SINN Féin’s Martina Anderson has called on the Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to explore extending the rail line in the north west, in order to tackle regional inequality and address significant gaps in the island’s rail network.
Said the Foyle MLA: “Although the Derry rail line leaves much to be improved, passenger numbers have been increasing year on year, reaching 3 million journeys in 2018-19.
“Rail has a huge part to play for our island moving forward, in terms of improving connectivity and in providing a sustainable alternative to car travel and tackling carbon emissions.
“More immediate upgrades such as the ‘phase 3’ improvements for the Derry to Coleraine line are highly anticipated and should be delivered as soon as possible.
“However, we should also be engaging in long-term planning in order to address the stark disparity of the rail network in the north west, compared to other parts of Ireland.
“This is demonstrated by the fact that of the 54 stations in the six counties only three are situated west of the Bann.
“I pointed to the example in Scotland where in recent years they have expanded a previously closed rail track from Edinburgh to the Scottish border with great success.
“At the committee meeting this week I called on the minister to look at exploring ways to extend the line to places such as Letterkenny and Strabane to address the glaring lack of infrastructure in the north west and building a real all-Ireland rail network.
“Although we are in a period of uncertainty with great challenges ahead, we also need to be planning for the future, and this should include delivering a public transport system that truly serves the whole island.”