UUP challenges Mallon to put NI railways before all-Ireland review

The UUP has challenged Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to prioritise failings in NI’s railway network before focusing on a consultation for an all-island network.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 6:00 am
Minister Nichola Mallon has just launched a review of the all-island rail network. Here, she is seen welcoming new train carriages for NI in March.
Minister Nichola Mallon has just launched a review of the all-island rail network. Here, she is seen welcoming new train carriages for NI in March.

People in Northern Ireland and the Republic are being asked to have their say on the future of rail as part of the newly launched all-island Strategic Rail Review.

Ms Mallon and Republic of Ireland Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan have said a key element of the review will be gaining insights from interested stakeholders and the wider public.

Ms Mallon said: “Since coming into office, I have been clear that it is my priority to address regional imbalance, tackle the climate crisis and better connect communities across Ireland.

“I have huge ambitions for our all-island rail network and I believe it has massive untapped potential to deliver multiple benefits across our island.

“The All-Island Strategic Rail Review will allow us to consider our network across this island to view how we can improve it for everyone.”

Mr Ryan said: “I would encourage all interested parties to participate in shaping the outcome of this important review.”

But UUP infrastructure spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA challenged Ms Mallon’s priorities.

“The minister seems to be focused on an all-Ireland transport network,” he said. “I have to say that I believe it would be beneficial if she would firstly have a focus on maximising the opportunities within our own existing rail infrastructure.

“For example, why has the frequency of rail service linking Larne not been resumed? Why is there not a greater focus on the potential of resuming passenger usage of the Knockmore Line where we already have rail line but signalling needs to be upgraded? There has been considerable increase in the population around Ballinderry, Glenavy, Crumlin and Antrim yet there have been no firm proposals to renew passenger usage on the Knockmore line.

“The wider linkage of our rail network to the Republic’s network is relevant, but so too is the need to improve rail connectivity with and from Cairnryan to improve linkage for those travelling between NI and the Scottish Rail network.  

“I would hope that the minister would also engage with the Scottish and UK ministers on this aspect of rail connectivity.

“Last week’s publication of the Union connectivity review should help focus minds as to what we can do to improve transport connectivity and enhance quality of life and economic opportunities across the UK.

“I would therefore urge the minister to focus on upgrading our local rail network and then investigate opportunities to improve and develop wider linkages both North/South and crucially East/West.”

To participate in the review visit: https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/consultations The deadline for receipt of submissions as part of the public consultation is 5pm on January 21.