The economic benefits of opening a railway line to Belfast International Airport are obvious, the Assembly has been told.
Alliance Party MLA Trevor Lunn called for better future planning and claimed the arrival of Ryanair was likely to bring a significant jump in passenger numbers.
He said: “The economic case for re-opening the Knockmore line is fairly obvious although it is expensive.
“Ryanair is now coming to Belfast International.
“That is obviously going to produce a major uplift in the number of passengers. Do we really need to wait until we have 10 million plus one before we do something about this or can we not anticipate what is liable to happen in the next few years?”
The comments were made during Question Time at the Assembly
Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen said her department had set a target of 10 million passengers to make the line viable.
She said: “Obviously there is an economic benefit in relation to the Antrim to Knockmore line and there are opportunities to establish a rail link to Belfast International Airport.
“Although my understanding is that the usage around the airport would need to increase to around 10 million passengers just to make that rail link viable.
“I suppose in some ways it is aspirational but it is something that would be seen as something very positive for Northern Ireland if we were able to open such a line again.”
The minister also reminded MLAs there was a “very good bus link” to the airport at present.