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Setting the record straight on Derry/Belfast rail investment– Ó hOisín

12 November, 2012 - by Cathal Ó hOisín

Sinn Féin Assembly Member Cathal Ó hOisín has dismissed comments by John Dallat as SDLP revisionism regarding investment in the Derry/Belfast railway line. Cathal Ó hOisín said:

"I would like to put the record straight on the debate which raises its head every time certain MLA’s need a headline or wish to dominate their Party conference. I will set out the sequence of events around investment in the Derry/Belfast rail line since the first Executive was established in 2000.

“In 2000, during the period of the first Executive when Mark Durkan was Finance Minister and Gregory Campbell was Regional Development, (DRD) Minister, the Railway Taskforce Report was adopted. This confined investment to what was then regarded as the core railway with no major investment on the remainder of the network – including the line between Ballymena and Derry. In the years 1999-2002 a total of £4.5m was bid for by DRD for works on the line. Some £1.5m was all that was actually invested. The decision to restrict investment was reviewed in 2004/05 by Direct Rule Ministers who decided that only investment in maintenance would be permitted in what was then regarded as the non-core lines.

“On becoming DRD Minister, in one of his first decisions in addressing the Derry/Belfast rail issue Conor Murphy lifted these investment restrictions on the Derry line north of Ballymena. This allowed for the preparation of a business case for a substantial upgrade of the line between Coleraine and Derry.

“A draft Investment Strategy including provision for the complete relay of the line between Coleraine and Derry commencing in 2011 was put before the Executive. This major project in addition to the new line, also involved provision of new signalling and a passing loop. Total costs were estimated to be around £64m.

“In addition to the major improvements to the railway track, provision had also been made for two additional trains which would facilitate the delivery of an enhanced level of service when the scheme was completed in 2013. This would have meant that journey times between Derry and Belfast would have been reduced by 30 minutes and commuter services into Derry could arrive before 9am.

“This was the situation regarding efforts to address the underdevelopment of the Derry/Belfast line when Conor Murphy relinquished the DRD Ministry and UUP Minister Danny Kennedy took over. I will leave it to the electorate to decide who, when they had the opportunity, put a focus on delivering proper rail services to the North West!

“There is no reason, if the political will is there, why the present DRD Minister cannot deliver on these proposed improvements. I have absolutely no doubt that if the present Minister follows the blueprint drawn up by Conor Murphy that we can have the rail link to Belfast that we are entitled to. Then we could concentrate on reinstating the link to Dublin also."

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