Appeal to fast-track Derry rail upgrade

Renewed calls have been made for a fast-tracked upgrade of the Derry to Coleraine rail line.

The appeal followed a public meeting of lobbyists in Derry on Wednesday night. The Into the West group, which set up the meeting, has repeatedly called for immediate upgrade of the line ahead of the City of Culture celebrations in 2013.

At a meeting with Derry City Council, local business leaders and lobbyists recently, Transport Minister Danny Kennedy said he would examine ways of sourcing funding to progress the project, which his DRD predecessor Conor Murphy announced in 2007 would be completed by 2012.

Steven Patterson, NI Director of Sustrans, a charity that encourages the use of public transport, said he believed the money needed could “easily be found”. He called for an immediate review of the Executive’s transport spending plans to enable a properly funded upgrade.

“The Department for Regional Development’s current spending plans allocate just 15% of capital spending to public transport and sustainable travel, and 85% to roads expenditure over the next four years. Moreover, nearly half of that capital funding - £675m - is to go on the A5 upgrade, despite the fact that no proper needs assessment or options analysis has been carried out, and that there are far cheaper options for improving it.”

SDLP Foyle MLA, Mark H Durkan, who attended the meeting, called for everyone in the North West to get behind the call for immediate action. “It was quite disappointing that not all political parties were in attendance with only the SDLP and DUP represented.” He added: “We welcomed the opportunities that the City of Culture title would bring in terms of attracting the investment that Derry’s badly neglected infrastructure needed. That support has not been forthcoming from the Stormont executive with Alex Atwood being the only minister to have secured and even looked for funding for it.”