HUNDREDS of local rail users have joined forces to call on train bosses to provide additional services on the Larne railway line.
The Larne Line Passenger Group (LLPG), which is continuously lobbying for improvements to local rail facilities, has organised a public campaign aimed at securing two extra express services between Larne and Great Victoria Street.
And the pressure group has gathered about 1000 signatures in support of its cause, with plans to submit the petition to Translink’s senior management this week. It is hoped that the show of strength will help influence the rail company’s new timetable, which is due to come out in July.
The petition is part of the group’s “Use it or Lose it” campaign, designed to get across the message that unless there is a significant increase in passenger numbers on Larne line, then Translink may be forced to cut back on less popular services between Larne and Whitehead.
A recent public meeting organised by LLPG saw over 140 people pack into the McNeill Theatre at Larne Leisure Centre, demonstrating the strength of feeling over the proposed cutbacks.
Elena Aceves-Cully, LLPG’s secretary, believes that the introduction of two extra express services will help stimulate a growth in passenger numbers on the Larne line.
She told the Times: “Our is to improve the popularity of the Larne Line as a definite alternative to the use of the car. We have been told by Translink that even though number of passengers on this line have been improving over the last 12 months, the number of users on the section between Whitehead and Larne is still very low - much lower than prior to the line’s relay back in 2005.
Mrs Aceves-Cully, an Islandmagee resident, fears that if the threatened cuts in service frequency between Whitehead and Larne materialise, it will have a “devastating” effect on the Larne line.
“If these cuts go ahead, passenger numbers will decrease even more over time to a point that this section could be closed altogether,” she warned.
“Our public meeting was a platform to prove to Translink, the Department for Regional Development and our local politicians that people in East Antrim very much want the Larne line to stay open and want it to get better, not worse.
“We are continuously lobbying Translink and our public representatives to find ways to improve passenger numbers by providing suggestions on how to achieve this. Our latest petition has this very same aim - getting more commuters in the Larne, Whitehead and Carrickfergus areas off their cars and on the trains. “We have gathered around 1000 signatures from people in not only those areas, but along the whole of the Larne Line, who are up for having more train services, which will entice more passengers.
“We believe that express services (all stops from Larne to Carrickfergus, but express thereafter to Great Victoria Street) are the most appealing option for commuters, as they can save as much as 10 minutes on a typical journey and also give an impression of speed and efficiency, especially when you can see alongside the queues of motorists on the M2.
“On behalf of the group, I want to express our gratitude to everyone who has supported this petition,” Mrs Aceves-Cully concluded.