Belfast Telegraph

Cuts set to hit scenic rail route

A scenic railway route has fallen victim to Government cutbacks after a long-planned track upgrade hit the buffers.

The £75 million scheme to create a passing loop and re-lay the single line that winds along Northern Ireland`s north coast from Coleraine to Londonderry has been postponed for at least two years due to lack of funds.

And while the project was designed to increase services on the route, the number of train journeys will now actually fall to enable essential safety improvements as the wait for the upgrade goes on.

Passengers on a third of scheduled services between Derry and Coleraine will be transferred to buses for the next two years.

Rail enthusiasts had called for the loop to enable two trains to use the line at one time but its postponement has now raised fears over the future of the seaside route.

Stormont's Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy has attempted to allay those concerns by insisted there are no plans to close the line. While he has secured £20 million from the Stormont Executive to commence the upgrade in 2014, that is less than a third of what is needed to complete the work.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has demanded assurances that all the funding will be made available.

"There has long been a fear in the north west that this rail-line is under threat, that`s a recurring threat over all the years I have been MP," said the Democratic Unionist. "While I welcome Mr Kennedy`s pledge, he has only got £20 million for the work so far. We need to make sure that as much funding as needed is secured in the coming years."

Mr Kennedy said he was committed to developing the line and had "no plans to allow the service to be closed".

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

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