Into the West laments Derry missing out on £5m in rail funding

Campaigners have levelled criticism after the north-west was excluded from £5m of funding for new rail projects.
A train leaving Derry.A train leaving Derry.
A train leaving Derry.

Into The West issued a statement criticising Stormont’s Department for Infrastructure and Translink, but both the department and the state transport operator said they had no say in allocation of the monies.

The funding was announced last month by the UK Government’s Department for Transport as part of the Union Connectivity Review (UCR) process.

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The UCR looked at ways to improve links between the different regions of the UK, and also between NI and ROI. In 2022 the review published its report – which included three recommendations regarding the North.

Two of the three recommendations specifically called for better rail services to Derry, and the overall report repeatedly highlighted the north-west’s poor level of rail connectivity.

In December 2023 the UK Government confirmed which projects it would fund as part of the UCR process. And the three projects in the North chosen for funding are all in the east of the province, with Derry and the North-west left out.

Into The West slammed the failure to allocate UCR funding for the north-west.

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Its chair, Steve Bradley, said: "The need to improve rail in Derry runs through the UCR like writing through a stick of rock. Yet when it comes to the funding that gets completely ignored.

"It is unacceptable for public money to not reflect the spirit, content or recommendations of a report on which it is supposed to be based.

"The only solution to this funding scandal is for London to now provide additional money to enable the west of NI to get its fair share from the UCR project. The days of all public funding in NI being allocated solely to the east of the province must be brought to an end - starting with a fairer east-west allocation from within the UCR.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland said: “Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill was asked by the UK Government to examine the quality and availability of transport infrastructure within the UK and where future investment should be targeted. His independent Union connectivity review was published in November 2021 and made a number of recommendations.

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“The UK Government responded to the Review in December 2023. The response included the identification of priority actions to support UK transport connectivity, including policy changes and the provision of targeted funding to kickstart the development of projects.

"The Department for Infrastructure was not the decision maker in relation to any of these funding decisions.”

A Translink spokesperson said: “Translink is committed to maintaining and improving connectivity to the north-west.

“We are already currently progressing a feasibility study and strategic programme for enhancing capacity and line speed on the existing Belfast to Derry~Londonderry rail line. This is being funded by the Department for Infrastructure and therefore was not part of the current Union Connectivity funding process.

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“Funding for Union Connectivity studies is decided by the Department for Transport (DfT).”

The UK DfT in London confirmed the three projects being taken forward in the north are: £3.3 million for a study on the feasibility of railway electrification from Belfast to border; a £700,000 study on reopening the Antrim-Lisburn line, and providing £800,000 for a study on reinstating the Portadown to Armagh line.