Campaigners hail recommendations as ‘new dawn for rail’ in NW

A government-appointed commission has recommended significant improvements to rail in the North-west.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 9:08 am
Derry to Belfast train.
Derry to Belfast train.

The ‘Union Connectivity Review’ (UCR) was established by the British government last year to recommend key infrastructure improvements in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The independent body published its recommendations at the end of last week and it has called for London and Stormont to agree a plan and funding to make significant improvements to rail across the north-west.

The improvements recommended in the report include :

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○ Better connectivity on the Derry-Belfast rail line.

○ Better rail connectivity to NI’s three airports (including City of Derry).

○ Rail links from Derry to Letterkenny.

○ Investigation into reopening a number of closed rail lines across NI.

The report listed Derry and Enniskillen as being amongst the four parts of the UK that suffer from the worst transport.

It states: “The Northwest of Northern Ireland is particularly poorly served by rail, and this is even more apparent when compared with connections to and from the South”.

It also highlighted that there was support and demand for better rail here: “Over three million journeys were made on the Derry/Londonderry railway line in 2019, showing a clear demand for good transport links to and from this region”.

Local rail campaigners ‘Into The West’ (ITW) made a detailed submission to the UCR process at the end of 2020 in which it described the western half of NI as having the worst infrastructure of any region in the UK.

It has welcomed the recommendations in the UCR report.

ITW Chair, Steve Bradley, commented :”We’re pleased that the UCR commission took on-board the comments we made about the poor state of infrastructure in the west of NI.

“It’s encouraging that such a high-level, government-appointed body is now on record as agreeing with some of the core things Into The West has been campaigning for in recent years – such as faster and more frequent trains between Derry and Belfast, a reopened line from Derry to Letterkenny, and linking NI’s airports by rail, including City of Derry.

“It is now over to the government in London to work with Stormont to provide the plan and funding needed to ensure these recommended improvements happen”.

Mr Bradley is confident that at least some of the recommendations in the report will transpire.

He added: “The UCR was established as an independent body by the government, with a very credible and high- profile Chair in Sir Peter Hendy. Government wouldn’t have done that if it didn’t intend to implement at least some of the recommendations the commission would make.

“So, we expect to see at least some of these proposals taken forward. It is, therefore, essential that elected representatives and councils across the western half of NI recognise the huge support this report gives us all in demanding better infrastructure here, and pushes for these recommendations to be introduced as early as possible.

“If the UCR’s recommendations for the north-west are implemented, it will represent a new dawn for rail in our area. That’s the prize that we should all be pushing towards now.”