‘No plans for railway line’ says Minister

Department of Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen has said there are no immediate plans to re-open the Knockmore to Antrim railway line.

Her comments come after Councillor Robbie Butler branded the railway line as a ‘wasted opportunity’.

The Lisburn to Antrim line that stretches for 20 miles closed in June 2003 and it was hoped it would reopen again by 2018. Mr Butler claimed in five years over £1.5m has been spent maintaining the line despite the fact it is not currently used by passenger traffic.

“During the tenure of my Ulster Unionist colleague Danny Kennedy MLA as DRD Minister we saw some important steps towards our goal,” said Mr Butler.

“Translink expressed reopening the line as their long term ‘vision.’ Translink Corporate plans were being considered to use the Knockmore line to increase the frequency of services between Belfast and Londonderry.

“I believe maintaining this line at a significant cost without using it for passenger services represents a wasted opportunity.”

He went onto say, “The new Minister appears to be pouring cold water on any expectations the line will be reopened for passenger services and the optimism from the Department and Translink has disappeared.

“It makes little sense to spend several hundreds of thousands of pounds a year keeping a line in working order without taking the opportunity to generate a single penny of revenue.

“I have long advocated re-opening the Knockmore line for passenger traffic. Not only would this greatly improve the transport infrastructure around Crumlin but it would also open up the possibility of a spur to International Airport and a direct rail link between International and Belfast via Lisburn.”

The Minister said the DRD has no plans to reopen the line.

“The line is maintained sufficiently for the occasional diversion of passenger services, for engineering runs and for training purposes.

“This means there is always the option to take a fresh decision on the future, if circumstances change, to the extent that the costs involved can be justified and given priority.” ​