Larne Line is ‘safe’ for next 20 years

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Transport chiefs have given lobbyists an assurance that they have no plans to cut train services on the Larne-Belfast rail link.

The Larne Line Passenger Group (LLPG), which presses for improvement and consolidation on the local network, has been told that, subject to public finances, the future of the Larne Line is assured for the next two decades.

LLPG secretary Elena Aceves-Cully told the Larne Times this week that the Department for Regional Development (DRD) has confirmed that the line is “secure, in terms of no closures” during the 20-year life span of the Railway Investment Prioritisation Strategy, published by the Department in May.

Mrs Aceves-Cully added that a DRD official had told her: “Whilst there are no guarantees in the present period of public expenditure that the current rate of investment in our railway network can be maintained, I can confirm that there are no plans in the strategy document for any rail closures on the Larne Line.”

Elena said: “This statement concludes a period of several years of uncertainty where there have been rumours of closures of sections of the line.

“In addition, passenger numbers continue to grow at a very strong and consistent rate, year on year. We reported at this time last year an increase of 16 per cent with respect to the previous year. Official Translink passenger flow figures show that the whole of the Larne Line has increased annually by 12.6 per cent. This figure is only marginally lower (12.5 per cent) on what used to be considered the lesser used section (the Larne-Whitehead connection).”

Elena added: “Over the last two years, we are talking an approximate 20 per cent rise in patronage on this line, on which punctuality levels are amongst the highest on the network.”

LLPG has been lobbying on behalf of local rail users since 2005, working tirelessly to bring on the modern CAF 4000 trains, better timetables and more park and ride facilities. The group participated in the consultation exercise which ultimately resulted in the rail prioritisation strategy.

“Our next objective is to improve the timetable from Whitehead to Larne, which still suffers from low frequency of services, and providing safe vehicle and pedestrian access to Ballycarry Station, including park and ride facilities,” Elena said.