Coleraine to Londonderry railway line back on track

The Londonderry to Coleraine train passing Downhill, in Co Londonderry. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The Londonderry to Coleraine train passing Downhill, in Co Londonderry. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

The contracts for a major scheme to complete re-signalling works and a passing loop on the Coleraine to Londonderry railway line have been awarded.

Transport Minister, Danny Kennedy said that Babcock, a leading supplier in the UK rail infrastructure market, was the successful bidder to deliver the signalling scheme, as part of an overall project costing £46million. Local firm, McLaughlin & Harvey, has also been awarded the contract for the construction of a passing loop at Bellarena.

The Minister said: “I am very pleased to announce today (Tuesday) that work can now progress on this important project.

“My commitment to the Coleraine to Londonderry rail line has always been clear and I have worked hard to ensure that this line remained open.

“The project is a key Programme for Government (PfG) commitment and is evidence of the Executive’s determination to invest in our rail network. It also signals our continuing commitment to invest in the North West and improve connections and frequency of service between Belfast and Londonderry.”

In November 2014, the Minister commissioned an independent review of the project following concerns that the original cost estimate for the scheme was significantly underestimated.

Continuing the Minister said: “The outcome of the review provided me with the assurance to press on with the project. It did make it clear, however, that there might be limited interest in the signalling project due to the scale of railway investment being carried forward in Great Britain.

“Happily Translink has now awarded the contract to Babcock a company renowned for its engineering excellence. The overall cost at £46million is higher than originally envisaged but reflects the market we are competing in. I will make the funding available from my capital budget and the project should be largely completed by December 2016.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “This is good news for the North West and good news for the railways. The path to today’s announcement has not been straightforward. It has not been without criticism. I have remained committed to the North West and to this project and today is tangible evidence of that commitment.”

Clive Bradberry, Translink Infrastructure Executive said, “The Derry~Londonderry line is already extremely successful boosting strong passenger growth - up 12% last year. This announcement today is great news for the North West and a further demonstration of our unwavering commitment to secure the long term future and sustainability of this important rail corridor.

“Work will be starting in the coming weeks and will be substantially complete by the end of 2016. Our passengers will be reassured to know that there will be minimal impact as work will primarily be carried out during the night. There will be some temporary travel arrangements needed during the course of the project such as weekend line closures but we will communicate these and any interim travel arrangements in good time, once confirmed.

“As always, we would also appeal to the public to keep vigilant around level-crossings during this intensive phase of engineering work.”

East Londonderry MLA, George Robinson, said today’s announcement was ‘good news for the north west’.

“The project has been delayed, but, today’s news it is now being progressed is good news for the north west and especially passengers,” he said.

“As passenger numbers have been steadily growing since the investment in new trains and track, the completion of Phase 2 of the project will bring the hourly service long wanted by Translink between Londonderry and Belfast will be a step closer.

“I look forward to seeing the project completed and the improved service that has been desired for so long become a reality.”