Cyclist beats train from Derry to Belfast - that's embarrassing
An amateur cyclist has broken the record for pedalling between Londonderry and Belfast - beating the train and leading to the rail service between the two cities being labelled an embarassment.
John Madden (49), head teacher of Roddenvale Special School in Larne, is a keen cyclist and had his eye on the record held by Maurice Foster, who made the journey in 1964 in 2hrs, 48mins.
His friend Peter Jack, a Limavady solicitor and veteran triathlete, suggested turning the record attempt into a man v machine challenge as well and trying to beat the train to Belfast.
Mr Jack said: "When John mentioned to me that he was going to try and beat Maurice Foster's record I suggested making it a sort of Top Gear challenge and take on the train.
"In order for a record to be official it has to be from a post office to a post office, so we both left the post office at Custom House Street, me walking as fast as I could over to the train station in the Waterside, which took me 17 minutes, leaving another six minutes to purchase my ticket and getting on board the train.
"I couldn't believe it when I arrived at the post office at Bridge Street in Belfast, which took me another 17 minutes to walk directly to from Central, there was John looking fresh as a daisy.
"This is a fantastic achievement for John, but it is an embarrassment for the train service between our two main cities. This is Stone Age stuff – a cyclist beating a £5m train. The journey from Derry to Belfast is very scenic, which is wonderful if you are a tourist, but if you are a daily commuter travelling to and from work it is disgraceful that it is quicker to go by bike.
"This would be perhaps not so bad if the roads between the two cities were up to standard but the roads are also disgraceful; there isn't even a dual carriageway never mind a motorway, it's archaic stuff."
John was forced to take a longer route through towns he could have avoided had he been able to use the M2. John and Peter both left the post office at Custom House Street beside the Guildhall in Derry at exactly 9.15am on Sunday for their journeys to Belfast with a plan to meet up again at the post office in Bridge Street in Belfast.
John had his eye on breaking the 50-year-old record to raise funds for his school.
He explained: "I set out to try and beat the record held by Maurice Foster who cycled between Derry and Belfast 50 years ago in two hours and 48 minutes. I completed the journey in two hours 37 minutes and 33 seconds, which equates to an average of 27.3mph.
"I have to give all credit to Maurice, who did it on a bike with three gears, while I had a state-of-the-art cycle that probably costs the same as a small car, but Maurice had four sets of traffic lights to contend with while I had 40 – and a lot more traffic.
"I arrived at the post office in Bridge Street and was actually reading the paper with a cup of coffee when he arrived."
The Into The West lobby group has waged a long campaign for improved rail service .
Eamonn McCann from Into The West said: "This ought to be an embarrassment to both Translink and the Department for Regional Development.
"Into The West complained in the past that the trains here went faster during the reign of Queen Victoria.
"And now we see that human pedal power is also faster!"