Following a decision by Translink to drastically reduce rail services between Belfast and Derry the SDLP Assembly Member and spokesperson on the Environment, John Dallat has called for a separate body to take responsibility for mainline rail services across the island of Ireland.
“Once again the prospect of a decent intercity service between Belfast and Derry has been shafted with resources focussed on commuter trains serving Portadown, Bangor and Ballymena. Translink is clearly incapable of taking a lead developing mainline rail services and are making no contribution to restoring Ireland’s rail network between major cities and towns.
‘The former Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy had it within his remit to end the neglect and discrimination against the people of the North West and he has clearly let down his Sinn Fein friends and he has let down the entire population not just of Derry but the region including Donegal.
Since the day and hour partition kicked in rail services in the border regions have been decimated with many of them closed. The last surviving rail line in the North West has been under threat many times, as recently as 2000 and it has refused to die. On the contrary the number of passengers has doubled but this latest decision to begin ‘bussing’ rail passengers will contribute nothing towards the renaissance of the railways which has been happening in the Republic but sadly has never got off the ground in the North.
‘The Belfast-Dublin rail service is sadly underfunded and while there may be plans for investments it is not forthcoming because the railways are always sacrificed in times of financial restraint.
‘The argument for investment in the railways is well proven. When new trains were bought the number of people using rail travel quickly increased but we now find ourselves in a position where there may be too many trains but a very poor infrastructure. Only a new body with a vision for the future will save mainline services and in particular the Belfast-Derry line.