Dallat hits out at DRD Minister Danny Kennedy

John Dallat
John Dallat

SDLP regional development spokesperson John Dallat says an assurance from the regional development minister, and promises by senior executives of Translink does not convince him that a critical upgrade of the Belfast to Londonderry railway is a done deal.

Speaking after Danny Kennedy and Translink executives appeared before the DRD Committee at Stormont on Wednesday, Mr Dallat said: “Certainly, the minister was impressive when he gave a commitment to prioritise this project but he must be mindful that this is the third project in the North West to be long-fingered.”

Mr Dallat said: “It is critical that the upgrade of this railway does not become a victim of the current round of austerity measures sweeping the Assembly. Much of the £40m projected in this scheme is buried in new signalling equipment to replace equipment dating back to the 1930s and should have happened years ago, when the plan was to close this now highly successful line.”

It was revealed the Coleraine to Derry rail line upgrade project has doubled in cost. The original cost was estimated at £20m to £22m, but has now risen to £40m. Mr Kennedy had told the committee Translink’s costing for the project was a “guesstimate”. On Wednesday, Mr Kennedy said Translink’s chief executive would carry out a review to examine how the cost was underestimated.

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has said minister Danny Kennedy must explain why he delayed announcing a major increase in the cost of signalling on the Derry to Coleraine rail line.

“The huge underestimation of costs for signalling on the Derry to Coleraine line, which saw the costs rise from £20m to £40m, caused widespread concern. The committee was told that the minister was aware of the scale of the underestimation in June yet he did not tell the committee until September. Danny Kennedy must explain why he did not tell the scrutiny committee about such a serious development,” said Mr. Ó hOisín.