Times haven’t changed on Derry-Belfast line

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SDLP MLA John Dallat has called upon the Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, “to get on with the job of creating a high speed inter-city service between Belfast and Londonderry.

Someone taking the train from Derry to Belfast in 1948 could expect to arrive at York Road Station - which was the then terminus for this historic railway - in 1 hour 15 minutes. The train was, of course steam and travelled over more than 200 level crossings.

Today, modern diesel trains capable of speeds of up to 90 miles per hour terminate at Great Victoria Station which is closer to the city centre but still takes 2 hours 15 minutes - exactly what it took almost 70 years ago.

The answer was given to Mr Dallat, who is his party’s Spokesperson on Regional Development by Mr Kennedy.

Mr Dallat told The Coleraine Times: “The answer from the Minister Danny Kennedy emphasises the need to get on with the job of creating a high speed inter-city service which will take people out of their cars or indeed buses and use our modern railway system where they have choice.

“The recent announcement by Mr Kennedy that he has signed a contract for new signalling equipment and a passing loop at Bellarena will do much to move things forward and should have been met with universal approval.

“Sadly it didn’t but when those who were negative realise that the travel time in 70 years hasn’t shortened perhaps they will realise that there is still much to be done to enable our two major cities to have a state of the art intercity service which will draw even more passengers.

“While I congratulate Translink on getting the number of unmanned level crossings reduced I urge them to continue with this programme which will mean that the new trains can achieve their top speed of 90 miles per hour on some sections of the track.”

Meanwhile East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell welcomed the announcement by Mr Kennedy tof the latest upgrade to the Derry line.

Mr Campbell said: “There have been numerous issues and problems associated with the required upgrades to this line so today’s statement is very welcome news.

“The longer term solution is fast trains operating between Belfast, Coleraine to Londonderry. This would be a viable alternative to road transportation and has to be the objective over the medium term.”