ANBCouncil back calls for reopening of railway line in Co Antrim with stop at airport
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has welcomed a proposal by Translink to carry out a feasibility study into reopening the Knockmore railway line.
A motion put forward by Airport DUP Councillor Matthew Magill reaffirmed the council’s support for further development of the public transport network.
As well as the reinstatement of the Antrim to Lisburn train route, the council is seeking the location of a railway stop at Belfast International Airport and Ballymartin in Templepatrick.
“This enhancement of our rail provision is critical to realising the economic potential of immediate airport and Nutt’s Corner employment locations, the borough and indeed the wider region,” the motion says.
“It will facilitate reliable and affordable access to employment and education, support tourism growth and increase opportunities for social and leisure activities whilst also presenting tangible opportunities for carbon reduction.”
Cllr Magill noted reopening the Knockmore line would impact on Crumlin, Glenavy and Ballinderry as well as Antrim and Lisburn and would “provide a service that would be of great benefit to those who live in those areas as we seek to expand opportunities for our people”.
Glengormley Ulster Unionist Alderman Mark Cosgrove reported direct engagement recently between a council group and representatives from Translink and Belfast International Airport with a proposal to form a working group to examine economic development of the airport site.
Dunsilly Alliance Cllr Jay Burbank said the reopening would give residents a “sustainable transport option”. He highlighted the cost of maintaining the “mothballed” Knockmore line since 2003.
Airport Ulster Unionist Ald Paul Michael BEM spoke of the opportunities that could exist by providing a rail link to Ballymartin where a park and ride facility is already located at Ballyclare Road.
Airport SDLP Ald Thomas Burns suggested the reinstatement of the Knockmore line would be part of an All-Ireland Rail Strategy which he stated would “open up a whole new economic strategy”.
In July 2020, plans for a new railway station at Knockmore Road, Lisburn, on the Belfast to Dublin rail line were given the green light by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.
Ald Burns went on to say elected representatives were told at the time of the Knockmore line closure, it would be a “very temporary measure” and he claimed “an enormous amount of money” has been spent on its maintenance.
Glengormley Sinn Fein Cllr Michael Goodman stated residents of south Antrim have been “let down” by the closure.
“The future of this line will depend on a functioning Executive being in place,” he commented.
Antrim Ulster Unionist Cllr Jim Montgomery said: “It would be great to see it open as would the stop at Ballymartin which is a popular bus destination and would also be a very good stop for a train.”
Cllr Magill concluded: “This has been a long-running saga. We are now beginning to see the green shoots of progress. Whilst we have to be pragmatic, it is a positive first step.
“The people need it. The people demand it. We demand it. Council will play our part in making sure this comes to fruition.”
The feasibility study will be subject to funding from the Department for Infrastructure.
Commeting on the proposals, a Translink spokesperson told Love Ballymena:
“We are currently seeking funding to undertake a feasibility study for re-opening of the Antrim – Lisburn railway line.
“The study will consider the passenger demand and operational model for the line, including a potential connection to Belfast International Airport”.