In the early years of devolution, at the beginning of this century, there was a time when it seemed some of the existing railway network might have to close.
Now, 20 years later, railways are thriving.
The Bangor to Belfast to Lisburn to Portadown line in particular has healthy passenger numbers.
But across the network numbers are high. Increasing numbers of people seem to want to let the ‘train take the strain,’ as the old railway advertising slogan used to put it.
It is a pity indeed that there are limited opportunities to build park and ride facilities at some of the stations on the Bangor line, which might increase numbers further. There are, however, plans for such a facility west of Lisburn.
Another development of recent decades has been the park and ride bus services, from the outskirts of Belfast at places including Templepatrick and Sprucefield, and running into the heart of the city. These too have been a success, albeit some routes more than others. The Cairnsfield park and ride on the Saintfield Road, for example, has 700 car parking spaces and is heavily used.
Now a new long or ‘bendy’ bus known as a Glider has been introduced on one of those park and ride routes, from Dundonald into Belfast, from where it goes on to west Belfast.
There have been critics of the scheme, including those who say that such buses have been tried and then removed in other cities. But they are much cheaper than a rail or tram system and are now in place, so we can only hope they work.
The east to west through journey will ease movements between those once polarised parts of Belfast.
Many of the early reports of the Glider yesterday were positive from passengers on the new service. It remains to be seen whether 12-hour a day bus lanes cause motorists misery.
In the coming weeks the service will be monitored and appraised. If it results in a greater number of people happily giving up their car journeys to and from the city, then something significant will have been achieved.