Agenda item

Deputation - To receive Mr S Bradley and Mr J McBride from "Into The West" to discuss the Case for Rail in the North-West City Region.

Minutes:

The Committee welcomed Mr S Bradley and Mr J McBride, Into The West to the Meeting.  They gave a joint presentation on The Case for Rail in the North West City Region which addressed the following:

 

Background

 

-      A clear disparity exists in rail provision:

 

(a)  East and West of the River Bann

(b)  Between the North-West and the rest of the island

 

Rail Map of Ireland

 

Total Number of Rail Stations

 

            East 51

            West 3

 

Six Ways the Derry/Londonderry Rail Service was Sub-Standard from East of the Bann

 

1.     Number of Trains that reach Belfast Before 9 am

2.     Number of Trains from Belfast During Weekday Peak Hours (4 pm – 6 pm)

3.     Onward Travel to Dublin

4.     Last Train from Belfast on Saturdays

5.     The Number of Trains to Belfast on Sundays

6.     Frequency of Trains to Belfast on Sundays

 

Seven Key Benefits of Rail

 

Economic

Employment

Social Justice

Tourism

Status

Climate Change

Quality of Life

 

History of Rail in NWRC

 

‘Phase 3 is Key’ – To Unlock Major Improvements in Derry’s Railways

 

-      Faster Journeys

-      Greater Frequency

-      Express Trains

-      A new suburban station in the Eglinton area

-      Thru-trains to Dublin?

-      Line extensions to Strabane and Letterkenny?

 

Lack of Ambition for Rail in NWCR

 

What Enhanced Role Could Rail Have Here?

 

A North-West Rail Network?

 

‘West on Track’

 

Derry-Portadown Rail Route

 

Our Ask of Derry City and Strabane District Council

 

1.     Formally push DfI for Phase 3 prioritisation (start 2020)

2.     Include ambitious role for rail in key Council strategies

3.     Work with colleagues in Donegal County Council and Causeway Coast and Glens to lobby for enhanced rail provision in the North West

4.     Take strategic view regarding preferred location of Phase 3 passing loop

5.     Work proactively with relevant Councils to progress Western Rail Corridor and reinstallation of ‘The Derry Road’

6.     Push for new Stormont Rail Investment Strategy, with projects in NWCR included

7.     Secure funding for separate feasibility studies into extending rail to Strabane and Letterkenny

 

There was a consensus of support in regards to the proposals and requested put forward by the deputation.  Members then raised the following issues:

 

-      Acknowledged that the increase in usage justified the need for enhanced rail provision in the North West.

-      Referred to the work carried out by previous Ministers in regards to the completion of Phases 1 and 2.

-      Referred to the need to maintain and protect existing rail tracks/lines in order to facilitate an improved and enhanced rail service.

-      Acknowledged the significance of cross-border intervention in terms of aiding the modernisation of and improvements to the existing service.

-      Referred to the impact of such a declining service on local tourism and particularly the lack of a convenient and sustainable service from the City to Belfast. 

-      Referred to the need for an expressed service from Derry-Belfast/Belfast-Dublin.

-      Referred to the Department’s pledge to deliver on Phase 3 and the overwhelming benefits to be derived therefrom.

-      Acknowledged the possibility of City Deal monies being used to assist in the delivery of Phase 3.

-      Referred to the lack of investment from previous Stormont governments which contributed significantly to the current rail provision in the North West.

-      Acknowledged the disparity in rail provision between the North-West and the rest of the island.

-      Referred to the need for further investment in rail transport particularly economic development and climate change.

-      Whilst acknowledging the success of Phases 1 and 2 referred to the significance of the progression of Phase 3 in order to maximise the benefits.

-      Sought an update in regards to a previous suggestion made at the February Meeting of the Environment and Regeneration Committee to request Translink to carry out improvement works to the rail service in this area.

-      Referred to the possibility of arranging a meeting with DfI to discuss investment in the rail service.

-      Suggested that Council copy the presentation to other Councils in the North West.

-      Referred to the importance of re-establishing the service particularly in terms of promoting and progressing connectivity.

-      Referred to studies carried out by the former DRD in regards to the provision and availability of rail services throughout Europe.

-      Enquired if there were any plans to provide a transport corridor.

-      Whilst acknowledging the significance of the route also queried the types of rail freight being considered.

-      Welcomed suggestions regarding the passing point and the potential for an airport stop which would prove invigorating for the surrounding area.

-      Acknowledged the excellent work carried out by Into The West in terms of highlighting the merits of rail travel and future aspirations and ambition.

-      Emphasised the need to continue to lobby strongly for the completion of Phase 3 pointing out that the current service was both substandard and insufficient to meet the economic and strategic demands of the region.

-      Suggested that these proposals were protected and enshrined under the Local Development Plan particularly in regards to climate change.

-      Suggested that the required outlay of £30m to bring this to fruition was not excessive given the potential financial and economic benefits which could be recuperated.

 

The representatives from Into The West responded as follows:

 

-      Welcomed Members’ positive comments in regards to the work carried out and commitment shown by Into The West and commended those whose passion and commitment to this cause had been unrelenting.

-      However, all support was welcomed by in terms of moving forward and realising its objectives.

-      Referred to significant changes which had taken place with the organisation in terms of growth and development in regards to lobbying Councils and other relevant organisations.

-      Welcomed the suggestion that Council forward a copy of the presentation to neighbouring Councils.

-      Referred to the level of interest shown by other Councils in the proposals.

-      Pointed out that it would cost approximately £30m to complete Phase 3.

-      Highlighted the discrepancies/disparities which existed between the North West and East of the Bann particularly in terms of the provision and location of passing points.

-      Explained that the line of the old railway between Derry and Strabane was practically intact.

-      Referred to the need to maintain and upgrade and extend the existing line particularly in terms of providing connectivity and to maximise the potential of the completed A5 network.

-      Made reference to a feasibility study carried out in respect of the Scottish Rail Campaign for the development of a route between Gallashiels and Carlisle.

-      Referred to the possibility of enhancing the proposed third bridge between Prehen, Newbuildings and Letterkenny Road to facilitate rail travel.

-      Referred to the possibility of availing of European funding if the service extended into Donegal.

-      Acknowledged the potential of the existing passing point in terms of providing an Airport halt at Eglinton and the benefits to be derived therefrom in terms of connectivity.

-      Referred to the need to think strategically.

-      Anticipated that the DfI might commit to additional improvements to coincide with the opening of the new Transport Hub in October 2019.

 

In response to a query from Councillor Reilly, the Chief Executive advised that a joint meeting had not yet take place with DfI to discuss this matter, however, he undertook to do so.  He pointed out that a meeting had taken place with the Chief Executive of Translink with that a further meeting planned for the end of July.  He advised, however, that many of the issues raised had been recently addressed with Translink through the West Regional Development Group.

 

Subsequently the Committee

 

Recommended          that Council endorse the requests put forward by Into the West and a copy of their presentation be forwarded to all those Councils whose area would be affected by the proposals contained in the Phase 3 improvement works for North West Rail Services.

 

 

Supporting documents: