Alliance Assembly member Sean Neeson has claimed that Northern Ireland requires a long-term rail strategy if it is to approach European levels of public transport provision.
The East Antrim MLA stated: “Compared to other regions in Western Europe, Northern Ireland’s public transport system is appallingly underdeveloped, and there are no serious plans for improvement.
“While the Republic of Ireland is moving on with its ‘Transport 21’ initiative to create a modern rail network catering for rural as well as urban areas, we are lagging behind with a clear lack of strategic thinking. The purchase of 17 new trains is welcome, but the planning is clearly piecemeal, as evidenced by further delays in opening the Larne line and the simple fact that not enough new rolling stock was purchased.
“Translink has come under pressure for this, but the lack of strategic direction is the responsibility of the Department of Regional Development. It must provide the necessary direction and resources to expand and modernize the network and encourage people to use it.
“Local elected politicians must make advances on this issue a priority should devolution be restored. Northern Ireland deserves nothing less that its own ‘Transport 21’ initiative, towards a modern, efficient and value-for-money public transport system. That is the only way to encourage people to use it.”