Will university degree help restore Armagh to Portadown railway?

Historically there were inportant links between Portadown and Armagh until the closure of the rail line between the two market towns.

Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 4:09 pm
Despite it being 62 years since the last train used the line, much of the infrastructure is still intact, as can be seen at Chapel Bridge. A bit overgrown, but it was clearly built to last!

Those links may be reconnected if a new Ulster University project into the feasibility of rebuilding the railway line is successful.

In an exciting development, the Civil Engineering team within the Belfast School of Architecture and the Built Environment at Ulster University, is using the regeneration of the abandoned line as a degree course.

Students will be using the abandoned Portadown to Armagh line as a feasibility study on the MSc. in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering programme.

Dr McDermott is the Module Coordinator at UUJ and lectures in Civil and Environmental Engineering

The line closed on 1st October 1957, having been in operation for over 100 years.

The feasibility study has been incorporated into course “CIV805 - Infrastructure Design Studies”, which is a 12-week module delivered to 26 postgraduate students who possess a wide range of skillsets and who will work up an overarching feasibility report for the proposed works.

This is a technically demanding project that will contextualise the students’ engineering learning so far and promote them to apply their training to a real engineering project. The study will entail exploring the development of the existing and/or alternative routes, technological options, and quantifying the benefits and costs within the permitted timescales.

“The students will be encouraged to adopt a “system’s thinking approach” to the project whilst looking at innovative strategies regarding the rejuvenation of this important transportation corridor,” said a spokersperson.

William Hutchinson, Chairman of the Portadown Armagh Railway Society

“The Portadown Armagh Railway Society (PARS) was asked by the Civil Engineering staff at Ulster to deliver the initial lecture to showcase the history of the route. The impassioned lecture delivered by the Society covered the railway history of the City of Armagh, a “walk-the-line” presentation from Portadown to Armagh detailing much of the remaining infrastructure, and an outline of the main arguments for reintroducing the route.”

Mr. William Hutchinson, the PARS Chairman, (pictured left) said: “This is a very exciting development in our efforts to help the general public understand that this is not just for the people of the City of Armagh, but for NI society in general because it will enable a clear reduction in our carbon footprint.” He added: “Considering the issues of climate change and an increased awareness of humanity of the natural environment and its dwindling resources, this is the right thing to do.”

Dr. Rodney McDermott, Lecturer in Civil and Environmental Engineering and the module coordinator, (pictured above) was immediately impressed by this technical project. He said: “The civil engineering aspects within the study have economic, societal and environmental considerations and all of these have to be evaluated in the eventual solution. This is a perfect topic for our Ulster University course because there is much more to consider than just the ‘cost to build’ and the ‘revenue collected over time’.

PARS member Mr. Derek Smyth, who gave part of the lecture, said: “This next 12 weeks will generate a tremendous amount of insightful data for the Society to use in our quest to restore the railway to the City of Armagh.

“We are absolutely confident it will be helpful in informing minds, and let people see that this is truly a realistic project.”

Dr. Brian Solan, Lecturer in Foundation Engineering at Ulster, confirmed that the project was an excellent opportunity for the University to engage with civic society and was in keeping with the University’s Five and Fifty strategic vision.

He added that the project was ‘a very practical example of the University engagement with areas from which many of our students come from, thus encouraging ownership of the project’.

The Portadown Armagh Railway Society is a registered Charity, and has representatives on the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Railway Working Group.

For information, call PARS Chairman: William Hutchinson at 07587 153832.