Final phase of rail upgrade between Eglinton and Castlerock long-fingered

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The final phase of the Derry to Coleraine rail upgrade from Eglinton to Castlerock won’t proceed until 2022 at the earliest but is part of Translink’s longer-term strategy, rail minister Chris Hazzard has advised.

He’s also indicated he will likely pursue a feasibility study for a Derry to Dublin through-service but warned this would require a significant increase in subsidies to Northern Ireland Rail and Iarnród Éireann as well as the purchase of new rolling stock.

Mr Hazzard outlined the longer term plans for the Derry railway with Phase 2 nearing completion this month.

The Minister told Into the West campaigner and Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann that it will likely be a half-decade at least before Phase 3 between Eglinton and Castlerock proceeds.

He said: “Phase 2 of the Coleraine to Derry Track Renewals project is planned to be completed by the end of December 2016.

“Phase 1 was completed in 2013 along with the earlier track life extension works for the section of the line between Castlerock and Eglinton.

“These major works represents significant investment both in the safety of the line and the future operations of this part of the network.

“The final Phase 3, to renew the track between Castlerock and Eglinton is not planned within the next budget period (2017/18 – 2020/21) but will remain in Translink’s longer term infrastructure strategy.”

Mr McCann also asked the Minister if there were any plans for introducing a Derry to Dublin through-service.

Mr Hazzard indicated he would fund a feasibility study if he could but said a Dublin through-service would be costly.

“The current Derry timetable is based on a largely clock faced format and links with other NIR local services to and from Belfast.

“The ability to run a Derry to Dublin through service requires the purchase of additional rolling stock commensurate with an intercity service and then increasing the frequency of services between Derry to Belfast and Belfast to Dublin to an hourly frequency.

“This will require a significant increase in revenue subsidy both for NIR and Iarnród Éireann as well as new Enterprise trains.

“It also needs to be agreed and be taken forward in conjunction with the Southern Authorities. I intend to do this as part of a feasibility study depending on funding.”