Belfast Telegraph

We do need alternatives to car, says Sammy Wilson as he gets in a jam

By Brendan McDaid

The Finance Minister has said he appreciates the need for alternatives to travelling by road after getting caught in tailbacks on the way to Londonderry.

But Sammy Wilson said that any spending decision on the future of the Derry to Coleraine railway line is a decision for his Executive colleague, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy.

Speaking to the North West Telegraph, Mr Wilson said: “Certainly, having driven up the road this morning and seeing the tailbacks, I think there is a good argument for having effective alternative transport for people, particularly those living outside the city.

“That will be a decision for the DRD minister. Ministers hate me making comments on how they should spend their money. They believe they should be able to make priorities for themselves.

“I don’t know enough about the options open to the DRD. I know there are considerable calls on the budget. The Larne line in my own area carries 1.3 million a year. There are all of those competing demands.”

Mr Wilson said he did not want to pre-empt decisions by Mr Kennedy, “but I have heard the concerns and I have no doubt the groups will make their views known when they meet with all the ministers over the next six weeks”.

It emerged yesterday that the Derry Chamber of Commerce is to call for an investigation into where £75m previously earmarked for the upgrade of the 33-mile rail track has gone.

The funding had been budgeted for by former minister responsible for transport, Conor Murphy. However, only £20m has been allocated to be spent in the line upgrade in the current four-year term of Government.

No firm commitment has been given by the Executive that the full funding will be available to complete the project.

The upgrade had originally been due to get under way this year, but has been delayed until after Derry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2013.

Belfast Telegraph

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