Reconnect Derry, Donegal, Tyrone - Dublin and Belfast rail campaign gathers speed

A campaign has been launched calling for the reopening of two key railways that served the North West until they were closed in the 1950s and 60s.

Local group Into The West (ITW), which campaigns for the improvement and expansion of rail across counties Derry, Donegal, Tyrone and Fermanagh, described the reopening of key connection routes to Dublin and Belfast as “the number one rail-reopening priority on the island”.

The group pointed out that it is almost 60 years since trains last ran on the Great Northern line between Derry and Portadown - with stops at Strabane, Omagh and Dungannon before travelling on directly to Dublin and Belfast. The line was closed in 1965 in a decision that ended a century of rail access for Tyrone and Donegal and campaigners said this "stripped the west of Ulster of most of its infrastructure”. The line between Letterkenny and Derry was closed in 1953.

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ITW are now calling for the restoration of what they have christened ‘The North West Rail Corridor’ - which combines two former rail segments into a new corridor reconnecting most of the largest towns in west Ulster to the island’s rail network. The corridor would see trains start in Letterkenny and travel through Derry, Strabane / Lifford, Omagh and Dungannon to Portadown, from where they would continue onwards to either Dublin or Belfast via the existing rail network. Indicative journey times from Derry would be 15 mins to Strabane, 20 mins to Letterkenny and 2hrs 45mins to Dublin.

How the reopened railway destinations would link up.

Chair of ITW, Steve Bradley, said: “The North West Rail Corridor is an exciting proposal to reopen a much-missed spine of rail that previously connected the North-West of the island to Dublin and Belfast. It would mark the return of rail to two of Ireland’s largest counties – Tyrone and Donegal – and put key towns like Strabane/Lifford, Letterkenny and Omagh back on the rail map. By linking these towns and counties directly to the island’s main economic and tourism hubs in Dublin and Belfast, the Corridor would enable employment, tourism and population growth in places that currently feel neglected and left on the periphery.”

Mr Bradley said no other rail project on the island would connect ‘such a large number of people’. "For too long the north-west of the island has been left disconnected, disadvantaged and disregarded. Committing to the North West Rail Corridor would enable the authorities north and south to finally prove they are serious about addressing that.”

ITW have launched the campaign in advance of the ‘All-Island Rail Review Strategy’ report, which is likely to be published in the New Year. The group is holding free public events about the North West Rail Corridor and their campaign in: Derry: Monday November 7, 7pm (Holywell Trust, Bishop Street); Letterkenny: Tuesday November 8, 7pm (Station House Hotel); Omagh: Wednesday November 9, 7pm (Strule Arts Centre); Dungannon: Monday Nov 14, 7pm (Tower Room, Ranfurly House); and Strabane: Thursday November 17, 7pm (Alley Theatre).

ITW are also calling on everyone who would like to see this vital transport corridor restored and rail returned to Donegal to visit their website and sign their petition.

2014: The Into The West 'Keep Derry on Track' group pictured protesting at the old Waterside Railway Station for improved facilities and connectivity. DER4514MC038
Derry Journal 2022 People of the Year Community Champion Group Award winners: Into The West’s Steve Bradley and Eamonn McCann pictured with Teresa McCloskey from category sponsor Apex. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2235GS – 028