Tunnels could be opened under Northern Ireland town

The possibility of reopening disused railway tunnels under Dungannon for any potential restoration of the railway line, off-road cycling or walking routes is to be investigated.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 10:35 am

An initial report on the possibility of reopening the two tunnels linked to the Great Northern Railway and Northland Estate came before members of Mid Ulster Council’s development committee last week.

Councillors were told how a train station was opened in Dungannon in April 1858 and subsequently relocated following an extension of the line to Omagh in September 1861. The line ceased to operate from February 15, 1965.

A section of the now disused railway line tunnelled from Milltown through to lands adjacent what is now the Gortmerron link road. The report notes the tunnel remains closed at both ends but is said to remain intact.

It is hoped a feasibility study will research, consult, develop and advise Council on the options to unlock the potential of the tunnel infrastructures and create the business case for a subterranean access project which, the report claims, has the potential to be “a significant active travel asset for Dungannon town and railway enthusiasts nationwide”.

The cost of this feasibility study is estimated at £20,000 and the funding will come from Council’s capital programme 2020-24.

Councillor Frances Burton said it was important for Council to also explore the potential for rail travel to once again return to Mid Ulster.

“Initially, I thought this report was going to be more about the railway than the tunnels,” said Cllr Burton. “I believe Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council are pushing to try and look at the possibility of reopening a wider railway network and I think we should be doing similar.

“I want to make sure if there was anything linked with railway travel we put it in the mix.”

Councillor Walter Cuddy said he was familiar with the tunnels and was of the impression water service had plans to use one of them for a sewerage pipe.

He welcomed the proposed feasibility study and was enthusiastic about the possibility of the tunnels being used to help create the proposed linear park around Dungannon.

“There is the potential that if we can get working with developers who are taking control of land on each side of the road, we could connect Dungannon Park with Windmill Wood and continue the linear park we want to develop around the town.”

“The other tunnel is the old railway line, the two tunnels are right beside each other but one end of it has been closed over.

“I am happy to propose the feasibility study. The two developers will probably want to talk to council over the next while to work forward with their developments.

Councillor Barry Monteith urged officers to explore the possibility of restoring a train service in Mid Ulster.

“It was an act of vandalism to remove railways from this part of the country and it is something we should be encouraging to return.”

Ensuring the proposal included the instruction for the feasibility study to explore the possibility or restoring an active railway line in Mid Ulster, Cllr Monteith seconded Councillor Cuddy’s proposal to progress the feasibility study and the committee voiced its approval for the proposal.