CRAIGAVON RAIL HALT PLAN RAISES CONCERN

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A RAILWAY station planned for Craigavon Central has led to concerns of a reduction in services to Lurgan.

As Translink announced barriers at William Street are closing 40 minutes less per day, concern was voiced that constant complaints about the train crossings could result in less services to the town.

Persistent lobbying by local political representatives has led to a significant reduction of the time the railway gates are closed.

A Translink spokesperson said: “Motorists and pedestrians around Lurgan may have noticed a reduction in waiting times at William Street level crossing in the town, since mid-November. Following calls from the local community and stakeholders, Translink NI Railways has worked to reduce the ‘down time’ of the level crossing barriers on the busy arterial route into the town by forty minutes over an entire working day by modifications to the signalling system and the introduction of additional safety measures.”

However Brendan Loughan of Anytime Taxis in William Street who was a member of both Lurgan Chamber of Commerce and Lurgan Forward voiced his concern that too much complaining could lead to a reduction in services.

“Yes I know the railway gates are an inconvenience in Lurgan but at certain times if you’re in William Street, the amount of people that are coming off those trains coming into Lurgan, you wouldn’t believe it.

“By complaining and complaining about the railway gates to NIR we are only giving them a rod to beat our own back with if they do cut the train services to Lurgan because they then have a rail stop in Craigavon.

“I own a taxi firm beside the station and it’s an inconvenience to me as much as the next man but it brings people into Lurgan and people have to travel into Lurgan to get the train. Yet we are complaining about no footfall.

“NIR bring people into Lurgan. NIR provide a service to people so they can travel out of Lurgan. Yes there is an inconvenience but you can’t have it both roads.

“How long have the gates been there? For me as a taxi driver in the town it is just a way of life. But I know every time those gates come down I have the possibility of work.”

According to Craigavon Area Plan 2010, land close to the railway line in Central Craigavon has been ‘safeguarded for future construction of a rail halt to serve residential, retail and commercial areas’.

It said the halt ‘would facilitate commuting, both into and out of the area, enhance the attractiveness of the central area as a place to live, shop and work and allow an increased interaction between the Lurgan, Portadown and Central Craigavon’s cores e.g., for linked or complementary shopping trips. A park and ride facility, at the halt, would further increase its attractiveness’.

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When the Mail contacted Translink regarded the proposed halt, a spokesperson said: “While it forms part of Translink’s long term strategy to develop a rail halt at Craigavon West, there are no immediate plans to begin work on this project.”

Meanwhile in relation to the closure of the railway gates at Lurgan, Ian Campbell, Head of Rail operations, Translink said “These changes will assist the community in Lurgan by improving the traffic flow through the town, especially at peak times.

“We have been able to achieve this reduction by introducing a new signalling equipment and Crossing procedures, so that the level crossing barriers are not dropped until trains travelling from Belfast are ready to depart from Lurgan Station.

“In addition, the new train timetable, which comes into effect on January 6, 2013, has been designed to maximise the number of occasions that trains travelling in opposite directions arrive at Lurgan station simultaneously thus reducing the number of occasions the William Street Barriers will be closed and hence the overall waiting time for motorists and pedestrians.

“These changes represent a significant investment by NI Railways into the operating system at Lurgan as well as innovative use of existing resources.”

Charlie Gardiner who is a member of both Lurgan Chamber of Commerce and Lurgan Forward said Translink had given assurances that they would upgrade and look at Lurgan and Portadown stations before they would look at anything else.

“There was lobbying done at the time to get that. Lurgan and Portadown lobbied together about the Craigavon Rail Halt. It is not an imminent thing and I doubt they have the money to do it anyway. I don’t think it is in the foreseeable future,” said Mr Gardiner.

He said it was great to see that the gates will be down 40 minutes less than usual and that they are looking at the timetables to try and save more time.

“Our politicians have lobbied hard on their behalf. It’s good to see it being brought in,” he said.