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November 15 2017
By The Routeone Team

The routeONE team is dedicated to bringing you the latest bus & coach industry news, views, jobs and more.

Strength of being together delivers results

At a simple ceremony in Ballymena, where the Federation of Passenger Transport Northern Ireland (FTPNI) has its HQ, members came together to honour the achievements that CEO Karen Magill has masterminded over the last 15 years.

She has lost none of her passion for bringing about change and has no thoughts of retiring.

Under CEO Karen Magill,  FTPNI is now a body whose views are sought and listened to at all levels

It was in 2002 that the fledgling organisation, then called the Northern Ireland Independent Coach Operators Association (NIICOA), took the bold and to many surprising step, of appointing a woman as its first Chief Executive. That woman was Karen Magill. NICCOA had only been formed the previous year.

Newbie learns

Karen admits she was fairly new to the industry and her only real experience was the problems and discrimination being encountered by operators she met.

What she did know was how to manage successful businesses, and how to get things done. She had learned this from her years of managing a raft of businesses, many overseas.

She had recently returned to full-time work after maternity leave and volunteered for the Business in the Community, Mentoring Programme. This brought her into contact with Norma and Brian Smyth, owners of independent coach operator Airporter of Londonderry, and NIICOA founding members.

Impressed with the help she gave them developing their business, they suggested she consider taking the NIICOA position.

She lost no time in bringing a disparate group of individuals together into a cohesive body, setting standards of how to operate fleets, deal with each other and the public.

She convinced them that by working together as one body they could try to achieve reform of Northern Ireland’s (NI) archaic systems for operating passenger transport which was seriously hampering independents’ development.

Karen soon established herself as a tough negotiator and steadily developed the organisation into a force that was recognised and, importantly, began to be listened to. She hasn’t achieved this on her own and has been assisted along the way by many of the more forward-thinking members.

One of her proudest achievements was bringing Translink, the dominant State-run operation responsible for the vast majority of bus and express coach services in NI, and NIICOA together achieving a working partnership.

This, together with forging a working agreement with the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) brought about NIICOA changing its status and becoming the Federation of Passenger Transport Northern Ireland (FPTNI).

Key milestone

Another key milestone has been bringing about a root-and-branch review by the NI Government into the way that public transport is licensed and operated, raising operational standards and closing illegal operators.

Work has yet to be completed, despite 15 years of campaigning, but is now showing real progress that could be completed later this year or early next year.

Fifteen years on she has successfully guided FTPNI into a position where it is consulted on all major developments that affect the operation of public transport and tourism in Northern Ireland. The FTPNI is now a body whose views are sought and listened to at all levels.

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