New trains shipped in for service
The first of a new multimillion-pound fleet of trains has pulled into Belfast.
Regional Development minister Conor Murphy was on hand as it was unloaded at the docks after being shipped from manufacturers CAF in Spain.
The Class 4000 train is one of 20 bought by Translink as part of its plan to replace all the older trains in operation. The fleet cost Mr Murphy's department £114 million and comes six years after £81 million was spent on 23 new C3k trains.
"The first of these ultra modern trains will enter passenger service by the end of the year, offering the public a high standard of performance, comfort, safety and accessibility and I look forward to the full fleet being delivered and introduced to passenger service during 2012," said the minister.
"Passenger numbers on railways now exceed 10 million annually, a 60% growth rate since 2002 and despite the difficult budget constraints, significant planned investment on the railways network highlights my own and the Executive's commitment to improving services.
"Over the next budget period, as well as funding these new trains, my Department will also fund associated projects such as a new Train Maintenance Facility at Adelaide, Belfast and platform extensions as well as the start of the Derry to Coleraine track relay."
Translink Group chief executive Catherine Mason said: "These new Class 4000 trains are being manufactured to the very latest industry standards, meeting the highest standards of performance, comfort, safety and accessibility.
"Some of these enhancements include the introduction of new multi-purpose areas on board to accommodate parents with buggies or extra bicycles. In addition they will have the latest environmental features and be more fuel efficient with reduced carbon emissions."
But the SDLP has questioned whether all the trains will ever run. The party's regional development spokesman Conall McDevitt expressed concern that some may have to be mothballed because the funds are not there to staff them.
But later during Assembly question time Mr Murphy rubbished the SDLP claim and insisted the trains were already scheduled for use.