Belfast Telegraph

Campaign to save Londonderry Coleraine rail link

By Donna Deeney

The growing campaign to save the railway line between Londonderry and Coleraine may take to the streets.

Into The West, a group set up in 2002 to save the line when it was under threat then, will "explore other methods of putting pressure" on Stormont to ensure rail travel remains in the north west.

The region's two MPs, Mark Durkan in Foyle and Gregory Campbell in East Londonderry, have joined other political figures to voice concerns, despite assurances from Department for Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy that he is committed to the upgrading, due to begin in 2014.

Translink announced last month that because of cuts to its budget from the DRD, the £75m required to upgrade the line was not available and the work would have to be deferred for three years.

In addition to this, Translink said it would be necessary to reduce the number of trains running between Derry and Belfast from nine to five per day and that there would be an increase in the number of buses operating from Derry to Coleraine for passengers who wish to take the train on to Belfast.

This sparked fury among local politicians and lobbyists.

Eamonn McCann from Into The West said: "Derry is being treated like a poor relation here. We were given assurances from the previous minister Conor Murphy that the line between Derry and Belfast would be protected and improved.

"In fact our group were told to stop whining about it, that a definite commitment was made to the line, but as soon as Danny Kennedy takes over, funding is not there.

"I think the time has passed for polite lobbying - that will not shift the minister - and Into The West will meet over the next few days to explore other methods of putting pressure on."

East Derry MLA John Dallat raised the issue last month when he said that the north west was being "shafted".

He said: "It is very difficult not to feel that once again the north west has been shafted by an Assembly which should be a beacon of light shining into a new future where the injustices, discrimination and inequality of the past is no more.

"This is happening when other European countries are electrifying their railway networks even in rural areas to comply with the highest environmental standards, while we struggle on in the dark ages.

"It is a disgrace and an issue which the SDLP doesn't intend to accept lying down because to do so would be to accept that the people of the north west are second-class, and those days are over."

Last night Mr Kennedy said: "Unfortunately, as a result of the budget approved in January of this year, the proposed £75m project to upgrade the Coleraine to Londonderry track in 2012 has had to be deferred until 2014.

"However, £20m has been allocated to the 2014/15 year to allow the project to start at that time.

"In the meantime, my department is funding a programme of engineering work to maintain safety and keep the line operational."

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