Hourly north west rail service hailed
Railway commuters between Londonderry and Belfast can enjoy an hourly service from Monday when a new train timetable kicks in.
Thanks to the construction of a passing loop at Bellerena, part of a £46.4m line upgrade, trains can depart from Belfast before the arrival of one from Derry and vice versa.
Translink Group chief executive Chris Conway said: "The enhanced train timetable, together with our fast, frequent 212 Goldline coach services, make transport between Derry-Londonderry and Belfast more attractive and accessible than ever before, with over 50 rail and coach return services every day to choose from."
He added: "Other plans for the city include the introduction of the new Foyle Metro services in the autumn and a planning application is also under way for the new transport hub within the refurbished Waterside railway station."
Passenger numbers on the route have risen to around two million a year despite plans to close the line completely.
A public campaign launched to save the line was also a driving force behind the upgrade work, which was completed earlier this year.
Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said: "The hourly service from Belfast will vastly improve connection between both cities. It will make it easier for people carrying out business, attending hospitals, universities and opening up the whole tourist product for the hinterlands of Derry and Donegal.
"While our local economy remains under stress and most focus is on road infrastructure, it would be easy to fall into the trap of ignoring the essential contribution that a modern rail link can make to regeneration of the north west."
City Chamber of Commerce president George Fleming said: "Connectivity is extremely important to the north west region and the introduction of the new hourly rail timetable will bring much more choice to passengers looking to connect to the two largest cities."