Complete Phase 3 Works to Derry-Belfast Train Line

Complete Phase 3 Works to Derry-Belfast Train Line

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Steve Bradley started this petition to Katrina Godfrey (Department for Infrastructure - Permanent Secretary) and

The Department for Infrastructure have decided that no improvements to Derry's second-class rail service will happen until 2027 AT THE EARLIEST.

BACKGROUND

In 2001 the railway track between Derry and Coleraine was near the end of its life. At that time only 500,000 passengers used the line to Belfast every year.

Stormont and Translink's response was to shut the line west of Coleraine. Local rail lobby ‘Into the West’ was established to fight this, and their successful campaign saved the line and forced Stormont to upgrade the track instead.

BROKEN PROMISES OVER THE WORK

Work to modernise the track was originally planned for 2013, but would have impacted Derry's year as City of Culture. So the job was split into 3 distinct phases instead :

- Phase 1 – Completed early 2013.

- Phase 2 – Completed 2016, and enabled hourly trains to run from Derry, Castlerock and Bellarena.

- Phase 3 – Supposed to happen in 2021, but funding wasn't allocated before Stormont collapsed (2017).

The Department for Infrastructure has now stated that the third and final phase of work to upgrade Derry’s train line WON'T HAPPEN UNTIL AT LEAST 2027 – 14 years after it was supposed to be completed. And that date could slip even further.

A SECOND-CLASS RAIL SERVICE

The Phase 3 work is about increasing speed and capacity on Derry's rail line. Until it's completed, there can be NO further improvements to trail services from Derry. We currently have a considerably worse rail service than every station on the line East of the Bann :

a) Only one train from Derry reaches Belfast before 9am in the morning. Coleraine and stations east have FOUR such services. Even Portrush has TWO.

b) Every weekday during peak hours (4-6pm) there is a half-hourly train frequency on all stops from Belfast only as far as Coleraine. The 3 stations west of the Bann (Derry, Bellarena & Castlerock) are left with just an hourly service.

c) The last train to Derry on a Saturday evening leaves Belfast at 9:10pm - i.e. too early to attend concerts, theatre etc by rail. There are two later trains which stop at all stations as far as Coleraine only - the last of which leaves Belfast at 10:40pm. 

d) On a Sunday, only 6 trains operate from Derry whilst 13 operate on all stops between Coleraine and Belfast. All stations east of Coleraine have an hourly Sunday service, whilst Derry/Bellarena/Castlerock are only every two hours.  

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ?

The Derry-to-Belfast railway line now carries over 3 million passengers a year (up from 500,000 in 2001). Since hourly trains were introduced from Derry in 2017 (after Phase 2 of the track modernisation work completed), passenger numbers west of the Bann have increased 61% - the biggest growth in rail anywhere on the island. When rail services here are improved, more people use them. But until Phase 3 is completed Derry's second-class service can't improve any further.

Phase 3 is the key that will unlock the following major improvements for rail in the north-west :

1) Faster Journey times to Belfast.

2) More frequent trains.

3) Express services, with fewer stops.

4) A new station in the Eglinton area.

5) Through-trains from Derry to Dublin.

6) The possibility of line extensions (e.g. to Strabane or Letterkenny).

Phase 3 is therefore the key to any future rail improvements in the north-west. 

HOW MUCH WILL PHASE 3 COST ?

The Department for Infrastructure has costed the Phase 3 works at £30m. That compares with £220m for dualling the A6 between Drumahoe & Dungiven (19 miles), and £90m spent on Belfast's new Glider bus so far. Stormont Civil Servants have both the money and the power to approve the Phase 3 works.

Fighting for Phase 3 is demanding Derry’s fair share, and will unlock major improvements for rail across the north-west.

To help make it happen please sign this petition calling on the Department for Infrastructure, the NI Secretary of State and Derry & Strabane District Council to reprioritise the Phase 3 works to happen as soon as possible – starting no later than the end of 2020.

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At 5,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!