The Queen opens new rail platform in Co Derry

Hundreds of people turned out in Bellarena to catch a glimpse of the Queen as she officially opened the new rail platform in Bellarena.

The 90-year-old, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived by steam train shortly before 3.10pm on Tuesday.

The Queen at Bellarena rail halt on Tuesday,

The Queen at Bellarena rail halt on Tuesday,

The Queen, dressed in green, unveiled a plaque to mark the opening of the extended platforms at Bellarena.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh first made the same journey in 1953.

After the unveiling, the Queen met briefly with Translink staff, before stopping to speak with assembled students from local schools who presented her with flowers.

St. Aidan’s P.S. Principal, Lisa Wilson was among those who met the Queen.

The Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Bellarena railway station after travelling from Coleraine by steam train during the second day of her visit to Northern Ireland to mark her 90th birthday.

The Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Bellarena railway station after travelling from Coleraine by steam train during the second day of her visit to Northern Ireland to mark her 90th birthday.

“She asked what school we were from and I was very pleased to say St. Aidan’s, and some of the pupils got to say a personal ‘hello’ as well,” said Mrs Wilson.

Others who had a conversation with the Queen was retired SDLP MLA, John Dallat.

“She said the railway would be good for tourists, and I told her it was the best used line in Northern Ireland and she was very pleased with that, especially when the mayor told her it had been scheduled for closure a few years ago, so, hopefully she will reflect on that and become a staunch supporter of the renaissance of the railways, not just here but everywhere,” said Mr. Dallat.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh left the area by car, under heavy security.

Retired SDLP MLA John Dallat with Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens,  Maura Hickey, and East Derry SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan at Bellarena.

Retired SDLP MLA John Dallat with Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, Maura Hickey, and East Derry SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan at Bellarena.

Among those on board the train from Coleraine was Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and First Minister Arlene Foster, economy minister Simon Hamilton and DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

“It’s a tremendous day and I don’t think Bellarena has seen anything like this in 50 years, and maybe not for another 50 years,” said Mr Campbell. “It’s a great day, and the crowds have come out and the weather has stayed good. A real win-win day.”

Simon Hamilton said he hoped the visit would boost tourism.

“It’s a great day for Bellarena and the whole of the north coast. What this does is it highlights Northern Ireland and the north coast to an international audience and I hope we see a lot of tourists come along on the back of this,” said Simon Hamilton.

Economy minister Simon Hamilton with DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

Economy minister Simon Hamilton with DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

Work at Bellarena started in June 2015 and was completed in March this year.

It includes a new 800m long passing loop along with two new platforms for six car trains sets.

The work is part of major upgrade to the railway line between Derry and Coleraine at a cost of £46 million.