Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Rail journey between Londonderry and Belfast takes longer than it did 50 years ago

Train on the Londonderry to Belfast line
Train on the Londonderry to Belfast line

Half a century ago, the rail journey between Londonderry and Belfast took one hour and 55 minutes.

Today, the same journey takes two hours and 19 minutes — around the same time it took in the age of steam when the service started 150 years ago. This is despite the fact that our modern trains are capable of 90mph.

But because the line between Derry and Coleraine is so old and needs to be upgraded, trains are reduced to a maximum speed of 50mph, slowing to between 10 and 20mph in parts.

Former Conservative Transport Minister Michael Portillo completed the same journey last weekend as part of his forthcoming series of Great British Railway Journeys.

“We are featuring the line between Coleraine and Londonderry/Derry in the next series of Great British Railway Journeys,” said the railway enthusiast.

“I loved the scenery as we sped along the shore of Lough Foyle, sending flocks of seabirds into the air.

“The riverscape as the train arrives in the city is also stunning.”

In January 2012 the number of trains operating between Derry and Coleraine will fall from nine per day to just five and a bus substitution service will be introduced — making the journey time even longer.

Two Notice of Motions will come before Coleraine and Limavady Council meetings this week, calling for the Assembly not to defer critical funding for the 34-mile stretch of railway which requires £75m of investment.

The SDLP has given its full backing to the Belfast Telegraph's Keep Derry on Track Campaign, which aims to put pressure on the Transport Minister, Danny Kennedy, not to delay a major upgrade to the line.

It was almost 50 years ago to the day that the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA) announced an extra train would run between Derry and Belfast. SDLP Assemblyman John Dallat, said: “ Translink, the modern day UTA, funded by the power-sharing Executive at Stormont, has just announced a culling of services between Belfast and Derry with bus substitutions, reductions in speed limits, with doubts again hanging over the future of this wonderful and historical rail link with the rest of Ireland.”

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