Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Is it the end of line for Derry trains?

The Coleraine to Derry line was featured in Michael Palin's TV programme

Translink's plans to reduce the number of daily trains on the Londonderry to Coleraine rail service will further fuel the public perception of an “anti-Derry agenda,” according to Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan.

The planned reduction is the latest blow to a service that has failed to be upgraded despite previous assurances that money would be allocated for development.

Daily trains will now be reduced from nine to five and Mr Durkan believes that the cuts will add to fears over the future of the line.

“They pulled the service back so much it's hard to see the scenario where they are going to resuscitate it let alone enhance it,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

The previous minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy had made assurances that money would be allocated to the improvement of the service, but the new minister Danny Kennedy subsequently shelved these plans.

“I had assumed that with Conor Murphy being minister that it would be redressed, given the fact that he is a nationalist, to undo the harm that has been done to Derry as a nationalist city,” Mr Durkan said.

“That's how people see it and it's getting harder and harder to convince people that there is anything other than an anti-Derry agenda.

“We're now being perceived as whingers but it's absolutely ridiculous what is happening, especially with tourism being so important to Derry.”

Low user figures have been cited as a reason for reducing the service, but Mr Durkan said that the low uptake is a consequence of not investing in the line.

It takes longer for the train to run from Derry to Belfast today than it did during Queen Victoria's time.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted minister Kennedy who said: “In a period of budgetary constraint Translink will focus on measures to keep costs under control to keep fares as low as possible, take forward affordable capital projects and ensure services are safe, reliable and accessible.”

Background

The Londonderry to Coleraine rail line has been described as one of the world's great railway journeys by former Monty Python star and travel broadcaster Michael Palin. Despite this and claims that the service has shown a 140% rise in passenger numbers, Translink has decided to cut the number of daily trains from nine to just five.

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