A compromise could keep Lisburn on Enterprise timetable

Within days, the Belfast to Dublin Enterprise train will no longer stop in Lisburn.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 3rd April 2016, 9:51 pm
Updated Sunday, 3rd April 2016, 10:01 pm
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A new timetable is out this Sunday which will remove the city from the route.

It is, as Translink itself admits, a “bit of a blow”. And as the DUP MLA Paul Givan says, the decision will be met with dismay in his Lagan Valley constituency.

It is not hard to see why Translink has dropped Lisburn from the timetable. Journey times between Belfast and Dublin are poor, and have worsened over the decades. The fastest non-stop service between the capitals is two hours for the express trains, which once covered the distance in one hour 55 minutes. Services that stop at all the intermediary stations can take as long as two hours and 15 minutes.

These are deeply disappointing journey times. Intercity 125 trains, which could have travelled Belfast to Dublin in an hour, were introduced in Great Britain 40 years ago. They would now be considered old technology in global terms yet the cross border rail route is even more primitive than that.

Upgrading the Belfast to Dublin line to high speed would be prohibitively expensive. The cost might have been more justifiable if the Northern Irish side of the road route, the A1, had been upgraded to motorway, funded by tolls, as happened on the southern motorway. That would have freed up some money for trains but NI politicians lack such boldness.

Translink points out that passengers travelling to Dublin can take local trains to Belfast or Portadown to connect with the Enterprise. They can also, if willing to drive 30 miles on the fast road to Newry, park and travel on to Dublin from the station there, with its huge car park. But these are poor substitutes for what is, as Mr Givan says, a highly populated area.

A compromise might be fewer services that stop at Lisburn but more Belfast-Dublin express trains, with an emphasis on getting the latter services again to cover the journey in under two hours, which ought not to be a tall order.