The decision by Derry City and Strabane District Council to give planning approval to a £27million plan to redevelop the former Waterside train station as a transport hub has met with a mixed response.
Translink has welcomed the plans, after the council’s planning committee approved by nine votes to two to give the go-ahead last night, but the Into the West pressure group said it was disappointed that councillors had backed a “less than perfect” scheme.
John Glass, Translink’s head of projects, said they welcomed that the council had recognised the merits of the Multi-Modal Transport Hub plan.
“This decision marks the beginning of a significant transformation in the way people travel in the North-West region,” he said.
“ As an important gateway it will encourage modal shift from car to public transport and other sustainable modes by providing integrated and convenient services to enhance connectivity and encourage more active travel for a healthier region.
“This supports a key outcome of the draft Programme for Government.
“In addition, it offers social and economic benefits with the potential to be a catalyst for further investment and tourism, making the local area more attractive to business and investors, creating jobs and enhancing the economy while protecting the built heritage of the iconic Grade B listed Waterside Train Station.”
An Into The West spokesman said that the planning application had, at least, shown clearly there is significant support for rail as a transport mode in the city.
“It’s therefore essential that Translink, the council, Stormont and our local politicians all ensure that further enhancements are planned for Derry’s railway system,” he said.
“The most important of these is phase three of the track renewal works - which would enable faster and more frequent trains between Derry and Belfast.
“It is also essential that the council includes a significant role for rail in its Growth Strategy and Local Development Plan. That should include feasibility studies into extending the railway line to Strabane and Letterkenny, and to the opening of new commuter stations on the existing line in places like City of Derry Airport.
“The rail genie is firmly out of the bottle locally, and people have made it clear that they want it to be taken more seriously as a transport option by those in power.
“Let’s all ensure we create a new golden age for rail in our city and the north-west”.