The decision to postpone improvements to the Coleraine-Derry section of the railway between Belfast and Derry is an affront to democracy and underlines the need for a new approach to how we fund and manage mainline rail services across the Island of Ireland, says East Derry MLA John Dallat.
Translink, operating as an agent of the Department of Regional Development, is a failure when it comes to operating a rail service between our cities of Belfast, Derry and Dublin, said the East Derry assemblyman.
“It is not fit for purpose and exists as a serious impediment to economic and social development in the North West. The Derry-Belfast railway, uniquely in northern politics, has the support of all seven councils that this historic railway runs through. Collectively they formed the Northern Corridor Railway Group which made a very comprehensive presentation to both the Assembly and the Dublin government outlining the reasons why this rail line is absolutely essential to the future development of the North West.
“The outgoing minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy assured and reassured various assembly members that this line was a priority. Now we learn that he has let down not only his own party but others as well. It really is a shame and a disgrace that once again the North West has been shafted with Translink going off to buy more trains than they need while the rail track will be as close to mothballing as it can get.
“A decade ago civil servants sought my support for the closure of the line in return for the upgrading of the A6 road between Derry and Belfast. I told them then that it was not a case of one or the other but both and that still stands. I know of no other country in Europe where its two main cities are not connected by a decent inter-city rail link.
“The Republic of Ireland has invested in its rail network with success. The weak link in Ireland’s network is the connection with the North where there has been a lack of investment and forward planning for the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise service and, of course, continuing doubt about the future of the Belfast-Derry railway. The only way that can be resolved is to create an all-island body responsible for mainline services across the island of Ireland. Surely this would make a very good case for European funding?”