The final train on the Londonderry to Coleraine line has rolled out of the city as Translink closed the line for essential work that will continue until next April.
Workers from two local companies will be on site to begin the major track engineering project on the railway line that has received funding worth over £50m.
It marks the beginning of an extensive upgrade for the 31-mile stretch of line — work which was brought forward after a Belfast Telegraph campaign.
Translink issued a reminder to all passengers who normally use the train that a temporary timetable will be in operation from today.
Eugene O’Brien, the head of track at Translink NI Railways, said: “All work is planned to take place during sociable hours and we will be making every effort to ensure that any disturbance is kept to a minimum.
“More people are choosing the train as their preferred way to travel with a record 10.7 million train journeys made last year. This section of the track passes through some of our most scenic coastline and the completion of this project will allow us to build on this asset, contributing to the economic and social regeneration of the area, particularly during the 2013 UK City of Culture year.
“This project will help ensure that our overall Londonderry line track enhancement project is completed on time for rail services to operate as planned during the City of Culture celebrations.
“Work to complete the full relay and upgrade of the track will then take place after 2013.
“A temporary timetable will operate during the closure with bus substitutions in place for our passengers,” he added.
Engineering trains will be operating along the line throughout this project and the public have therefore been asked to stay vigilant.
“Safety is always a top priority and we would like to remind the public that engineering trains will be operating along the line throughout this project so it is extremely important to stay vigilant, continue to use railway crossings safely and never use the railway line as a shortcut,” Mr O'Brien said.
“We are looking forward to getting started on this next project phase and would ask for the continued support of local residents, our passengers and local representatives as we work hard to deliver a better rail service.
“Passengers will notice train journeys are smoother and more comfortable, trains will be quieter and the overall performance and safety of the line will be maintained at a high level,” he added.
Temporary timetables are available from main stations and for more information passengers are asked to check the website at www.translink.co.uk or call 028 9066 6630
There was widespread outrage in Londonderry last August when Translink announced that it had shelved plans to upgrade a 31-mile stretch of line and would reduce the number of trains coming into the city daily from nine to five. However, after our Keep Derry on Track campaign, Transport Minister Danny Kennedy back-tracked and allowed the work to proceed, meaning the upgrade will take place in time for 2013.