THE £30 million scheme on the Coleraine to Londonderry railway line has reopened ahead of schedule.
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy officially reopened the line last Thursday which was due to be completed in April.
To mark the occasion, a special train departed Belfast this morning and made the inaugural passenger journey to Derry-Londonderry picking-up civic dignitaries and community representatives along the route before a special re–opening ceremony took place in the city’s Millennium Forum.
Chief Executive, Catherine Mason, said: “This project will secure the long term future and sustainability of the Northern corridor rail link which provides vital connections to jobs, colleges, universities, shops, businesses and local attractions.
“Its revival will help strengthen the economic landscape in the North West and will also mean that the train is an attractive way to reach the UK City of Culture to join the celebrations planned for the months ahead. Translink is proud to be the official transport partner of the City of Culture.
“We have worked hard to complete this work ahead of schedule and before the busy Easter break. We want to celebrate the achievements of everyone involved in delivering the project and thank all our customers for their patience and support as we worked hard to improve local rail services.”
Services resumed on Sunday ahead of Easter and in time for many of the major events in the City of Culture year.
Minister Kennedy said: “This is an important day for this city and the North West. I want to congratulate all those involved in the successful completion of Phase 1 of this major project.
“I know that everyone in the north-west is looking forward to the full resumption of this important transport link between Coleraine and Londonderry, together with the improvement in those services by the modern trains which will be used on the line.
“Not only does this railway line improved transport connections across Northern Ireland but it also creates potential for tourism to grow during and after the UK City of Culture year.’’
The line was closed in July 2012 to allow essential renewals and safety works, including completing essential bridge works and the refurbishment of the Bann Bridge.
The estimated costs are over £30million supplied by the Department for Regional Development. Funding of €1.6million was secured through the European Union’s Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T) programme.
The works were contracted to McLaughlin and Harvey and a joint venture comprising two companies - BAM and FP McCann.
Continuing the Minister said: “I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to McLaughlin and Harvey, BAM and FP McCann and to all those from Translink, my own Department and from Europe in delivering this project and actually completing it ahead of schedule.
“This was a considerable task and the efforts of the contractors and the Translink staff have ensured that we are here today to re-open the line and resume services in time for Easter.”
Further works are planned to take place on the line during 2014/15 and in 2021.
The chairman of the Northern Corridor Railways Group, alderman James McClure, said: “Since the beginning of the year we have seen an improved service from Coleraine to Belfast and this expansion will be further enhanced by the re-opening of the local line which restores the connection between Northern Ireland’s two main cities.