TRANSPORT Minister Danny Kennedy is looking for people’s views through a public consultation exercise which begins on the future role for railways as part of an integrated and sustainable transport system in Northern Ireland.
It comes a decade after the Antrim to Knockmore line closed in June 2003 which included stations at Crumlin, Glenavy, Ballinderry and Knockmore. The Knockmore line was retained as an emergency diversionary route and a replacement bus service was since put in place for former rail passengers.
The closure brought much opposition from local councillors with many claiming strong public support for the reintroduction of the rail service.
The Minister announced his Department has started a public consultation exercise to seek views on how they should take forward and prioritise future investment in the railways here up to 2035.
“There will always be a continuous need to renew the train fleet, to maintain and upgrade existing lines, and to modernise stations as well as to keep under review opportunities to expand the network,” he said.
“Looking forward over the next 20 years, there has to be a strategic direction to determine the priority in which we should tackle new railways projects. Recently, I have received suggestions and proposals from interested parties as to how the railways network might be developed.”
To facilitate an informed debate on the future shape of the railways here the consultation document looks at projected future demand and sets out a range of options for future investment under eight distinct packages. Consultees are invited to prioritise these various packages in terms of their importance for Northern Ireland’s future transport needs taking account of best value for money and environmental considerations.
The Minister explained that planning future railway investment is necessary under the Department’s new approach to the development of regional transportation strategy after 2015. This new approach which was subject to public consultation in 2011 involves the development of a Regional Transportation Policy Prioritisation Framework within which strategic transportation investment programmes and schemes would be assessed against agreed strategic objectives and appraisal.
Danny Kennedy said: “The outcome of the consultation will be used to help determine which railway projects should have priority within the wider Regional Transportation Policy Prioritisation Framework. It is important the public has an opportunity to have its voice heard and in doing so help us determine the order in which railway projects should be taken forward.”
The consultation period will run until 12 April.
Everyone is welcome to contribute to the consultation and the Department looks forward to receiving public comment on the policy. The public can request the document by telephoning the Department on 028 90 540468, by email to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the DRD website at http://www.drdni.gov.uk/publications.