‘Derry is being done down again over rail’

The Department for Infrastructure’s scornful dismissal of the case for upgrade of the Derry rail line is unacceptable.

Friday, 21st June 2019, 8:00 pm
Updated Friday, 21st June 2019, 9:00 pm
People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

The DfI statement telling us we can kiss goodbye to Phase Three of the project was sent out by an unelected official in response to an article last Friday by Steve Bradley on behalf of Into The West.

Derry was done down for decades by an elected administration and by Direct Rule ministers.

With regard to Phase Three, we are apparently expected to take the same treatment from an anonymous civil servant.

The Eglinton to Castlerock stretch of the line, which will be renewed under Phase 3.

No harm to civil servants, but we cannot allow such a key decision about Derry’s infrastructure to be made by the stroke of a pen in an office in Belfast.

Into The West has been campaigning for years for Phase Three to be brought forward. Instead, it has repeatedly been pushed back. And now we are told it won’t happen at all.

People Before Profit believes that Into The West did a magnificent job in saving the line from closure 20 years ago.

In recent years, the focus has been on ensuring that all phases of the upgrade be completed as soon as possible.

At no point until this week was it suggested that Phase Three wouldn’t happen at all.

The fact that the announcement was made in the week of Clean Air Day is nothing if not ironic.

It is accepted everywhere now that expanding rail can make a crucial contribution to fighting pollution and achieving clean air.

Yet even as Clean Air Day was being marked in the Guildhall, rail expansion for Derry was being ditched without debate.

Across the world, roads account for 71 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transport as a whole - compared with 14 percent for shipping, 12 percent for aeroplanes - and 1.8 percent for trains.

The figures may be skewed by shifting patterns of passenger use. But the general message is crystal clear.

If we are to avoid climate breakdown, we need less dependence on gas-guzzling road vehicles. Investing in rail is good for the environment.

The economic viability of rail, too, is borne out by the local figures.

Last year, trains journeys in the North topped 15 million - six percent up on the year before.

This reflects experience in virtually every other country. Rail is the fastest-growing and cleanest mode of transport anywhere.

Getting Derry back on track is a necessity, not just to make up for decades of neglect, but to make sure we are ahead of the curve as we move into the future.

The case for better rail provision for Derry must be made more loudly and by more people and parties. The decision to drop Phase Three must be reversed.

We hope for a full turnout by people of all political persuasions at Into The West’s public meeting in the Holywell Centre in Bishop Street next Wednesday night, June 26.

Eamonn McCann was recently elected as Councillor for the Moor DEA.