The Derry Journal today is reporting that the rail link between Coleraine and Derry is unsafe and that passengers lives are risk. Eamonn McCann has told “Into the West” committee members that speed limits have been imposed along the line. The Journal quotes him as saying:-
“There is only one reason these limits are there and that is for safety. There are speed restrictions as low as 10 miles per hour; there are restrictions of 20, 30 and 40 mph right along the track. If a train – and these new trains have a cruising speed of 70 mph – travelled any faster, it could be very dangerous indeed.
“Is it going to take a derailment, is it going to take deaths before Translink and the Department realise this is a serious situation and spend money on improvements?”
Apparently £60 million will need to be spent to bring the link up to scratch.
Somehow I don’t see Translink getting that kind of money and, if they did, I suspect they would rather spent it on tea parties, meals out for executives and perhaps a wee “fact-finding” jaunt to the Trans Canadian Railway to see how things are run on a real railway! Am I too cynical? Yes.. well …maybe! But, in truth, I figure the height of their ambition would be a new rail link to the Belfast International Airport. I fear that anything west comes a long way down Translink’s list of priorities.
In the late 60s I used to take the Derry-Belfast weekly to a job in Belfast and the journey was hell on wheels. Poor stations, slow speeds, cold and draughty carriages, late trains, unsafe unsanitary facilities were the order of the day. But, it was the 60s and we didn’t expect much! In 2000 I made the mistake of opting to take a train from Belfast to Derry on a January day. Having paid through the wallet I found I was in a time warp of some description. Nothing had changed – apart from two stations at either end of the line! The slow speeds, cold and draughty carriages, late trains and unsafe unsanitary facilities were all still present. After a two hour journey in -1 degree C conditions I vowed that day not to travel by Northern Ireland Railway again. I’ve heard nothing in the last seven years to make me change my mind!
But…. I wish Eamonn all the luck in the world in trying to get this one sorted. There is no doubt of the need for a rail service but we want one that is safe, fast and a pleasure to use. Without that.. we’ll all opt for our cars for the next twenty years.
Note: The pictures show a section of the Derry to Coleraine railway line with the current speed limits. The second picture shows some railway sleepers abandoned beside the line.