SDLP East Derry MLA John Dallat has urged the Executive to take immediate action to reverse Translink’s decision to substitute the Derry-Coleraine rail service with buses and has pressed them to invest in the railway line.
Speaking during a motion on the Derry-Coleraine railway line, Mr Dallat said: “This railway is a critical part of the economic and social rebuilding of the North West; it is part of a strategic plan to integrate transport infrastructure, communications, population and all the other key ingredients which create the conditions for wealth and prosperity.
“When Translink took this decision they were concerned only with maximising their operation with a reduced budget but this assembly has a much greater role to play in moulding the future particularly in the North West which has suffered serious economic and social disadvantage over many years.
“The Assembly can’t simply stand idly by and allow this to happen because by doing so it is abdicating its political responsibilities to ensure that the principles upon which it was founded are illuminated in every corner of the land territory for which it is responsible.
“This decision was indeed a slap in the face because it is a clear indication that elected representatives haven’t been listened to or understood. Lobby groups such as the Northern Corridor Railway Group, which prepared a highly credible strategic plan for the future, may as well have binned their report before it was presented to both this assembly and the Dáil.
“In two years Derry City will be the City of Culture, a prize won against stiff competition from other cities across the UK. If any other of the competitors had won is this coveted honour how they would have been rewarded. Certainly not by cutting the rail service by more than half and cancelling the upgrade which was promised. I think not, I know not. On the contrary millions of pounds would be poured into developing, upgrading and repairing the transport infrastructure to ensure the maximum benefits would flow from such an honour, such an opportunity.
“The lobby group Into the West which wants the railway extended to Sligo to complete the all-Ireland circle of railway networks have had their vision for the future well and truly blinded. Incredible, incredulous, inconceivable and ill-considered – use whatever descriptive you wish - this is madness personified.
“Today’s motion is a cry for help to the Executive to take immediate steps to reverse this madcap idea of substituting buses for trains on what should be the inter-city train service between our two major cities.
“It should be the flagship for future rail travel, living proof that we are going forward, moving people from road to rail and integrating transport and population with economics and social development. That’s how it should be, that’s how it must be.”