The Belfast-Larne railway line is well on track to becoming the best used in Northern Ireland, local lobbyists were told this week.
With more people taking the train on the lesser used Larne-Whitehead section in the past year, total passenger journeys on the route increased by 15 per cent to around 250,000 per month over the past year.
The figures were welcomed by the Larne Line Passenger Group (LLPG), formed six years ago to demand a better service.
At their annual general meeting, LLPG heard from Translink that investment in the route is paying dividends.
LLPG secretary Elena Aceves-Cully, said timetable and service enhancements are making life better for passengers. She added: “We have seen tremendous improvements in the Translink offering, especially over the last 12 months.
“Enhancements such as several express services, which take 45 minutes from Larne and 15 minutes from Carrickfergus to Belfast, and additional services running up to Whitehead have gone down really well with commuters.”
Elena revealed: “Passenger numbers on the Larne Line continue to follow a very positive upward trend, well and above the NI average. They are now almost at the same levels as the Bangor Line and it is expected to outperform the Bangor Line as early as next year.
“More importantly, the traditionally lesser used section between Whitehead to Larne is growing at a very similar rate.”
Mal McGreevy, general manager of rail services at Translink, said new trains, better timetables and greater reliability and punctuality, combined with investment in park-and-ride facilities including Whiteabbey, Jordanstown, Greenisland, Carrickfergus and Whitehead had been “very well received and are no doubt contributing to the increased figures in rail travel across the board”.
Elena added: “Translink is looking at further enhancements, submitting plans for a new footbridge at Jordanstown and they are now seriously considering the need for additional park-and-ride facilities in the Whitehead area, with a new park-and-ride facility at Ballycarry station now on the cards.”