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Aftermath of Lough Swilly Buses Closure

Posted on May 5, 2014

Reading time: 3 minutes.

Following the intervention of the U.K.’s HMRC, the London & Lough Swilly Railway Company is no more after a period of financial difficulties. The name sounds like an anachronism in that the company essentially was a bus operator for its last decades and a decent website came about only in the last few years and remains online at the time of writing too.

Here is what the company to say for itself on the front page of its website:

The Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway Company was set up by an act of parliament in 1853 by the then Parliament of Great Britain & Ireland. The first track between Derry and Forland Point was completed in 1863 with a further line to Buncrana in 1864. Further extensions were completed with a branch line from Buncrana to Carndonagh and a line from Derry via Tooban Junction to Letterkenny completed in 1883, this was further extended to Burtonport in 1895.

In 1929 due to financial difficulties the directors decided to close some of the lines and replace them with buses and road freight. The railway finally closed in 1953 when the Buncrana - Derry line ceased. The company presently operates a cross border bus service between Derry and Buncrana, Letterkenny, Moville and various towns in Inishowen and north Donegal. In addition, the Swilly also operate a school bus service in Donegal under contract to C.I.E. The company also operate a Vehicle Testing Centre at its Bonagee garage in Letterkenny for PSV and commercial vehicles. The company presently employs more than 90 people.

The company is the oldest surviving railway company set up in the Victorian era that is still trading as a commercial concern.

The Derry Journal has its piece on the chequered history of the company that closed its doors last month. Its network extended west from Derry across the north of Donegal and neither Bus Éireann nor Ulsterbus strayed that much onto its patch. Even the former contracted out school bus services to Lough Swilly on behalf of Éire’s Department of Education & Skills.

Before we get to talking about possible replacements for the Swilly routes that have been lost, here is a list with links to the old timetables too:

Buncrana - Derry

Carndonagh - Buncrana

Carndonagh - Derry

Derry - Culmore

Greencastle - Derry

Gweedore - Letterkenny

Kerrykeel - Letterkenny

Letterkenny - Derry

Muff - Derry

As of the moment of writing, most of these have yet to be replaced if my information is correct.  Bus Éireann has sorted out all the school services that Swilly used to operate so those will remain. They also are revised their Letterkenny to Derry service to mitigate the loss of Swilly’s journeys. The route numbers are 64 and 480, and the timetables combine to give reasonably comprehensive coverage of the day.

Ulsterbus has taken over the Muff to Derry service and it is numbered FY16 . The service frequency looks good though there is a late start of 12:00 from Derry on Saturdays. It also has been reported that McGonagle’s of Buncrana have taken over the service between there and Derry and that bus passes are invalid on it due to a current lack of reimbursement from the authorities. That company appears not to have a website so I have yet to see a timetable for the new service.

Other than the above, there has been little sign of other routes being reactivated though Highland Radio had a story about Boyce Travel expressing interest without much in the way of a response . Quite what happens next is unknown so it will be a case of waiting and watching. It would be a pity if all the routes were lost because of a company failure.

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