The evening policy of Londonderry’s rail terminus facilities is posing a major health and safety risk to people travelling on the line, Translink have been warned.
A question has been tabled by SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood after it emerged the shutters are closed at the station at 6pm, forcing people to stand on the seatless riverside platform.
The concerns were highlighted by local historian Mark Lusby after he brought a woman in her 70s to the station to catch the 9.33pm train. He warned that the Department of Agriculture wouldn’t treat cattle in this manner, especially on a night like Monday which saw plunging temperatures and sharp hailstone showers.
Mr Lusby added that it was ironic Translink had launched a campaign urging people to try the reopened Derry line, and then locked them out of the station.
“It is a crazy situation,” he said.
“I don’t know the whole situation but it seems their budget was cut and Translink are trying to run the station with one member of staff. But the shutters are all down, there are no seats on the platform and unless the train comes in early people are left standing on a platform without seats.
“People usually like to be there 20 minutes early. When we arrived there at about 9.10pm there were already six people there.
“The lady I was accompanying was in her 70s and had been attending a conference.
“It just didn’t feel safe to abandon her there. There was an employee inside a little side office but the main building was closed and they weren’t visible. There were no signs to tell you to go round the side as that is the only way you can access the platform. You have to work it out yourself.”
Mr Lusby said it was interesting to contrast the experience of travellers using the Derry station with those in cities of similar size such as Chester in England.
“This station is not a branch, this is not Bellerena, this is Northern Ireland’s second city and you would expect a heated waiting room for passengers to wait in.”
Translink is currently exploring options for replacing the existing train station in Derry, with different options being out for consultation. However, the transport body said that despite carrying out the research it had no money to progress the project as yet.
The Derry to Coleraine rail line only reopened in March following a £30m upgrade of the track, with further work to be carried out.
Mr Eastwood, meanwhile, has asked Transport Minister Danny Kennedy “why the waiting room at Derry Train Station closes at 6pm when there are departures at 7.33pm and 9.33pm?”
A spokeswoman for Translink yesterday said: “We are reviewing the platform waiting area facilities and are also out to public consultation on a future station in the city. We would encourage all passengers to respond via our website www.translink.co.uk. The deadline is May 24 2013.”
She added there were no plans to introduce catering facilities at the Derry station at present.
Translink have developed four options for a new station, to be developed once funding become available. Public consultation on the plans will finish on May 24. The options include the refurbishment of the existing station; a new Ebrington Station close to the peace bridge; relocation to the original Victorian Waterside Train Station; a new ‘Waterside Link’ Station. Local rail lobby group Into The West are among the groups locally who have petitioned for the refurbishment of the ornate former train station, which is currently vacant.