Major railway extension proposed

Published Tuesday, 20 May 2014
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Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has published his vision for the future of railway and train services over the next 20 years.

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The Railway Investment Prioritisation Strategy could see the first major multi-million pound investment programme in the railway network since the closure of lines in the 1960s.

Depending on funding the proposal could see new track relays on the Coleraine to Londonderry line, improvements to the aging Enterprise service and stations and halts upgraded.

The document also includes the potential for a railway line that could connect Belfast International Airport to the network.

However, for it to be viable, the report says passenger numbers at the airport would need to increase significantly from the current 4m to 10m.

In the past decade railway passenger numbers have increased from 6m to 13m and the railways strategy publication comes after an extensive public consultation on services.

UUP Minister Kennedy said: "This ambitious strategy allows for a significant enhancement of existing rail capacity, preparation for the future electrification of the network and the first major extensions to the railway since the closing of lines in 1963.

"I am particularly keen to extend the option of rail travel to commuters from mid-Ulster and to the populations in the south and west within the catchments of Armagh and Dungannon.

"Although the speed of progress will depend on the amount of funding that can be made available from the Executive's budget and, where possible, from the European Programmes, I am committed to exploring all funding opportunities and making this happen."

It's estimated that the service will require £620m to maintain the current network and rolling stock over the next 20 years.

Minister Kennedy added: "It will be important, in the present period of public expenditure restraint to use available resources to sustain and make best use of the current railway system and to develop it where there is the greatest potential for further passenger growth.

"I believe rail travel offers a safe, comfortable and efficient option, particularly for commuters and inter-city passengers.

"As and when additional resources become available, we must be ready to develop our rail network and this strategy sets out how we can make that happen."

© UTV News
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19 Comments
johnH in Newry wrote (140 days ago):
The thinking here in NI has been too limited for too long. The priority has to be proper, and I mean proper, timetabling for intercity lines between Belfast and Dublin. These two cities are the two largest in the whole island yet, at present, our trains cannot arrive into Dublin before 9 am, nor do they leave Dublin at appropriate hours in the evening, 4.50pm and then 7pm. The same problems exist for Dublin commuters to Belfast. I live in Newry, and in order to get to Dublin for 9am using public transport, I have to drive to Dundalk and get the transport from there. Improved connections between the two major cities of the island would allow an infrastructure platform to build business and our economy. NI cities such as Londonderry, with improved lines and services, will then also benefit from the ability to travel from there to Belfast and Dublin in a more business efficient manor, which in turn can allow sustainable business expansion and investment into these cities as a consequence.
Anon in Lurgan/Dungannon wrote (141 days ago):
Would be easier if there was trains all around the north and south of ireland, like trains from dungannon and armagh to lurgan and befast maybe trains from portadown to other parts of the country like derry/londonderry and to portrush etc
william in ballymena wrote (141 days ago):
about time we had a train service from the international airport to belfast and antrim. the line is already there so what is the reason for the non service. could it be the airport might lose the lucrative car park charges?
Laura in N Ireland wrote (150 days ago):
What I would like to see is more frequent services on the existing lines - there are times when the trains from Carrick are every hour, and the more frequent services around rush hour do not extend far enough into the evening for most private sector workers. Railway expansion is always good. Also instead of the rapid transport bus system, how about trams/trains instead?
love in norn iron wrote (152 days ago):
About time northern ireland was up to date wirh rest of britain on the trains good to see!! Would love to a see a train invented to take us to scotland, england and wales so we can go there without the hassle of planes and boats?! A longway off but im sure in a few lifetimes it will be possible
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