No plans to tackle level crossing issue

Minister Danny Kennedy
Minister Danny Kennedy

Tackling the perennial problem of the level crossing at William Street hasn’t even warranted a mention in ambitious plans to upgrade the rail network over the next 20 years.

In local terms Lurgan Railway station is one of a number in line for upgrade or refurbishment as part of the plans.

Relaying of the track at Lurgan is also in the plans, plus the possibility of a new halt at Craigavon but there’s nothing planned for the William Street crossing.

Other aspects of the plan include the provision of new parking spaces at Lurgan and Moira stations.

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy last week set out his vision for the future of railway investment over the next 20 years and beyond.

The Railway Investment Prioritisation Strategy published by the Minister signals the potential for the first major extensions to the railway network in Northern Ireland since the closing of lines in the sixties.

The Minister’s announcement follows a public consultation inviting views on the future priorities for investment in the railways network. The responses have been developed into the strategy which sets out the Minister’s strategic direction and priority areas for future railways investment.

Mr Kennedy said: “This ambitious strategy allows for a significant enhancement of existing rail capacity, preparation for the future electrification of the network and the first major extensions to the railway since the closing of lines following the Benson Report in 1963.

“I am particularly keen to extend the option of rail travel to commuters from mid-Ulster and to the populations in the south and west within the catchments of Armagh and Dungannon. Although the speed of progress will depend on the amount of funding that can be made available from the Executive’s budget and, where possible, from the European Programmes, I am committed to exploring all funding opportunities and making this happen.”

He said there has been a significant upturn in rail passenger growth in Northern Ireland, almost doubling in numbers since 2002. “Within the broader transportation network our railway service is rapidly increasing as a travel mode of choice.”

Setting out his priorities the Minister said: “It will be important, in the present period of public expenditure restraint to use available resources to sustain and make best use of the current railway system and to develop it where there is the greatest potential for further passenger growth.”