Derry’s Old Waterside Station is to undergo a £26m transformation to become a new regional travel hub, it has been confirmed.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said that work on the ornate Victorian will get under way in 2018 and will take two years to complete.
Mr Hazzard and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday told the Journal that talks are already taking place aimed at aligning trains between Derry and Belfast and on to Dublin.
Part of the plans will see the current station being torn down with the site to become a turn-around for buses.
A section of the train track will also be relayed to allow trains to pull up onto a new platform alongside the Old Station building. Inside there will be a cafe, shops and toilet facilities as well as a transport hub and bike hire centre, while outside new pathways will link the station with existing walking and cycle routes.
Mr Hazzard said he is confident funding from the EU to finance the project will be delivered soon, adding that legal agreements will be signed off in the coming months.
Mr Hazzard said: “Work will start in 18 months. For the city of Derry this is going to be really a step change. It links into the greenway, and the wider north west development, because the greenways link into Donegal as well.
“It opens up the opportunity as well to have an hourly service to Belfast. That is something I will be looking at.”
Mr McGuinness said: “This project is a great news for the city because it brings back into public ownership an historic, absolutely stunning beautiful building, which will be the new Transport Hub for the city.”
Local lobby group Into The West, which has led the campaign for the Old Station to be brought back into use, and for rail investment, has been praised for its tenacity.
Into the West member, People Before Profit Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann, said there was some “satisfaction and pride” among members at the announcement, but added that the pressure will be kept on to ensure rail services and frequency are improved.
Chris Conway, Chief Executive of Translink, which will undertake the major transformation works, said the new station “will act as an important gateway to the North West for visitors as well as help to regenerate the local area”.