I'm appalled to see the new NI Railways timetables (starting August 30), which add significant weight to my belief that Translink is attempting to close the Newry line by slowly choking it to death.
For those of us south of Portadown who haven't yet given up on train travel, here are the commuter options available. In the mornings there's a 7.15am train; miss it and you're waiting until 8.50am to arrive in Belfast by 9.45am, which is frankly no good to anyone doing a day's work. In the evenings there's a 5.21pm and a 6.05pm. Dare you stay on a little later, or go for a quick drink after work, your next train is 9.15pm. Yes, that's right, three hours and 10 minutes later.
In effect, if we want to take a train from Newry we can only do so if our office hours fall neatly into this most rigid of schedules.
In reality this timetable, coupled with the cuts delivered in the previous iteration, have all but severed rail as a public transport option for the majority of commuters from the area.
Translink will cite a lack of numbers as the reason. But here's the thing - when it built that new station and car park five years ago, was its purpose not to increase train travel from Newry, to make it a genuine hub on the Dublin-Belfast line? Generations of Newry commuters still endure a hangover from the days when we had trains, but had nowhere to park. These people need encouraged onto trains. But instead they will be joined in their cars on the M1 by a new generation who will gain an equal distrust for rail travel due to the lack of frequent trains.
For those politicians spending their time and our money pursuing a pipe-dream of reconnecting Armagh to the rail network, may I suggest you turn your attentions towards this more pressing and real issue instead?