Rail lobby urges DfI to allocate upgrade cash

The rail lobby, Into the West, has urged the immediate allocation of funding for Phase 3 of the Derry to Coleraine track upgrade after it was long-fingered again in Belfast.

Friday, 14th June 2019, 4:57 pm
Updated Friday, 14th June 2019, 5:57 pm
The Eglinton to Castlerock stretch of the line, which will be renewed under Phase 3.

The group said Department for Infrastructure indications that works will not now be completed until 2027 at the earliest which would condemn Derry to another decade of second class rail status.

Steve Bradley, a spokesman for the rail campaigners said the renewal of the line between Castlerock and Eglinton would cost a relatively modest £30m and should be budgeted for as soon as possible.

This, he claimed, would enable faster and more frequent trains including a direct service to Dublin. It would open up the possibility for a new suburban station in the Eglinton area and line extensions to Letterkenny and Strabane, he argued.

“Phase 3 is the final key that unlocks all those future improvements - but until those works are completed we will be stuck with a second-class service,” said Mr. Bradley.

“It’s therefore unacceptable that DfI have unilaterally decided to push that work back until at least 2027 – fourteen years after it was originally supposed to happen.

“The news that no significant improvements to rail services from Derry will be possible until 2027 at the earliest, comes despite the huge growth in demand from the city. Over three million passengers used the Derry to Belfast line for the first time ever across 2018-19, with much of that growth driven by the new hourly service from Derry which began in 2017. Since then passenger numbers locally have increased by 61 per cent, making Derry the star rail performer on the entire island,” he maintained.

Into the West has launched a new public petition urging DfI and Translink to complete the third and final stage of the rail upgrade - Phase 1 was completed in 2013 and Phase 2 was completed in 2017- and it will present its case to Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee in July.

“DfI has confirmed that the Phase 3 works will cost £30m.

“That is a tiny sum in infrastructure terms – especially compared to the £90m they’ve spent on Belfast’s Glider bus, or the £220m for widening the A6 from Drumahoe to Dungiven,” said Mr. Bradley.