‘Rail’ cynicism over Departmental consultation: Close

ALLIANCE Assembly member Seamus Close (Lagan Valley) has expressed considerable cynicism over the Department of Regional Development’s plans for consultation on the future of the railway network.

Mr Close said: “I am amazed that the Minister is seeking rail consultation; after all, it was his Department that shattered public faith in consultation recently.

“Many people believe it will be a cosmetic exercise and a waste of time. Why? Because of the experience of hundreds of people from Crumlin, Ballinderry, Antrim and Lisburn who were concerned about the Antrim-Knockmore line.

“During their ‘consultation’, they took time and trouble to write to the Department to defend their rail link. They urged, beseeched and pleaded with the Department not to close their line – but they were totally ignored. After it was deliberately run down, their service was scrapped, so they are entirely sceptical about this new exercise, and the Government’s true commitment to our railway network.

“The question for rail users is: how can we be convinced that John Spellar’s Department will be serious and listen to people this time? Has the Department already made its mind up, like last time? Does it plan to run down services to justify future track closures? The credibility gap has yet to be bridged.”

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