Larne Line Passenger Group (LLPG) has launched a petition to restore the former Larne to Belfast rail timetable amid passenger frustration.
The cuts on the Larne to Belfast line took effect on August 30 as part of Translink’s plan to address its £13million government funding cuts.
The changes saw the timetable 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 told the Times she felt the time was right to launch a petition.
“The new train timetable has only been in place for a few days and we are already hearing complaints, even from Translink’s own staff who have been affected themselves by the cuts,” she explained.
“The first two trains from Larne to Belfast at 5.48am and 6.25am have been taken away. The first train service arriving into Larne does so at 7.53am.
“The first train from Larne Harbour is at 6.50am.
“Two evening services don’t depart from Whitehead anymore but from Carrick only at 5.10pm and 6.24pm. Two late-evening services previously running from Larne now run from Whitehead at 8.45pm and 10.45pm, meaning there will only a two-hourly service from Larne from 7.25pm.
“The last train leaves Larne at 9.25pm instead of 10.25pm.”
Regarding the Belfast to Larne service, Elena highlighted that the first morning train now stops at Whitehead instead of Larne, and that two rush hour trains which previously stopped at Whitehead now terminate at Carrick.
Additionally, two late evening trains which previously ran from Larne now run from Whitehead.
“A lot of people can’t get to work on time including Translink staff who start early at 7am or 7.30am. If anyone wanted to catch the 8am Enterprise train from Central Station to Dublin they wouldn’t be able to,” she continued.
“People also can’t get home on the train as it leaves too early.
“More people are trying to get on fewer services.
“People are frustrated, they have chosen to use the train and the timetable was working, the trains were running pretty well on the old timetable and now suddenlty people have found they can’t get the trains they used to.”
Elena says that the Larne Line has traditionally been cut while other services have been preserved.
“The Derry line hasn’t been cut, the Bangor line has been slightly cut and they have really cut down on Larne and Newry,” she said.
“I can’t see how these cuts are attracting any more passengers. The people who are most affected are those who take the early or late trains or the weekend trains.”
Meanwhile, Vice Chair of LLPG Peter Anderson has himself witnessed commuters being left stranded on the platform at Whiteabbey after Translink failed to add more than three carriages to the 7.30am train from Whitehead last week.
Speaking on September 3, he told the Times: “Since the schools started the last two days have been pretty bad, the trains have been full and we have had to clambour over people and squeeze in to get on.
“Yesterday there were 25-30 people left on the platform and today there were 20 people left as there was no room and only three carriages.
“We thought the three carriages would be put back up to six in September. The train takes pupils from Belfast Royal Academy, Campbell College and Methody and they get on before us at Jordanstown.
“I pay £480 a year for my annual ticket, which could be worse, but I am paying that money to be squashed like a sardine.”
Peter says he has been told that Translink will not reinstate the six-carriage service until the end of September.
Meanwhile, he stated that he would “absolutely support” the petition to reinstate the old timetable.
“We are calling on railway passengers who are sick of the cuts to sign it,” he said.
Regarding the reduction in carriages on the 7.30am service from Whitehead to Belfast, a Translink spokesperson commented: “Translink NI Railways are currently involved in an overhaul programme and all of our rolling stock is currently deployed. As the overhaul progresses and rolling stock is made available, there are plans in place to strengthen the 07.30 hours service from Whitehead to Great Victoria Street to a six-piece set.
“We understand that some passengers travelling on this service boarding at Whiteabbey at 0755 hours have been inconvenienced. We would advise passengers boarding at Whiteabbey that there are alternative services available to Belfast at 0735 hours and 0804 hours.
“Translink NI Railways apologise to any passenger who has been inconvenienced.
“All peak time services aside from the 07.32 departing Larne and 17.06 departing Great Victoria Street are operated by three-car sets.”
When asked by the Times whether Translink would be prepared to reintroduce the former timetable, and whether it was concerned that the new timetable would decrease passenger numbers, the spokesperson stated: “As you will be aware we held an extensive public consultation exercise earlier in the year to better understand the needs of our customers.
“Following the consultation with passengers we have worked hard to protect the geographic coverage of the network. There are some frequency reductions to a number of services and some services have been retimed.
“The new timetables being implemented on September 1 have taken their feedback on board while balancing this against the significant reduction in public funding.
“We are not aware of any outstanding queries regarding the Larne line timetable however would be happy to review any specific queries.”
Passengers can submit comments to Translink at: email@example.com or by calling 02890666630.
To sign the LLPG petition to reinstate the former Larne line timetable, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, send a message to the group’s Facebook page or sign the petition on change.org.