Electric rail line plan could help end town woe

The railway crossing in William Street. INLM09-212.
The railway crossing in William Street. INLM09-212.

THE problems at Lurgan Train Station will be solved if NI Railways receives the go-ahead for an electrified rail network to support a new high speed train to Dublin.

A series of new long-term proposals have been set out for the future of the rail network across Northern Ireland including electrifying the line to cater for new trains which reduce journeys from Belfast to Dublin to 90 minutes.

There are a number of packages which include improving the Enterprise Service. The proposal is to have an hourly train from Dublin to Belfast, travelling at around 125mph on the high speed network and would cost around £460m with reciprocal funding from the Irish Republic. The Department of Regional Development say improving the situation at Lurgan would be an “essential element” of the Enterprise scheme.

With an 89 per cent increase in rail passengers on the Portadown/Lurgan line within the past 10 years and projected 4.5m rail users by 2035, there are concerns that an increase in the number of trains and services through Lurgan could see the railway gates closed significantly more often.

The Mail asked the DRD if the consultation document had taken into consideration Lurgan particular circumstances.

A spokesperson said: “From the point of view of the Future Railways Investment consultation, the options put forward are in the form of strategic directions for investment rather than listing individual local schemes. Addressing the problem at Lurgan would be an essential element of the package of track improvement measures to introduce a high speed Enterprise Service. We await to see what priority will be accorded to the Enterprise option in the consultation responses compared to the other strategic investment options.”

However according to the consultation document, the feasibility of the scheme, if they receive the budget, will depend on the co-operation of Irish Rail. It will cost £460 million with a requirement for reciprocal funding from RoI between 2020/25.

The report reveals passenger numbers are at their highest since 1967. In 2001 passenger numbers on the Portadown line were 1,698,000 while last year they reached 3,217,000.

The DRD consultation document publishes several multi-million pound proposals to develop the network across NI, with the aim of increasing passenger figures but there was no mention of how the increase traffic through Lurgan would be affected.

The document reveals that the Portadown line now carries the vast majority of passengers and is by far the most successful rail route in NI.

Consultants Booz Allen Hamilton projected that significant investment will be required to increase the capacity and continued growth in passenger numbers One package being looked at is to increase passenger usage and quality of the service - this would cost around £600m. This would mean more carriages to trains or introducing extra services (including passenger halts). Another proposal is to add more trains. This would cost around £260 million between 2025 – 2035. It would mean more frequent timetables and additional lines at Central and Great Victoria Street stations,

But there is no mention of the effect on Lurgan railway gates.

Meetings are being held to give the public an insight into the future role of the railways.

The first meeting is in Belfast on Monday at Grosvenor House in Glengall Street.

Other meetings will take place in Londonderry, on Thursday and the Ballysaggart Business Complex, Dungannon, on March 5.

The consultation document is available on the Department’s website at http://www.drdni.gov.uk.

The consultation period will run until April 12 2013.