Belfast Telegraph

Railway halt for DARD in Ballykelly moves one step closer

By Donna Deeney

The installation of a railway halt at Ballykelly has taken a step forward after the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development raised the issue with the Minister of Transport.

DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill recently announced that her 800-strong department will relocate from Belfast to the former MoD site in Ballykelly.

A railway halting site in the village will assist with the daily 150-mile commute faced by those employees after the relocation, planned for 2015.

A spokesman for DARD said: “In the wake of her announcement to relocate her departmental headquarters to Ballykelly, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development has received correspondence in relation to the provision of a railway halt at Ballykelly.

“The minister has previously outlined her commitment to taking all reasonable steps to ensure the transition from a Belfast-based headquarters to the rural setting of Ballykelly is made as easy as possible for staff involved.

“The decision to put a rail halt at Ballykelly falls within the remit of Minister Kennedy and the minister has in recent days written to Minister Kennedy with a view to discussing the viability of installing a halt.”

This received a huge welcome from East Derry MLA Cathal Ó hOisín who has lobbied for Translink to install a halting site in the village.

He said: “I have been informed by the Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O Neill, that she is in the process of engaging with the Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy, to actively pursue a railway halt at Ballykelly to facilitate the new DARD offices.

“The installation of such a halt would greatly increase the access for 800 employees... while also helping to boost both the local infrastructure and economy.”

It is understood that while the agriculture minister has begun the process, her counterpart in the Department of Regional Development, Danny Kennedy was still awaiting her correspondence.

His spokesman said: “DRD has not received any approaches from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) for a new rail link to its proposed new headquarters at Ballykelly.

“For such an option to be considered a business case would be required to test its commercial viability and funding would need to be found.

“In the current budget, no funding is available for DRD for a station or halt at the Ballykelly site.

“DRD is prepared to look at any proposal if the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development can bring forward her department’s requirements.”

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