Study on half-hourly train service with halts at Strathfoyle and Derry airport due next month

A feasibility study for a half-hourly rail service from Derry to Belfast with stops at Strathfoyle, City of Derry Airport and Ballykelly is due for completion next month, rail minister Nichola Mallon has confirmed.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 4:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 4:16 pm

The minister also indicated that an all-Ireland rail review that will bring forward a feasibility study into high speed rail between Derry – Belfast – Dublin – Limerick and Cork is progressing.

Ms. Mallon was pressed on rail connectivity to the north west by Sinn Féin MLA Ciara Ferguson.

The Foyle MLA stated: "It is vital that rail connectivity is improved in the north west to begin to end regional inequalities and to unlock the potential of the area.

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A feasibility study on Phase 3 of the Derry rail upgrade is due next month.

"Will the Minister give an update on the ongoing studies that are considering a half-hourly service on the Derry line as well as the additional halts at Ballykelly, Strathfoyle and the City of Derry Airport and say whether the report is still due in November?"

The minister replied: "When I took up the post, I said that I was committed to tackling regional imbalance and better connecting communities, particularly in the north-west. As anyone who looks at the rail map knows, it speaks volumes about the lack of investment and connectivity.

"My officials continue to work at pace on this. We are linking with Into the West, which has been invaluable in identifying the terms of reference. I am pleased to say that the feasibility study will be completed next month. That will enable us to move forward with the next steps and a business case."

Ms. Mallon said she recently met with her southern counterpart Eamon Ryan and the consultants who are taking the all-Ireland rail review work forward.

"The purpose of the all-island strategic rail review is to look at our existing rail network to see where it can be improved. That is a particular issue in the north-west. It will also look to identify the potential for new rail links, so that we better connect communities and businesses, and examine the possibilities of rail in connecting our international gateways — our ports and airports.

"It will also examine the potential for freight. All of those are hugely important as we tackle the climate emergency.

"The consultants have been asked to report within a 12-month period. It will be an evidence-based and evidence-led approach, but there will also be the opportunity for public engagement, so I encourage Members to input to that process when they can," she said.