Belfast Telegraph

Minister feels heat over Londonderry-Coleraine train link

By Donna Deeney

Pressure is mounting on Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy to guarantee the upgrading of the rail link between Londonderry and Coleraine.

A delegation led by Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey is to meet the minister as a matter of urgency.

Last month Translink announced that because of a reduction in public funding, plans to begin upgrading the stretch of line between Derry and Coleraine would be deferred until 2014 and that the train service would be reduced from nine to five daily.

This provoked outrage in Derry were there are now fears that when the time comes, Translink may defer the upgrade again and this has prompted Mr Ramsey to seek the meeting with the minister.

Mr Ramsey said: "Danny Kennedy has agreed to meet to discuss pushing ahead with the upgrade and I am in the process of contacting relevant people to possibly accompany me to that meeting. My fear is that if a reduced service is in operation until 2014 with just five trains leaving Derry instead of nine at times which are not the optimum times, then people will naturally stop using the train completely, and then the fall in numbers will be used as an excuse not to invest in the line when 2014 comes.

"At the minute Translink is saying that its budget has been cut because of the recession, but the current financial predictions don't indicate that there will be much of an improvement in the near future.

"My worry is that, come 2014, Translink will once again say that because of budget cuts the line between Derry and Coleraine cannot be upgraded and people can just take the bus."

A Translink spokesperson said: "Translink are very much committed to developing the Londonderry line and want to attract even more people to use both train and bus in the area. In order to sustain passenger numbers using public transport we are introducing an integrated hourly coach and rail service between Coleraine and Derry throughout the day."

Background

The stretch of railway line between Coleraine and Derry has been described as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world.

Former Monty Python member Michael Palin hailed the trip as unmissable in one of his travel documentaries.

The line travels along the scenic north west coastline taking in rugged cliff, pristine beaches and sand dunes.

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