Londonderry should hand back its City of Culture accolade if it fails to restore the city’s historic train station to its former glory, a pressure group says.
Rail lobby group Into The West warned that the opportunity to have the large, ornate Victorian train station refurbished was too good to miss.
Purchasing and restoring the currently vacant listed building is one of four options currently being consulted on by Translink.
The public have until next Friday to reply to the consultation, and there is now a drive to get people to back the restoration of the 1875 station as the preferred option.
Into The West members yesterday warned that it would be a tragedy if Derry did not secure a station befitting of its UK City of Culture status.
Into The West was instrumental in ensuring proposals that the Derry to Coleraine railway line be closed were defeated.
Their long years spent lobbying, buoyed by a second and more recent Belfast Telegraph campaign, resulted in a £30m upgrade of the Derry line, which reopened in March.
However the current, 33-year-old Waterside railway station, which replaced the Victorian one and is located beside it, has not been upgraded. This is despite the station being branded an “eyesore” and deemed unfit for purpose.
While putting forward different options for the future, Translink has made it clear it it has no money to progress the project. There was outrage earlier this week when Translink confirmed it pulls the shutters on the City of Culture’s only train station at 6pm six nights a week.
This means passengers are being forced to enter by an unmarked side gate and wait on an exposed platform for evening train services.
Into The West member Mary Casey said that the situation had to change. “We are in the north west regional periphery of Europe and if we don’t have the transport links, economic regeneration will not happen. We need infrastructure that fits our status as the City of Culture,” she said.
“Look at the number of historic buildings that have fallen into disrepair or which have been lost.
“We have a Victorian Lanyon-designed railway station and when it is refurbished people coming through will see the respect we give to our heritage buildings.”
Mrs Casey said the station was so unique that it had the potential to become a tourist attraction in its own right.
“The interior is so well designed with such skilled workmanship and these features are still there.”
Fellow Into The West member, architect Mary Kerrigan, said there was great potential to bring the station, with its clock tower and weather vane, back into use.
“Modern buildings are designed for a 50-year life span. The current station is 33 years old and not fit for use. We have lost a lot of the built heritage through the Troubles, we can’t afford to lose more.”
Ms Kerrigan suggested Translink and the National Trust could join to create a Giant’s Causeway and Journey West attraction along the north coast.
TRANSLINK’S FOUR OPTIONS FOR DERRY’S FUTURE STATION:
1) Refurbishment of the existing station with platform extension; new bus stops.
2) A new Ebrington station close to the Peace Bridge accessed via a new road off Duke Street roundabout.
3) Relocation to the original 1875 Victorian Waterside train station with new platforms, bus stops, parking and drop-off facilities
4) A new landscaped, multi-platform ‘Waterside Link’ station further north from the old station and closer to the Ebrington site
To have your say go to www.translink.co.uk/watersidestation before Friday, May 24.