Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Future of public transport must not be hostage to short-term excuses

29 September, 2004

Sinn Féin Regional Development Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has said that the future of public transport must not be hostage to short-term excuses. Addressing a meeting of party activists from across the North West region, Mr McCartney said:

"The future of public transport must not be held hostage to short-term financial thinking because this will only generate excuses and will not lead to the creation of a genuine regional transport strategy. Economic and social development, particularly for the North West, requires a major expansion of public transport including rail.

"Trains are a faster, less polluting and safer form of transport and rail has an important role in any future sustainable transport system for people and freight. This requires an expansion of the current network to provide fast intercity links between the major cities and reliable and a safe freight transport system. NIR is one of the world's smallest publicly owned and operated passenger railways. This creates huge disadvantages in terms of economies of scale. We believe that the creation of a unitary Irish railway system can unlock the huge potential of rail.

"The absence of freight services on the NIR system is a disgrace, in terms of both economic viability and environmental impact, particularly when Iarnród Éireann carries over three million tonnes of freight per annum. We need a major expansion of rail freight transport throughout the island linking all the major centres of population and ports. This would include railheads at the Larne and Derry harbours and the building of stations at airport sites.

"Derry is designated as regional capital and gateway to the North West in both the Regional Development Strategy and the National Spatial Strategy. This demands the development of the transport links including the railway. New rolling stock, and a limited stop service between Belfast and Derry at peak hours could bring the journey time down to about 1≤ hours, we need to assess how this works before any decisions are made on future links. The Derry-Belfast line should be upgraded to a full inter city standard, providing connections to the north west of Ireland and the west coast as well as to Belfast Metropolitan Area, Dublin and the eastern seaboard and to Britain and beyond.

"We need to see Ministers, north and south, urgently begin to work with all stakeholders in the north west to develop a spatial plan for the region as part of an all-Ireland transport and infrastructural strategy and that this must include a viable and modern rail service." ENDS

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