Belfast Telegraph

Most of £12.5m for railway spent on one half of the line

By Brendan McDaid

Most of the £12.5m spent on a project to extend the life of the Londonderry to Ballymena railway was spent on just one half of the track — the section in Co Antrim.

It has now emerged that restrictions on investing in the Derry to Coleraine section of the line were still in place when plans for the major project were drawn up in 2006.

The Department for Regional Development said exact figures for how much was spent on the 33-mile Coleraine to Derry section of the 63-mile route was as yet |unavailable.

But a DRD spokeswoman admitted that the 30-mile Ballymena to Coleraine section swallowed up most of the funding.

“The total cost of the Ballymena to Londonderry Track Life Extension project was £12.5m. The project was completed in February 2010,” she said.

“Most of the work took place on the Ballymena to Coleraine section of the line.”

When asked about the exact amount of money spent on each part of the line, she added: “The breakdown of the expenditure between Coleraine to Derry and Coleraine to Ballymena is not immediately available, but we will obtain it as soon as possible.”

She added that a team of consultants had set out a number of options for tracklife extension in the 2006 economic appraisal. The outcome was that the “approved preferred option was to carry out tracklife extension works prioritising the Ballymena to Coleraine section of the line”.

Former Transport Minister Conor Murphy revealed to the Telegraph’s Keep Derry On Track campaign this week how he had lifted the restrictions on entering office the following year — the DRD spokeswoman confirmed this.

Jim McBride, spokesman for lobby group Into The West, said they expected the amount of money spent on the Derry to Coleraine line was tiny by comparison with the Coleraine to Ballymena section.

“We feel all the funding has been prioritised on the Ballymena to Coleraine section and the starvation of investment and finance into the Derry to Coleraine section over the last 30 years has created this problem that unless this work is carried out in the next four years, it faces closure,” he said.

Mr McBride urged the Transport Minister to seek EU funding.

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