A slap in the face

Rail services from Coleraine and Londonderry are to be reduced due to funding constraints, Translink has said.

The number of daily trains between Londonderry and Coleraine is to be reduced from nine to five - despite the numbers of people using the line increasing by 140% and the route operating at 90% capacity.

The move will leave Derry with just five trains a day during the City of Culture year in 2013, a time when many thousands of tourists are expected to travel there.

Translink is citing a reduction in public funding for re-laying the complete track - now deferred until 2014 - as the reason for the reduced service from next January.

World-renowned railway enthusiast Michael Palin listed the Derry to Coleraine journey along the coast as among the Great Railway Journeys of the World and the route is a huge draw for tourists every year.

The company has not ruled out job losses, after it emerged that the number of trains travelling that route will be reduced from nine a day to five from next year.

In a statement, Translink said: “In order to address the reduction in public funding available over the next years, we are planning changes to some of our routes and services.

“We do plan to increase the frequency of our Goldline Coach services between Coleraine and Londonderry which will offer customers better integration between bus and rail in the area.”

SDLP East Londonderry MLA John Dallat says the reduction in service is a slap in the face for the North West.

“I am devastated by the news that the service between Derry and Coleraine is to be shrunk by 40% at a time when the increase in passengers on the line is in the order of 140%,” he said.

“It is very difficult not to feel that once again the North West has been shafted by the Executive which should be a beacon of light shining into a new future where the injustices, discrimination and inequality of the past is no more.”

It is claimed that 28 employees will be affected by the changes.

“Any impact on jobs will require serious consideration and will form part of our continued consultation with trade unions as we explore all appropriate options,” Translink said.

Alliance councillor Barney Fitzpatrick said: “This planned reduction is deeply disappointing. A significant number of people are employed with Translink in this region and every effort must be made to maintain all jobs.

“We should be looking to increase services where possible to try and encourage more people to use public transport.”

His party colleague, councillor Yvonne Boyle, added: “This is sad news for Coleraine and Derry. Our public transport infrastructure is so important for the community, for tourism and for increasing sustainability and this news is very troubling.”