Your columnists Eamon McCann, Paul McFadden and Norman Hamill are correct. The rail line between Derry and Belfast is under threat of closure.
A letter we received from The Financial Operations and Transportation Division of the Department of Regional Development, dated 29th July 2011, reads: “Translink had put in place plans to commence a major project to upgrade the track between Coleraine and Londonderry. It was hoped to start the work in 2012. The costs estimated in the Economic Appraisal were £75m. However, as a result of the budget approved in January of this year, the project has been deferred until 2014.”
Our politicians signed off on this budget. The threat is in the deferral and in the proposal to bus people to Coleraine to catch the train to Belfast.
Imagine boarding a local bus at Cork railway station, travelling to Thurles by road via Mitchelstown, to catch the train to Dublin. Or arriving at Birmingham railway station for the train to London to be told you had to get a bus to Northampton and then onto Rugby, before you could get on a train.
No wonder the Chamber of Commerce is disturbed. The UK City of Culture people must be pulling their hair out. Anyone charged with economic development in Derry can only be flabbergasted. With 8% of the working age population on the dole (Friday, 19th August), this is not the time to be downgrading and threatening a major piece of infrastructure by a poor political decision.
Public pressure and political action are needed to force the Executive to collectively review that decision and overturn it. Urgently.
Letter writer Mark Lusby (Friday, August 19th) is also correct: 2014 is too long to wait for equality for the North West travelling public. Now is the time for Sammy, Martin, Willie, Martina, Margaret, Danny and their colleagues to get the train set out. And the cheque book. It’s time for us all to get on board, punching the tickets of our Assembly members, our MP and the Minister.
Your editorial of Tuesday, 23rd August is on the right track: the advantages of a modern rail service are obvious.
It’s time we got up a head of steam. All aboard!