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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Rail concerns at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Mid and East Antrim councillors have reacted angrily to a reduction in services on the Belfast to Larne railway line.

Concerns have been raised over changes to the timetable announced this week by Translink.

The transport body said the revisions, which came into effect on January 10, were in response to reduced passenger numbers following the NI Executive regulations and guidance on essential travel.

Speaking at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Thursday evening, when members had been asked to endorse the local authority’s response to an all-Ireland rail consultation, Larne Lough DUP councillor Alderman Paul Reid said:

“Rather than worrying about an all-Ireland review, we need to look at the fact that this borough is not joined up together.

“There is no link by rail from Larne to Ballymena. If you want to go by train, you need to go 20 miles to Belfast then back to Antrim, then back to Ballymena. It is round the world for a short cut.”

Knockagh Ulster Unionist Councillor Andrew Wilson said:

“I find it strange with the new timetable, 17 of 48 trains arrive at Larne Harbour. The reduced timetable presents difficulty for workers and schoolchildren. The service appears to stop at Whitehead.”

He stated that these issues need to be addressed as part of the authority’s response to the rail consultation.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan quipped that the council meeting “goes on far too late”.

“We would miss the last train,” he observed.

Party colleague Knockagh councillor Alderman Noel Williams commented:

“The bus service and train service compete against each other. Instead it should be a joined up service.”

Ballymena SDLP Councillor Eugene Reid commented:

“The rail links to our airports are especially bad. I think considering the current upsurge in business between the north and south, we should not take our eye off the fact we should be looking to improve our rail links across Ireland.”

Ballymena DUP councillor Alderman Audrey Wales added:

“The lack of rail links to our airports is absolutely disgraceful.”

Carrickfergus councillor Alderman Billy Ashe noted:

“The Whitehead to Larne line has been a concern over many many years. Any reduction with their timetables helps Translink with their figures when they tell us there is not enough people using it.

“More importantly, trains have to be on time and have to be reliable not simply pulled off on a whim.. I think we should be lobbying Translink to make sure they stand over the rail link from Whitehead to Larne.”

Commenting earlier this week, Ian Campbell, Translink Director of Service Operations commented:

“The revised timetables allow us to maintain service levels, prioritising school and peak time services and ensuring overall geographic coverage of the network is retained to enable people to continue to travel safely.

“We continue to make our network and services safe with the use of extensive cleaning and sanitising of our vehicles and stations using anti-viral products; putting a wide range of customer communications in place; as well as ensuring our services are well ventilated.”


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