Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Tracking the sorry saga of a rail failure

The Belfast to Londonderry rail route passes through some of the loveliest scenery in Northern Ireland and passengers certainly have plenty of time to admire the view as the trains crawl along.

It is quicker to go by bus between the province's two major cities than by rail. That was all supposed to change with a major upgrade of the line, but now the work will not start until 2014 because of cuts in public spending.

Instead essential safety work will be carried out on the line and one third of train journeys from Belfast will end at Coleraine with passengers bussed the rest of the journey.

Can there be a greater demonstration of the ineptitude in public transport planning than this sorry saga?

The faults with the Belfast to Derry rail route have been well known for years and efforts to address them should have started long before now.

The choice of Derry as the UK's inaugural City of Culture in 2013 should result in a tourism bonanza for the city. Ensuring that all roads - and railway lines - lead to the Maiden City should be a priority for the Executive at Stormont but the signs are not encouraging.

Instead those wishing to visit Derry will experience a decidedly third-rate rail transport system. What sort of an advertisement is that to visitors, especially since tourism is one of the province's major revenue earners?

There are also other economic reasons for wanting better public transport services. Given the ever-increasing price of diesel and petrol, and Translink's desire to increase passenger numbers, it would make sense to ensure that all bus and rail links in what is a relatively small province operate to maximum efficiency, thereby attracting more customers.

However on this rail link the public transport body - because of lack of funding - will more likely force many passengers to travel by car or else stay at home.

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