A petition launched by a passenger group to reinstate the former Larne line rail timetable has gathered almost 800 signatures in two weeks.
The move by Larne Line Passenger Group (LLPG) follows cuts on the Larne to Belfast line which Translink instigated as part of its plan to address its £13 million government funding cuts.
As of August 30, the local rail timetable was altered so that the first train to leave Larne from Monday to Friday departs later, at 6.50am rather than 5.48am. Meanwhile, the last train servicing the Larne line from Belfast has been brought forward from 11.15pm to 10.55pm.
The Saturday service from Larne to Belfast has also been reduced from hourly to two hourly.
Chair of LLPG Elena Aceves-Cully said that the online petition to restore the former timetable had been “well received by the public.”
“When we started we were getting 50 to 80 signatures a day,” revealed Elena.
“The next step will be to take the petition on the trains for the public to sign a paper petition, which I hope to start soon once I get permission from Translink.
“I would urge people to keep signing the petition and to forward their letters of complaint to LLPG as well so we know what the issues are.”
The Larne Times has previously told how passengers are being forced to choose alternative means of transport to get into work after the earlier trains were scrapped, and how passengers at Whiteabbey train station are being left on the platform due to overcrowding on the three-carriage service.
Translink has previously stated that there are “plans in place” to increase this service to a six-piece set, but has not indicated when this will be introduced.
“Translink is still using a three-piece train instead of six on the Whitehead to Belfast 7.30am train,” said Elena.
“The changes to the early services are doing a lot of damage. There is no reason why they couldn’t put more carriages on at that time of day.
“We are going to approach our local politicians to see if they can use their influence to help. We are aiming to get more than 1000 people and now we can use social media to reach more people as well as placing paper copies in shops and supermarkets.
“The petition will go on for the month of October and then will be submitted to Translink’s Senior Management: Ciaran Doherty and Hilton Parr.
“We have been met with a wall of silence by Translink management. We want to keep positive that we can make change happen.”
East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson said that the new timetable had been “made to suit Translink rather than passengers.”
“Since the changes were announced my office has had a considerable number of complaints from passengers upset at the reduction in services on the Larne Line,” he stated.
Mr Dickson said that in response to a letter he wrote to the DRD over the cuts to the early morning service, “the Department asserted that 80 per cent of those questioned on the service would find the 0639 service acceptable.”
Mr Dickson concluded: “Translink has indicated that they will monitor this service, and consider if changes should be made before a further timetable change in December 2015. I hope they will recognise the necessity of a pre-0700 service into Belfast for the people of East Antrim.”
To sign the petition, visit the “We want our Larne line timetable back” page at change.org.
To contact LLPG, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org