SOUTH Antrim Alliance MLA David Ford has expressed the Party’s opposition to the apparent intention of the Department of Regional Development to close “non-core” rail lines in response to the Railway Review Group’s report on the future of the Northern Ireland railway network today.
David Ford said:
“The entire rail network, like other public transport, has suffered from decades of under-investment. The lack of Government emphasis on public transport generally and on rail specifically has left us a legacy of poorly maintained track, with the result that speed restrictions are required along many sections.
“This situation needs to be redressed, in order that the rail network can operate at peak efficiency and compete with road-based transport
“People will not get out of their cars if a viable alternative is not in place.
“If we look at countries with successful integrated public transportation systems, they are built on the core of an efficient rail transport network.
“As we have seen in other regions, mothballing railway lines invariably leads to closure and to further shrinkage of core services. We have already seen this happen on the Knockmore line, although there is clear evidence that developing new services on the whole ‘circle line’, including Antrim, Templepatrick, Whiteabbey, Lisburn, and Crumlin, would attract a large number of commuters.
“There must be significant investment on the network, combined with a comprehensive marketing strategy, an approach endorsed by transportation industry professionals.
“Such development of our rail network has the potential to bring huge environmental and economic benefits. With vision and investment, the stretch of line between Portrush and Derry, for example, could be exploited and marketed as a major tourist resource, following as it does one of the most scenic routes in these islands.
“The discussion on Northern Ireland’s rail network should be one focused on development and expansion of services on all existing lines.
“Alliance played a part in saving the railway and getting the new rolling stock during the life of the first Assembly. We will continue to press for realistic levels of investment, to produce quality services, in the future.”
The Alliance Party response to the Railways Review Groups report can be read on the party’s website: http://www.allianceparty.org/showconsultation.asp?id=23