Rail campaigners have said they are “gobsmacked” at Translink’s decision to run a special train for Derry GAA fans on Saturday — from Belfast.
The Oak Leafers face Galway in the All-Ireland football semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin (throw-in 5.30 pm).
Translink ran a special train from Portadown for Armagh supporters to their quarter-final fixture in Dublin last month.
Now it’s offering a service for Derry fans to travel for their first semi-final appearance in 18 years, departing and arriving at Belfast’s Lanyon Place station — miles away from the county.
Campaigners condemned the decision as an “insult to everyone in County Derry” and said it was further evidence Translink refuses to provide equal treatment for services in the west.
Chair of Into The West Steve Bradley said: “Interest in this fixture is high across the county, and given the high price of fuel and obvious issues with traffic and parking in Dublin, everything should be done to make public transport a viable option to get people to Croke Park this weekend.
“So, for Translink to think it is acceptable to run a special train for Derry fans that goes nowhere near the county is just baffling.
“Belfast’s Lanyon Place station is 30 miles from the Antrim/Derry border, 70 miles from Derry city and 52 miles from Coleraine.
“In 2018 the European Union spent €27m creating a fantastic new train station in Derry, and since then rail demand has boomed.
“The train line between Derry city and Belfast has four stations in the county, including its two largest towns (Derry and Coleraine), and a station at Bellarena that is close to its third biggest town (Limavady).
“Ridiculously, the service will also stop in counties Antrim, Armagh and Down, but not in the very county it is supposed to be catering for.
“The train also won’t arrive back into Belfast until 11pm on Saturday night, two hours after the last rail service has departed for Derry city and 10 minutes after the final train has left for Coleraine.
“So this ‘special’ Derry service is of no use whatsoever to people from the county.”
Translink is also running a dedicated bus to Croke Park from Derry city on Saturday, offering 80 seats for a place with a population of 105,000.
It sold out quickly, which Mr Bradley said showed demand was high and public transport provision for the fixture “wholly inadequate”.
“Translink have previously provided special trains from Derry city to Dublin, as they did for the 2018 visit of the Pope, so it is definitely possible,” he argued.
Into The West has launched a petition to demand that Saturday’s train starts and ends in Derry, and for any future trains aimed at the county’s sports fans to likewise run through the county.
It is calling on MLAs whose constituencies the rail line passes through to also take this issue up with Translink.
Mr Bradley believe there are obvious solutions and urged Translink to do the right thing.
“The days of putting everything in Belfast, even when it’s supposed to be for and about people in the north west, must finally be brought to an end,” he added.
Translink said there were special coaches leaving Foyle Street in Derry, Dungiven and Maghera travelling to Dublin for Saturday’s big game.
“A rail special is also running from Belfast to Dublin (return) on Saturday for those wishing to travel by train,” it added.
“Passengers can use scheduled services to connect with this train.
“We will assess requirements from bookings for onward connections for the return journey as the week progresses, subject to demand.”Tags: