Stormont vows 'heavy' investment for direct Londonderry-Dublin rail link
Northern Ireland will be "investing heavily" in a direct rail link between Londonderry and Dublin, Stormont's infrastructure minister has vowed.
Chris Hazzard said that he was specifically including the north-west's premier city in a wider planned rail expansion along the eastern seaboard.
The proposed cross-border railway investment - part of a "high-level study" into expanding an eastern economic corridor - will also reach as far as Cork on the southern tip of the island, he told a parliamentary committee.
"I purposely include Derry in that also," he said of the plans.
"I think we need to look at Derry, Belfast, Dublin - and Cork also - when we look at rail expansion.
"That is something we will be investing heavily in."
Mr Hazzard is meeting with Dublin's transport minister Shane Ross about the proposals later this month.
The infrastructure minister said there is a growing demand for rail travel among the public.
His department is also looking at plans to enhance the existing Newry to Belfast service, where there are capacity issues, he told Dublin's Oireachtas Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation committee.
"In recent weeks I've also taken the decision, and certainly will be working with colleagues in Dublin, to include the ability for passengers in Dublin to be able to board a train for Derry," he added.
"To date, we have not had the opportunity to see Derry on a board when you are standing at (Dublin's) Connolly Station.
"So it is important to make people aware that you can get the train from Dublin to Derry also."
In October, Mr Hazzard gave the green light for a £26 million scheme to revamp Derry's historic Waterside railway station as part of a plan to boost transport links in the city.
It is expected to be completed by 2020.