Halpenny Travel – together we’ll go places
For over a century, Halpenny Travel in Blackrock, Co. Louth has been catering for the transport needs of generations of passengers in the Wee County and beyond.
Established in 1920, Halpenny Travel is one of the oldest and most respected private luxury coach operators in Ireland. At the wheel of the business is John Halpenny, who recently completed a four-year term as chairman of the Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC).
John is the third generation of Halpennys to run the business which was established in 1920 by his grandfather Joe Halpenny. It was originally known as the ‘Violet Bus’ Service as Joe also owned The Violet Pub in Blackrock, from which he ran a transport service to and from neighbouring Dundalk. Sadly, The Violet Pub is no more after it was demolished in 2017.
The family business expanded from there and today Halpenny Travel offers a full range of services with a particular emphasis on serving the local community by continuing with the original daily service from Blackrock to Dundalk in addition to a Dundalk town service, local link services between Stamullen and Balbriggan, Drogheda and Athboy, and Dundalk and Carlingford (Friday-Sunday) as well as a daily Drogheda-Dundalk service for Bus Éireann.
Halpenny Travel also provides a school transport service on behalf of Bus Eireann and specialises in corporate tours, day and extended tours, school tours, transport to concerts, festivals and sporting events along with airport transfers. John’s wife Cheryl is also involved in the day-to-day running of the business which employs 24 people who are a mix of drivers (19 in total), mechanics, administration and cleaners.
“Cheryl runs the office and I’m the transport manager,” John explains.
“We have great people working for us who ensure we’re still going strong after 103 years. Our drivers are skilled, reliable and friendly. They go out of their way to make sure passengers are comfortable and relaxed, and get to their destination on time.”
Halpenny Travel operates a modern and mixed fleet of 21 vehicles that range from 80-seat Volvo double-deckers down to 18-seater mini buses. The double and single-deckers are used for town services and school bus runs, while the 30 and 19-seaters are used for transporting smaller groups. The 53-seaters are touring and private hire coaches.
The Halpenny fleet has been bolstered by the addition of three new Volvos which were purchased from Diarmaid Thompson, Irish sales manager for Volvo Buses. They are a 53-seater 9700, which is the first with a 13-litre engine in Ireland, a 41-seater B8 service bus and a Spanish-built 41-seater Sunsundegui, which John is awaiting delivery of. The 9700 has been put to work doing tours, while the B8 is servicing the Drogheda-Athboy local link route.
The Volvo-dominated fleet also includes one Scania and two Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.
To say that the fleet is luxurious would be an understatement. The larger coaches boast toilet, WiFi, TV / video, air conditioning and tea / coffee-making facilities along with reclining seats. These coaches are spacious and comfortable with large luggage capacity. Safety features include seat belts and ABS braking systems, while most of the vehicles are wheelchair friendly. Whether travelling on a long or short journey, passengers will arrive at their destination feeling relaxed and stress-free.
All vehicles are regularly maintained and serviced both inhouse and by main dealers Dennison Volvo in Newry, Irish Commercials Santry Truck & Bus in Dublin, Louth Commercials in Dundalk and Dublin, and Mercedes-Benz dealers M50 Truck & Van Centre. In addition, many compliance issues such as vehicle records, tachograph monitoring and driver training are overseen by the TCTS Group, which is an independent third party.
A recipient of the Fleet Bus & Coach Operator of the Year (Commuter) Award in 2011, Halpenny Travel has always enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the National Transport Authority (NTA). The family business shows its appreciation for the support it receives from the local community with its sponsorship of clubs and events.
Last February, John handed over the CTTC chairmanship to Willie Martin from Limerick. Another Limerick man, David Conway, was elected vice-chairman. The affable Blackrock man has been a member of the executive for 16 years, during which he also served four-year stints as treasurer and vice-chairman.
The CTTC has 72 members nationwide who are engaged in many aspects of tourism, from day tours to extended touring and private hire. Increasingly, members are engaged in scheduled services as the regulations surrounding Ireland’s public transport system slowly become liberalised.
CTTC members have been at the cutting edge in the transformation of inter-urban and local public transport by road for over 30 years. They have always provided safe, efficient and value-for-money transport services. They do this without State subvention and in competition with sub-vented operators. Many members, including Halpenny Travel, provide school transport services both under contract to Bus Eireann and under contract to schools or families.
CTTC members operate in excess of 1,500 coaches and employ over 3,500 people across Ireland. This means their combined fleet is equivalent to that of Dublin Bus and close to double that of Bus Eireann. The CTTC provides representation and leadership not only for its own members, but also for the wider private coach and bus operator community. They welcome new members and seek to become a unifying and strong voice for all family-owned private coach and bus operators in Ireland.
Among the CTTC’s objectives are to present members’ interests at all appropriate levels to all external bodies on matters relating to the coach tourism and public transport industries, to liaise with Failte Ireland to ensure a code of minimum standards for coach operators, and to ensure the basic viability of its member and to promote their greater profitability.
The CTTC’s value to the sector was never more pronounced than during the Covid-19 pandemic when it succeeded in securing a substantial financial support package and subsidies for coach and private bus operators to assist them in the face of diminished incomes.
“I became chairman the week before the country went into lockdown,” John recalls.
“It was a very challenging time, but everyone on the executive put their shoulder to the wheel to keep the sector going. The CTTC spent €150,000 in submitting an Action Plan and reports to show why there was a need to keep buses running. We lobbied the Government to ensure that both CTTC and non-CTTC members received financial aid to keep them afloat. If the CTTC wasn’t there to fight their corner, a lot of bus operators wouldn’t have survived the pandemic.
“The Department of Transport provided funds through the NTA who employed an agency to ensure everything was documented. Those funds helped to keep the scheduled services going, while Failte Ireland looked after the tour coach operators. They paid out roughly half of what they took in in 2019.”
John and Cheryl combine running their business with raising a young family. They would like to take this opportunity to thank their customers and suppliers for their continued support as well as their staff for their hard work, dedication and expertise.
Telephone: +353 (0)42 9322023
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Trucker magazine Vol 26 No 6, October/November 2023