Belfast Telegraph

Derry train on track: Stormont finds £27m to upgrade crucial route before Culture year

Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

After the euphoria of the decision to save the Londonderry rail line, now the hard work begins.

This week the Executive announced that funding had been secured for work to upgrade the line to be completed in time for the City of Culture celebrations in 2013, following the Belfast Telegraph’s high-profile Keep Derry On Track campaign.

But now the race begins for Translink to get everything in place for the upgrade of the line in time — including securing planning permission, procurement and tendering processes.

A Translink spokeswoman said it welcomed the announcement from Department for Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy.

She added: “This engineering work commences the necessary relay of the rail line and will mean that instead of the planned five return rail journeys per day planned for 2013, there will be eight when this phase of the work is complete at the end of March 2013. Work to complete the full re-lay and upgrade of the track will then take place after 2013.

“We pay tribute to the Minister for Regional Development and the Executive for securing this additional funding. It is a reflection of his on-going strong support for passenger transport in Norther Ireland and in the north west in particular.”

The decision to upgrade the rail line between Derry and Coleraine will bring huge economic benefits during City of Culture year, tourism experts have predicted.

One of Northern Ireland’s leading tourism operators, Martin McCrossan, said: “This is the second time Danny Kennedy reversed an ill-thought-out decision in these past number of weeks and I would like to congratulate all the MLAs for seeing the sense in moving forward on the rail line.

He added: “In the tourist trade there is really good co-operation between Derry and Belfast to promote each other's area because we know that visitors to Derry will want to see Belfast too, and visitors to Belfast will want to come to Derry.

“This is exactly why going ahead with the upgrade in time for City of Culture year in 2013 will bring huge economic benefits to Derry and the north west, but also to the rest of the country.”

Mayor of Derry Maurice Devenney said: “I am delighted with minister Kennedy’s announcement which indicates that the works to upgrade the rail link between the city and Coleraine will go ahead, with plans to complete in early in 2013.

“This is an important decision that will benefit the city during the City of Culture year and demonstrates the willingness of the Executive to consider the priority issues that will make a difference for the city and region.

“The combined effort of all agencies to provide a single voice on an initiative that is central to the success of the regeneration of the city is to be commended”.

Chairman of urban regeneration firm Ilex, Sir Roy McNulty, added: “We support the minister’s decision and the commitment from the Executive to upgrade the railway line with work commencing in July 2012.

“Integrated transport is an essential component of the regeneration plan for Derry.

“Improving the city’s infrastructure and connectivity is vital if we are to build a stronger and more vibrant economy.

“We welcome minister Kennedy’s long-term commitment to the sustainability of the Derry-Londonderry railway line.”

Story so far

The Executive has announced that work on the rail line between Coleraine and Londonderry will begin sooner than planned, ahead of the City of Culture year in 2013. The Executive has approved £27m of funding so work can begin next July, rather than in 2014. The money has been transferred from the budget for the A5 Derry to Dublin road upgrade. It is hoped eight daily return services will be running by April 2013.

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