid’s managing director, said that hundreds of bus companies have already registered on the site.