Conor Murphy starving North South transport links of cash

One of the less noted parts of the draft budget has been that of the Department of Regional Development. An 11 mile section of the railway line between Lisburn and Lurgan requires £40 million of repairs. The draft budget has allocated monies to improve the Coleraine to Londonderry line which would, Murphy claims, otherwise have been faced with closure but none to the Belfast Dublin line. Since money is not being spent on the Belfast to Dublin service, it will suffer further delays to the already far from impressive 2 hours journey time: there are portions of track with a 20 miles per hour speed limit. Professor Austin Smyth, who is Head of the Department of Transport Studies at the University of Westminster, said he felt there were now “major issues” about the line’s “future viability”. Mr Murphy said it was his intention to identify funds for the section of track between Lisburn and Lurgan through the budget review group.

Although the successful (if slow) cross border rail service is to be starved of cash another cross border service is getting money: A5 dualling project is to go ahead despite costing vastly more money; being a road whose need for upgrade is less than clear and still having to face a public enquiry. To quote former Independent journalist Chris Wolmar: “The current road is not massively congested so what are they spending the money for? Would it not be better spent on other methods of transport or forms of economic regeneration?”

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  • joeCanuck

    Where does safety figure in? I hope they’re not waiting for a disaster before finding essential maintenance money. if infrastructure isn’t properly maintained it will continue to decline and usually ends up costing more to fix.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Safety isn’t really the issue; it is being retained by restraining the journey times and imposing temporary speed restrictions (surprised to hear that there are 20mph restrictions though. Is it really that bad ?). The region between Lisburn and Lurgan is particularly troublesome as there’s a lot of marshy ground there. It needs extensive work. This problem isn’t a new one, it’s been known about for approximately ten years, if not more. I note that the Enterprise timetable hasn’t really changed since 2002/03, it’s still around 2hr10minutes.

    Despite some misconceptions, the major upgrade of the line in the 1990s wasn’t a full relay of the whole track – only selected parts of it; only the older jointed sections were replaced by this scheme. The Lurgan-Lisburn section was one such section; it had previously been upgraded to welded rail by NIR in the late 1980s.

    The sad thing to me about the whole Belfast-Dublin line is the way it was oversold. In the mid 1990s they promised a 90 minute journey time, we never came anywhere near that. The Northern track lags quite far behind the track to the south. On the southern end, they have different problems in that there is too much congestion between Dublin and Malahide to keep the Enterprise to a tight timetable. The plan there was to add an extra track, but I doubt that’ll happen at this rate.

  • leftofcentre

    As a frequent user of the enterprise back in the day I very often had the great experience of being bused to Newry as the solders of irish freedom had placed hoax bombs on the line.

    So maybe as a republican Conor has still some residual hatred of the enterprise line.

    Can anyway explain to me why people who are so keen on an all Ireland kept disturbing the only decent cross border service we had, I could never understand it myself.

    We drove down to Dublin last week at it only took 1 hour 40mins. If there is more than one person going it can be far cheaper to take the car to Dublin, not exactly a great ad for public transport.

  • paddywhack

    I’m sure if the money was available then the money would be spent on this project. Every department has extreme cuts imposed on their budgets for this year and many years to come i think. The country is broke!

    Translink on the other hand is a different story for me. From experience it is by far one of the worst public transport services. Trains run late, you sit on the train for extensive periods of time, and times there is no explanation why. The cost of train tickets is through the roof. As left of center said, one more person in a car and its much cheaper.

    Translink run offers for people traveling after 9.30am, but screw the day in day outers that need to be in work by then! the same people that keep translink afloat!

  • Cynic2

    “if the money was available then the money would be spent on this project.”

    …instead of giving it away to farmers? Wasting it on roads from nowhere to nowhere that no-one will use? Upgrading an airport that is hopelessly uneconomic? Upgrading sectarian sports grounds?

  • Drumlins Rock

    “I’m sure if the money was available then the money would be spent on this project.”

    Tens times the amount needed for this is going to be spent on the A5 white elephant road, the money was found for that, by stripping it away from everything else, with the full agreement of the SinnDup coalition.

  • SethS

    Same here. Used the Enterprise a lot when it first started, but rising costs and improvments in the road network, means its often quicker to drive or get the coach. I wouldn’t even think of getting the train now.

  • Neil

    Upgrading sectarian sports grounds?

    Quite right. Windsor Park shouldn;t get a brass tack.

  • Cynic2

    ….. or casement?

  • eejitssotheyare

    Sectarian sports grounds? …….Gosh and heres me thinking they were for playing sports in…..whatever next?

  • andnowwhat

    If anything, we need more money spent on the rail network and a big expansion of same.

    Our roads are gridlocked at peak times and permission for development (the Carryduff/Saintfield Rd corridor is a prime example) has been given willy nilly without consideration for the traffic impact.

    Others here would know better than I but I am pretty sure they can get a european grant for it plus the obvious employment it would create.

    Furthermore, I would make peak time rail travel free or as near as.

