Larne Line rail services still at threat, lobby group warns

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LARNE people have been urged against complacency about the local rail service and warned that if the last train does leave the station, it will be gone forever.

The campaigning Larne Line Passenger Group (LLPG) has asked Larne Borough Council to proactively promote the local rail network, warning of the danger that the end of the line could conceivably be at Whitehead in future, unless more local people use the trains.

LLPG was founded eight years ago by passengers frustrated at frequent delays and vintage rolling stock. Since last October, the latest C4000 and C3000 trains have been deployed and an improved timetable was introduced in January. However, while there was an increase in services from Belfast as far as Whitehead, slightly fewer trains now travel through to Larne.

LLPG actually breathed a sigh of relief, having feared more swingeing cuts, but they remain concerned about future timetabling. They wrote to the mayor, Cllr Gerardine Mulvenna, stating: “Since the new timetable has been introduced, passenger numbers have continued to increase, however Translink has made it clear that for the Larne Line section between Whitehead and Larne to continue with the current timetable, more passengers are needed and has not ruled out a further cut back on services in the coming months or year if passenger numbers are not sufficient to justify Translnk’s running costs.”

The lobby group stressed: “This stretch of the Larne Line is still in fact under threat and this is where our lobbying effort is still being focused on. We have heard from reliable sources that this time will be subject to changes in the coming months and this is where everyone who supports the line should be involved in shaping these changes for our benefit.”

LLPG acknowledged Larne council support for its ‘Use it, or lose it’ campaign last year and was appreciative of time invested by Cllr Mulvenna and Cllr Mark McKinty by attending meetings.

“However, it is our perception that Larne Borough Council is not actively promoting the use of the Larne Line in practical terms and could do more to promote the use of public transport for commuting, ferry passengers and the general public.

“We feel that it should grasp this unique opportunity to showcase how fortunate Larne is in having an excellent bus, ferry and train transport network and promote it to the benefit of the borough and surrounding areas. Many other parts of Northern Ireland long ago lost the rail service and we all know that once it has gone, it will not come back,” LLPG warned.

The letter was to be tabled for discussion at Monday’s meeting of the council’s public services committee.