Alliance representative David Ford has called for the publication of a detailed strategy for the restoration of a full passenger service on the Antrim to Lisburn railway, as well as maximising the benefits of the Bleach Green line.
Mr Ford travelled on the last trains from Antrim to Lisburn and back at the weekend, when the Railway Preservation Society put on special steam services to mark the cessation of passenger services. Speaking at Antrim station afterwards, Mr Ford said that he would be raising the issues with the new Minister of Regional Development, John Spellar, at a meeting this week.
David Ford said:
“I find it inconceivable that passenger services have now been withdrawn between Antrim and Lisburn and the line is being mothballed. According to the Department of Regional Development, this is a strategic transport route. Antrim and Lisburn are major growth towns in the Regional Development Strategy, and Crumlin is a secondary growth town. The line runs along the boundary fence of the International Airport.
“Nowhere else in Europe would such a line be closed.
“There is now an urgent need to develop a strategy for the full circle line, from Antrim to Belfast via Whiteabbey and onward via Lisburn and Crumlin to Antrim.
“Only public transport can deal with the growing numbers of commuters from all over South Antrim into Belfast. Experience elsewhere shows that a good quality train service is much the most effective way of attracting commuters out of their cars.”
Mr Ford said he was also seeking a meeting with Translink to discuss the need for a new station to serve Templepatrick.
He stated: “It is ridiculous that two years after the opening of the Bleach Green line there is no station between Antrim and Mossley to allow local people to benefit from the railway.
“At present there is a very controversial plan to provide a ‘Park and Ride’ service into Belfast from the Ballyhenry Road, just off Sandyknowes roundabout. I believe that this would actually add to the congestion at Sandyknowes.
“Translink should be making a detailed study of the establishment of an alternative ‘Park and Ride’ at Ballymartin, beside the Templepatrick junction of the M2. This would provide a service to residents in Templepatrick and Ballyclare, as well as drawing other commuters off the M2 before they hit the jams at Sandyknowes.
“When the Assembly debated the Regional Transport Strategy, Alliance argued for a further shift of resources towards public transport. Unfortunately, Peter Robinson, who was then the Minister, did not listen and people in South Antrim are suffering as a result.”