Rail officials have confirmed they are working with Londonderry’s regeneration company to examine the possibility of a new train station.
The Department for Regional Development has told the North West Telegraph that Translink bosses are liaising with Ilex officials and have agreed to carry out a joint study for a new railway station in the town.
The study will seek to identify the preferred location and concept layout of a new or refurbished station.
Translink will consider options including continued use of the existing location, acquiring and re-using the adjacent old station building near the current location, or a new build option.
The study is expected to be completed during 2011/12.
The confirmation comes after calls this week for a new station to be factored into the first phase of works on the Derry line, due to get under way in the summer of 2012.
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy found £27m of funding within his budget to have the first phase of track relay works completed by April 2013 — the year Derry becomes the UK’s first City of Culture.
Lobby group Into The West and Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan had called for a new station to replace the current facility, possibly on a new site near the Peace Bridge, to give rail passengers easy access to the city centre.
Into The West called on Mr Kennedy to have a new station ready for 2013 to accommodate the tens of thousands coming to the city.
A spokeswoman for DRD said however that this was unlikely to happen until after 2014. She said: “Translink have recognised that Ilex is currently developing the area and the study is being undertaken at this stage.
“It should be emphasised that there is no funding within the current capital programme for the station to be built. Realistically progress will depend on the next Comprehensive Spending Review.”
She added: “In relation to the new station, Mr Durkan asked the minister about this in the Assembly and the minister indicated that early work is being carried out on how the possible replacement or upgrade of the rail station at Londonderry might be brought forward.
“The minister also indicated in this response that he would have to be realistic given the significant challenges in the budgetary situation.”
Jim McBride from Into The West hailed the exploration of a new station and urged the department to examine securing European funding for the new facility.
Mr McBride said: “We welcome yet another positive indication from Minister Danny Kennedy that there is the possibility of upgrading the replacing the railway station.
“We would argue that there is a need to replace the station as it is no longer fit for purpose.
“It is currently located over a mile from the Peace Bridge and relocating it closer would give better access to the city centre and also link up with the bus station there for those with onward journeys.
“We believe it could be built during the nine months of closure while the upgrade works are going on next year and we could have a brand new station here for 2013.”
The original Waterside railway station was opened in December 1852. The landmark building with its prominent clock tower closed in March 1980 when the current, smaller Waterside station opened. Over the past 30 years it has housed a radio station, furniture store and other businesses. Former Transport Minister Conor Murphy in 2010 raised the possibility of an entirely new railway station near the then planned Peace Bridge. The Peace Bridge opened this summer, linking the west bank with the former Army barracks at Ebrington, which is currently being redeveloped.