Gregory Campbell: It was a DUP minister who kept open the railway line to Londonderry

Jay Burbank (August 5) made the argument that support for the Bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland should not be looked at in isolation.

Thursday, 6th August 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 6th August 2020, 10:45 am
When Gregory Campbell was minister in charge of Regional Development in 2001 he was given options for the future of rail in Northern Ireland, and he rejected the preferred one, which was 'closure of the line north of Ballymena'

It should rather, he said, be part of an overall strategy to increase investment in rail across Northern Ireland with particular emphasis on improving the line between Belfast and Londonderry

I couldn’t agree more, which is why when I was minister in charge of Regional Development back in 2001 and railways were in dire straits I received a weighty document on my ministerial desk which had a number of options for the future of rail in Northern Ireland.

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The preferred one was ‘closure of the line north of Ballymena’, the effect of which would have been to close all rail services from Ballymena through Coleraine and on to Londonderry.

I emphatically rejected that as being totally unacceptable and the department then retained the services so that when future finances became available, upgrades rather than closure would be carried out.

Jay argues that ‘campaigners successfully lobbied to have it kept open’, it was myself as minister who took the decision, despite the recommendation in the official report.

So when Jay argues that the DUP parliamentary team should show more emotional buy in to internal projects such as rail, the irony is that it was a DUP minister who a few months later became part of that parliamentary team in June 2001 who put tangible effect on to the emotional buy in.

Gregory Campbell, DUP MP, East Londonderry

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