Figures secured from Translink by Into The West show that, for the year 2021-22 (end of March), the Waterside Station carried a total of 467,001 passengers – making it NI’s ninth busiest station.
This year’s ninth place finish is the highest the Derry station has ever achieved and is seen as a major milestone in its continual rise in popularity since 2016-17 when it was ranked only 17th.
Campaigners are confident Derry can continue to move up the rankings with the local station now only 7,500 passengers behind Ballymena – meaning an average increase of just 21 passengers per day would see Derry overtake it for eighth place.
Into The West Chair Steve Bradley said: “This is a huge vote of confidence in rail and proof of the untapped demand for it within our city.
“Ever since Derry got the hourly service to Belfast in 2018 and the new station in 2019, our city has been the star performer for rail growth on this island.
“It’s important to acknowledge, however, that this success comes despite the many limitations that continue to hold-back rail locally. We still have trains that can only travel in one direction, due to Derry being at the end of the line. We still have no other stations within 20 miles of our city, which reduces its viability for work, leisure and shopping. Our rail service is slower than road for travel to Belfast. We still offer only one train every two hours on Sundays, whilst everywhere from Coleraine eastwards has an hourly frequency. And we still have far fewer early morning and late evening trains to Belfast than much smaller towns, like Portrush or Coleraine.
“Just think what the demand for rail from our city would be with faster and more frequent trains; services direct to Tyrone, Donegal and Dublin; and a network of commuter halts in places like Strathfoyle, Ballykelly and Newbuildings to make rail viable for Derry’s hinterland.”
Figures from Translink also show that rail passenger demand from Derry recovered much faster after Covid than it did at other stations on the Derry-Belfast line, with numbers locally now above where they were before the pandemic.
It’s understood railway staff have also reported a marked increase in rail demand in recent months which, Into The West believe, is due to rising fuel costs.