Here are some of the views expressed by local train users and campaigners present at the Regional Development Committee information gathering session at the City Hotel this week.
Jim McBride, leading rail campaigner and founding member from Into The West: “I think it’s very important the event comes to Derry because they can hear first hand from local residents what is happening here and why the railway line is so important. It is a life-line for the city and a key strategic transport corridor. During the bad weather the only transport link that stayed open was the railway. The fact that there is a full room here is very significant shows what it means to the city.
“As a group we are going to be asking what is happening on Phase Two. Why has a foggy mist descended across the whole issue. We want to know why.
Eamonn McCann, Into The West: “In some ways the most significant thing is the very fact this is being held in Derry. If that’s symbolic of an intention to pay more intention to Derry and give a higher priority to Derry particularly with regard to rail then that’s very much to be welcomed. I hope we are going to see out of this gathering and over the next weeks, months and years, a genuine commitment to developing the Derry line and we are going to see the argument for rail presented in a much more forceful way. We spend on public transport a fraction of say Scotland. A very small transfer of resources from the roads budget to rail would solve all our problems and given the enormous cock-up which has been made in relation to A5 and so on it should be a no-brainer.”
Deputy Mayor of Derry, DUP Councillor Gary Middleton: “It’s shocked me how many people have turned out on a cold January night. We must thank the NI Assembly for doing a roadshow so people can voice their opinions. Great to see so many people passionate about their causes and about the fact that we need development here, we need improved infrastructure on our roads, railway line and of course I’m here to fight and push for all of those things, but I would like to see the railway station brought back into use as well but everybody here would be singing off the one hymn sheet.”
Rev Canon David Crooks from Carrigans, Co Donegal: “We are campaigning as the West Ulster Rail Initiative. Our campaign is to get proper rail and motorway infrastructure to the north west of Ireland linking Derry and Letterkenny with Dublin via Omagh and Monaghan and Dundalk and also Belfast via Dungannon and Portadown; to develop the western rail corridor from Derry, Letterkenny, Donegal, Sligo, Galway, Cork railway line, get proper infrastructures to develop the A5 into a motorway which would create a proper link with the north west instead of having a poor road infrastructure where it takes hours to get out of the north west.
Shauna Cusack, SDLP Derry City Councillor: “Important we have this event in Derry because we are the people most affected by the lack of railway. There is issues there with the service, the times of the service, the lack of service, the building itself. There is many things people are very frustrated about, it’s about facilitating people from this town being able to get to work outside of this town. The majority of people on the 212 have to undergo that nightmare journey of almost two and a half hours in rush hour traffic, day in, day out, both ways. Quality of life has to be considered there as well, so any pressure that can be brought to bear to make that happen is a good thing.”
Tanya McKeown, representing Environment Minister Mark H Durkan: “We shouldn’t be saying we are content with this service just going to Belfast, we should be saying now the DRD actually need to start investing in our rail infrastructure. It’s a northern-wide rail service we need that goes across the border, students going to Coleraine, going to Belfast, going to Dublin, who are all from Derry, they are going to go and stay in Belfast, stay in Coleraine rather than coming home and having part-time jobs here in the city and bringing in money to the local economy if they have to take two hours going up and down each way. If it takes you an hour you are more likely to come home.
“The timing issue in this second phase is massive. As successful as the first phase has been and got people using the train, it’s lovely and scenic, it’s great, but if you can’t use it at the correct times then no-one is going to use it.”