    I cannot think of one country I have been to (which cover South America, North America, Eastern Europe and Asia) that has as poor or as expensive public transport as we have in NI

  • “A sectarian sports ground”

    That would be any venue which hosts the Celtic v Rangers match.

  • Neil

    Don’t recall any sectarian incidents at Casement Cynic. Care to provide an example? Won’t bother providing you with any from Windsor – you’ve heard them all before.

  • Niall

    The A5 is NOT a white Elephant. The world does not start at Derriaghy and end at Sydenham. The west of the province has suffered severe underinvestment and it is essential to upgrade the A5.

    It’s just a shame that more funds could not be diverted to finish the job started on the A4 so that it would be dualled all the way to Enniskillen.

    The train network has become a complete joke of late. It’s now £6.40 from Belfast to Lurgan (20 miles). I can remember it being £4.80 three years ago. That makes it 32p a mile. It costs £10.50 from Nottingham to Birmingham (52 miles), making it 20p per mile.

    And this 20 mile NIR journey takes 49 minutes – Seriously! The English example takes 23 minutes more to cover an extra 32 miles. And the English complain about how slow train travel is and the need for high speed upgrades.

    Scap the train altogether and pump the saving into the A4 or at the very least a Clougher Valley by-pass.

  • Cynic2

    “Don’t recall any sectarian incidents at Casement Cynic. ”

    Might be hard when there’s barely a Prod about the place.

  • Cynic2

    “The A5 is NOT a white Elephant. ”

    Oh yes it is!!!

  • andnowwhat

    I’ve a prod mate and he and his father have been following GAA for years. They’ll bore the hell out of the most patient being going on about their beloved Tyrone.

    They also go to the big games in Casement.

    My good woman’s ex hubby is also in to GAA but is more in to the hurling (rightly too) and also plays rugby and goes to every Ulster match.

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    interesting paper on sectarianism in sport:

  • andnowwhat

    Also remember a protestant guy from round my way who played for St Enda’s (Glengormley) with my older brother back in the early 70’s.

    Obviously, his father attended matches etc too.

    BTW, I know someone will jump on this. The reason I know that he was protestant is that went out with his sister some years later

  • PJ Maybe

    Sectarian? What about Jack Boothman? And Sam Maguire was a Prod. And Darren Graham (er perhaps we shouldn’t talk about him though) and the several other Protestants who’ve played the GAA’s games since it was founded back in the late 19th Century. And isn’t there an Orange bit on the flag flown at every game? What more do the intransigent bigots from the Unionist laager want?

  • andnowwhat

    I’d say that a better example of sectarianism would be a party that wants to manipulate the sectarian demographics of Northern Ireland to put nationalist and republican politicians in to opposition and revert power back to unionists a la the former orange state.

    Mind you, that’s the TUV for you.

  • joeCanuck

    Sounds like people who are driving to Dublin and have the time should go down to the train station with a sign in the window: “Going to Dublin, will share costs”.

  • joeCanuck

    It imazes me that 150 years ago we could afford to build railways all over the country and now we can’t afford the relatively small sum of 40 million to keep the existing two in good shape. All of the money goes to the roads and the north west does not need a brand new road, just a few essential upgrades.

  • Niall, comparing a 20 mile journey with one of 52 miles isn’t comparing like with like, because the further you are travelling, the less you pay per mile.

    I also strongly suspect you’re not using the “anytime” fare – which, indeed, you’re not. It’s £24.50 single Nottingham-Birmingham in the morning peak, or £14.90 off-peak unless you commit to a particular train in advance.

    A fairer comparison would be Weston-Super-Mare to Bristol, whose normal fare is £5.80 single for a similar distance to Lurgan-Belfast. It’s actually quite unusual in being cheaper than NIR, because in my experience, NIR is substantially cheaper than most GB companies for journeys of similar length. I suspect though that in the same way as Antrim-Belfast is much cheaper than Lurgan-Belfast at £5.10, Weston passengers pay less for being on a less busy line.

    You do have a good point re speeds, but NIR never had the money to push speeds above 70mph anywhere until the 1990s. The 1:16/17 for Nottingham-Birmingham only includes around 7 intermediate stops, though, compared to Belfast-Lurgan – the greater number of stops Belfast-Lurgan slows it down further. The express only takes 28 minutes, stopping at Moira and Lisburn on the way to Belfast.

    Finally… yes, Lisburn-Lurgan needs done urgently, because it was omitted in the 1990s and left at 70mph. However, it will muddle through until we get a competent Government in Westminster. Coleraine-Derry will not, and it can barely afford to wait for the next three years before commuters (the mainstay of NIR services) get fed up with ever decreasing speeds.

  • I am lurking on borrowed broadband, via an iPad (brag, boast) so expect no fancy trimmings.

    Keep hammering them, lads.

    The assumption that the line between Bangor to Portadown service isn’t where NIR earns its revenue defies belief. Any assumption to the contrary is insanity.