MLAs call for reopening of Lisburn-Antrim railway line

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Assembly members have given their backing to a DUP motion calling for the reopening of the Lisburn to Antrim railway line.

The call for the reopening of the Knockmore Line, which closed in 2003, came on Monday during a Stormont private members’ debate on the need for rail services between Belfast city centre and Belfast International Airport.

South Antrim MLA Paul Girvan proposed: “That this Assembly expresses its concern at the lack of competitiveness and availability of rail services between Belfast city centre and Belfast International Airport; and calls on the Minister for Infrastructure to investigate all options for remedial action including the re-introduction of the Lisburn to Antrim rail link.”

Lagan Valley MLA Jenny Palmer welcomed the motion, but queried where the millions of pounds needed for the project would come from, particularly given the Brexit vote and the likely loss of EU funding.

Backing calls for a new rail link, DUP MLA Edwin Poots commented: “We do not believe that it will be delivered very quickly, but, nonetheless, we believe that it can be achieved, and we need to focus on it and target it.”

Speaking after Monday’s debate, during which it was revealed that it could be 2030 before the government considers building a rail link to the airport, Cllr Alex Redpath warned that putting the reopening of the Lisburn-Antrim line on the long finger could seriously limit the council’s options for expansion to the north west.

“Lisburn and Castlereagh are in the process of drawing up their local development plan which will shape development until 2030. The principle factor driving development is infrastructure and with the best will in the world the council can’t sign off jobs and development unless the infrastructure is there, or planned, to support the growth,” he said.

Calling on the Infrastructure Minister to “wake up and invest for growth”, the UUP man added: “Belfast International Airport is the only viable location for major growth in our aviation infrastructure. The main weakness of this site is its remoteness from major population centres. A high speed rail link will resolve this issue and generate significant economic growth for Northern Ireland.”