Operating a bus service in Northern Ireland

Bus public transport in Northern Ireland

Translink provides most public transport services in Northern Ireland through its subsidiary companies - Metro in Belfast and Ulsterbus across the country. In addition there are currently over 100 other public transport services operated by around 30 private bus operators. These are mainly regular stopping, formerly known as ‘stage carriage’, or express services.

Operators running public transport services needed a Road Service Licence from the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) and separate approval from the DVA to operate such bus routes.

The new Commercial Bus Service Permit system, administered by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), replaced the old bus route licensing element of the Road Service Licence - this is now called a “Bus Operator Licence”.

The new Service Permit system is designed to enable those operators to continue providing existing services. It also gives any licensed operator the opportunity to apply for a new service where the operator identifies a gap in the market, and where DfI is satisfied that the service won’t have a significant adverse impact on other existing services.

As part of the Service Permit application process, an operator may request to begin or end the service at a Translink bus station, and/or request to use existing bus stops along the proposed route.

For more information on setting up a bus company, see bus operator licensing.

For more information on running a public passenger transport service, see commercial bus service permits.