25/08/2011

Minister Pledges Backing For Derry Rail Line

The future of the picturesque rail link along the North Coast to Londonderry from Coleraine has again been assured.

The NI Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy (pictured) has visited Londonderry to reassure people in the North West of his commitment to the rail line.

The Ulster Unionist Minister has met local Councillors, MLAs, MPs and other interested parties to make a public commitment to maintain and upgrade the Londonderry rail line.

He said: "As soon as I was aware of the public meeting, I offered to attend to reassure the people of the North West that I intend to not only maintain but upgrade the Londonderry to Coleraine rail line."

That's against a background of Mr Kennedy announcing that work on the line would be delayed because of a lack of funding.

Last week, he said a full upgrade - costing £75m - would now not be completed until 2016-17.

Instead safety work will start next year. A third of passengers will be transferred by bus while the work is underway.

After the meeting he said: "I am committed to the Londonderry rail link and also maintaining it.
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"I have been open and honest and said I don't have £75m at the minute. I think there is a significant challenge in terms of the current budget that I inherited."

The Minister has now said he will ask the Stormont Executive for more money for a major upgrade of the Londonderry to Coleraine railway line.

In other local news, the Alliance Regional Development Spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA added his backing to an associated issue and has strongly supported a recent call for a train halt for City of Derry Airport.

"Having a halt at the airport would make real sense as extra transport links could help boost our tourism industry.

"It is crucial that planned upgrade and repair work on the Londonderry line which has been delayed is completed as soon as possible so that we can make the most of the potential this important route holds," he said.

"I got the Stormont Regional Development Committee to agree to visit all three main airports and I believe it's vital that we closely examine the options as regards rail links.

"Rail links to our main airports are extremely important in terms of our infrastructure and to help encourage more people to use public transport," the MLA continued.

"It is vital that excellent public transport links are in place at our airports as this is one of the first things that tourists or potential investors will see when they arrive," he concluded.

(GK/BMcC)

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