Plans for Belfast-Dublin train service that would take 2hrs 26mins shelved
Controversial plans for an early morning Enterprise service to Dublin that would have taken 11 minutes longer than the current one have been shelved - for now.
Translink and Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann) said the proposed date for the introduction of a new Enterprise timetable - planned for January 31 - has been postponed while feedback on the plans is reviewed.
Earlier this month, the Belfast Telegraph revealed proposals that would see the early morning train set off from Belfast's Central Station at 6.15am, more than half an hour earlier than at present, arriving at Dublin's Connolly Station at 8.41am.
It would take two hours and 26 minutes to make the morning commute from Belfast to Dublin - 11 minutes longer than the present journey time and also longer than the two hours and 25 minutes it takes by bus.
Stormont Regional Development Committee member John Dallat warned that Northern Ireland faced becoming the laughing stock of Europe with its slow and overcrowded cross-border service. The start time was also described as "eye-wateringly early" by a Belfast commuter who told the Belfast Telegraph that the plans had been published on the Irish Rail website for consultation but had not appeared on the Translink website.
"It must be the slowest intercity train in Europe," he said.
Translink replied to the comments, saying it was due to begin briefing its passengers on the changes from mid December.
Now the two companies have announced that, following discussions last week, the proposed date for the introduction of the new timetable has been postponed.
A Translink spokesperson said: "The companies will work together to review feedback from timetable consultation processes completed in Iarnród Éireann and under way in Translink prior to finalising a new timetable for the Belfast to Dublin service, with a goal of the first quarter of 2016 for completion.
"Both companies are committed to delivering an attractive, high-quality train service for all Enterprise customers, and last week met to further review the draft timetable proposals and discuss the initial stakeholder and passenger consultation feedback.
"A programme of work is currently under way to consider alternative options for the new cross-border timetable."
Translink said it invites anyone who has yet to share their views to contact them. Those wishing to register their comments can do so at www.translink.co.uk/newenterprisetimetable/
Iarnród Éireann is separately reviewing feedback from public consultation on other Connolly services, with a view to implementing final schedules on these routes in early 2016, subject to the approval of the National Transport Authority.
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said he was glad that Translink had accepted the need to get this essential service right.
"The Belfast to Dublin eastern corridor is vital to the economic success of Northern Ireland, and it is essential we get this right," he added.
"I think Translink and Iarnród Éireann's recognition that there are problems with the plans and their desire to deliver a first-rate service should be welcomed.
"I would urge the Regional Development Minister to show leadership on this issue, and for anyone with an interest in the Belfast to Dublin rail line to get involved with the consultation."