Fresh calls to reopen Lisburn to Antrim passenger line which closed more than a decade ago

Fresh calls are being made to reopen a regional passenger line which was closed by Translink almost two-decades ago.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 10:21 am
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 10:22 am
David Honeyford

A Lisburn and Castlereagh councillor is now pushing for the former Knockmore to Antrim line to reopen to paying passengers.

The railway line was mothballed in 2003, leaving residents in Glenavy and Crumlin without a train service.

Last year, the Department of Infrastructure spent around £20m to deliver the rail services and maintenance on the network.

Alliance councillor and Killultagh elected representative David Honeyford said the closed line was showing the “wasted potential” in the area.

He added: “Everything at this present minute seems to be a little bit disjointed. We are giving planning permission to build houses in lower Ballinderry but there’s a railway station in upper Ballinderry.

“We need to zone the land where we can interconnect the railways, road network, park and rides and even the infrastructure for electric charging points in Lisburn and Castlereagh is non-existent at present.

“The Belfast circle railway line idea that was discussed at our annual party conference, you can bring the Belfast International Airport in as part of that. There’s a railway running beside the airport and yet it’s not running because the business case previously said that they needed the car parking revenue.

“If a visitor flies into Belfast then a car park isn’t going to be much good to them unless they drive, it’s so short-sighted and small minded. We need to be thinking about what is best strategically for the area.

“Now more than ever we need to be thinking of a green recovery coming out of the pandemic. More people are starting to work from home and those workers in rural areas need to be connected our urban areas and we can do by starting with the Knockmore line.”

The Department of Infrastructure said that Minister Nichola Mallon is ‘committed to improving transport connectivity for the benefit of our economy and communities’ across Northern Ireland.

A DfI spokesperson said that the launch of the new All Island Strategic Rail Review in April would ‘allow us to consider our rail network across this island and how we can improve it for everyone’.

However, Translink said that they had no immediate plans to open the line but said it would be ‘considered as a future project’.

“Translink does not currently have plans within its capital investment programme to re-open the Knockmore– Antrim line in the short to medium term,” a spokesperson said.

“However, the potential need and benefit of re-opening the line in the longer term is recognised and is therefore considered as a possible future project in Translink’s longer term strategic plan.”