Additional connections to the rail network have been proposed by the Rail Investment Prioritisation Strategy published by Danny Kennedy. The report advises that further work should be undertaken to look into providing rail extensions west along the road network
on the A6 in the vicinity of the Castledawson roundabout and either the M1/A4 or A3/A29 corridors in the vicinity of Dungannon and Armagh. In addition, NIR recognised some of the benefits that restoring the railway line between Antrim and Blockmore. Not only would it assist with relieving capacity on the single track section between Antrim and Bleach Green, it would restore stations at Crumlin, Glenavy and Ballinderry. In addition, this restoration could assist with providing a rail link to Belfast International Airport, although passengers numbers would need to reach 10 million per annum in order for any investment to be economically viable.
The Railway Investment Prioritisation Strategy published by the Minister today 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. This attracted a wide variety of informed responses which the Minister developed into the Strategy which sets out his strategic direction and priority areas for future railways investment.
Minister 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. ”
In looking at possible network extensions the Minister said: “Projects that will be considered include the enhancement of the Northern Line between Bleach Green and Antrim. Other feasibility studies into longer term will propose extensions along the A6 corridor between Antrim and Castledawson; along the M1/A4 and the A3/A29 corridors towards Dungannon/Armagh; and a route to serve Belfast International Airport.