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Queen's rail halt plaque to return next week

By Rebecca Black

Published 13/10/2016

The Queen unveiling the plaque at Bellarena railway halt in June
The Queen unveiling the plaque at Bellarena railway halt in June

A plaque at a rural train station marking a visit by the Queen is set to be reinstated next week, it can be revealed.

It was removed from the platform at Bellarena, Co Londonderry, just hours after it had been unveiled by the Queen and her husband Prince Philip during a visit in June this year.

They officially opened two new railway platforms at Bellarena, as part of a £46m upgrade on the Coleraine to Londonderry railway line.

The royal couple also took in the Giant's Causeway and a train journey along the north coast - famously extolled as one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world - during the two day visit.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last month that Translink officials had told the Department of Infrastructure that they removed the plaque because of fears that it would be vandalised.

Local politicians, including East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell and Ulster Unionist councillor Aaron Callan, poured scorn on the claim, pointing out the quiet nature of the village and the rapturous welcome the Queen received during her visit.

Mr Campbell said he would be "very surprised if the plaque were to be vandalised".

"Even at that, they can put the plaque in a place where it would be very hard to vandalise," he added. "It can be covered in special spray to protect it."

In September, DUP MLA Gary Middleton added that he was concerned that three months since its unveiling, the plaque had not been reinstated.

However, the plaque will now return within a matter of days.

A Translink spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph: "The plaque will be reinstated by early next week".

The story emerged following an Assembly question asked by People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann.

A Department of Infrastructure spokesman said in his response to Mr McCann: "Translink has advised that, because the halt at Bellarena is unmanned, it was concerned about the safety of the plaque and the possibility that it could be vandalised.

"Translink is currently looking at its options to minimise this risk."

However, in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph at the time, the department said its officials were "currently considering the best way to mount the plaque at Bellarena Station within the context of the simple layout of the halt and its dramatic setting".

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