Belfast Telegraph

Frustrated bus commuters want Armagh rail link reopened

By Allan Preston

Commuters fed up with taking the bus have demanded the reinstatement of a railway line between Armagh and Portadown.

The 10 miles of train track were closed in 1957, around the same time a great deal of Northern Ireland's rail network was dismantled.

Tonight, the Portadown and Armagh Railway Society (PARS) is holding a public meeting to renew support for the initiative.

A spokesperson for the group argued the time was right to bring train travel back to the area, with rail receipts increasing each year in Northern Ireland, upgrades to existing lines in the north and east, and the purchase of new rolling stock.

"Do we in the south-west not matter?" the spokesperson asked.

"We certainly need a rail link. Buses do not provide a flexible service, especially for wheelchair users and other people with physical disabilities, for whom boarding some buses is impossible; they have to avail of taxis and adapted cars to get to Portadown railway station. This makes life intolerable for those with hospital appointments in Belfast."

They added that for Armagh commuters, driving to Portadown station was frustrating due to limited car parking spaces.

The group also said Armagh residents cannot easily avail of Belfast's social life at venues like the Waterfront Hall or the Titanic Quarter because of a lack of public transport in the evenings.

The spokesperson added: "We can travel from Belfast to Portadown by train and either walk to Armagh or pay for a taxi, making it an expense too far.

"Similarly, people from Belfast cannot afford evenings out in Armagh.

"The fare payers have been forgotten for too long."

In 2014 a petition in favour of reopening the link, signed by 10,000 people, was delivered to Stormont. Earlier that year, former Transport Minister Danny Kennedy published a consultation that opened up the possibility of extending the line, along with other rail links like Castledawson to Antrim, and between Belfast and Belfast International Airport.

Since then, extensive budget cuts across different government departments have stalled progress.

The PARS group was set up in 2012 to campaign for the reopening of the rail line and to commemorate the Armagh rail disaster of 1889.

Tonight's Annual General Meeting is open to the public, starting at 8pm in Woodford Hall, Ardmore Drive in Armagh.

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