Belfast Telegraph

Influx of civil servants will require new rail link: MLA

By Brendan McDaid

Translink has said it has no current plans to include Ballykelly in its upgrade of the Belfast-to-Londonderry train line.

The confirmation comes after calls for the town to be designated a rail destination ahead of the Department of Agriculture relocating there.

Translink did say it has already begun consultation on facilitating travel plans for the staff who will be relocating to the new site.

East Londonderry Sinn Fein MLA Cathal O hOisin has called for a rail link on the Derry-to-Coleraine line to be factored in as part of the current upgrade works.

The Derry line is closed at present as part of a £27m upgrade.

It is not expected to reopen until late spring 2013.

Earlier this week Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill confirmed that her party’s long-standing commitment to decentralise the department headquarters away from Belfast would go ahead.

A total of 800 staff will be based at the former Army base in Shackleton barracks, with the move set to completed by the start of 2015.

The minister received a warm welcome from local dignitaries when she visited the barracks site yesterday morning. Mr O hOisin said that Ms O’Neill’s ministerial colleague in Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, should consider installing a rail link to Ballykelly village in light of the move.

He said the relocation “opens up other possibilities that would help in regenerating the local economy”.

“One of these possibilities would be for DRD Minister Danny Kennedy to give serious consideration to establishing a spur link and rail halt in the village as part of the upgrade to the Derry-Belfast railway line.

“The railway line already runs through the site and the installation of a spur would not entail a major redesign of the work that is already being undertaken.

“All parties talk about decentralisation of public-service jobs, but here we have Minister Michelle O'Neill putting it into effect.

“I will seek a meeting with Minister Kennedy to put this proposition to him and seek his support in providing easy access to this location by public transport,” Mr O hOisin added.

“Such cross-departmental co-operation would give a welcome financial injection into the local economy and a boost to community confidence.”

A spokeswoman for Translink responded, saying: “Following the recent announcement regarding the Department of Agriculture’s proposed move to Ballykelly, there are no current plans to include a rail link to the site as part of (Derry-line) upgrade works.

“We will, however, discuss all traffic and transport requirements with the Northern Ireland Civil Service and work with them to help develop travel plans for those staff relocating.

“We have already made contact to begin this process,” she added.

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