Possible projects in Northern Ireland

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backontrack

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How would NI Railways expand their network?

I think that a station at Craigavon would make sense, and perhaps the reopening of the branch from Portadown to Armagh. Belfast-L/Derry definitely needs more doubling (if you reopened the Lisburn-Antrim line then you could serve Crumlin and Belfast Airport, though you would need more units as this would be an entirely new service), and it could possibly be extended through to Strabane. Any other thoughts?
 
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Elwyn

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I thought it was just out of passenger use, as opposed to actually being closed?

I was through Antrim station a couple of days ago and the rails on the Lisburn branch were shiny indicating at least one train had passed along it recently. My understanding is that the Antrim - Lisburn line is available for diversionary use (subject to pilot man working). It is also used occasionally for engineers trains and the odd RPSI excursion.

In my opinion it is never going to be any use as a means of getting from Belfast Airport into Belfast as the route is far too circuitous and, being single track, would never have capacity for the frequency required. (The current airport bus service runs every 20 minutes during the day). However the line probably does have a future for commuters from Crumlin and Glenavy into Belfast. Translink’s long term business plan does indicate they would be prepared to offer such a service on the line, subject to Government funding.

There’s probably sufficient commuter traffic to justify re-opening the line from Drumsough Junction to Cookstown. Indeed the Finance Minister did suggest that a year or so back, as a means of alleviating the current rush hour traffic jams between the end of the M2 and the Castledawson roundabouts. However in the current financial climate, it’d take quite a bit of funding to do that. Probably not going to happen. Portadown to Armagh is probably similarly viable, but who is going to pay the capital costs?
 

MidnightFlyer

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The trouble with Northern Ireland is that north and west of Lough Neagh populated areas tend to be either sizeable but remote(-ish) towns, with enough residents to justify a railway service but too far away from the wider world to ever justify having a line being built (Omagh, Enniskillen and Cookstown for example) or the arse end of nowhere: the amount of farms and rural properties over there is astonishing. It isn't helped that bus services over there, especially rural ones, are severely lacking.

As for the OP's proposals Armagh is probably the most justifiable option on the table currently. I have no idea how you'd get to Strabane as the railway into Londonderry is rather tightly hemmed in between the massive River Foyle and half of the A roads out of the place, and I think the sole remaining station in the city isn't even the one that used to serve any of the now-closed routes from the place (there were three other stations IIRC). Another problem for Londonderry-Belfast is the actual route the train takes to Belfast via Coleraine means you're unlikely to ever make it faster than doing it by road over the A6 Glenshane Pass.

I believe generally speaking the state of Northern Irish railways at the minute isn't amazing - services were cut last year to save money (Larne is now once every two hours on Saturday and peak services on some line were thinned), so I'm not sure at what point they'll begin to look into rejuvenation beyond the existing Londonderry upgrades.

I thought it was just out of passenger use, as opposed to actually being closed?

Still used on the odd occasion when the line via Bleach Green is under engineering possession I believe.
 
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thenorthern

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What are the current finances for Northern Ireland railways?

Realistically though I would say the Belfast to Londonderry line need to be improved so that its competitive against other modes of transport which means increasing the service levels so that they are at least hourly and increasing the line speed.
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What are the current finances for Northern Ireland railways?

Realistically though I would say the Belfast to Londonderry line need to be improved so that its competitive against other modes of transport which means increasing the service levels so that they are at least hourly and increasing the line speed.
 

najaB

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Realistically though I would say the Belfast to Londonderry line need to be improved so that its competitive against other modes of transport which means increasing the service levels so that they are at least hourly and increasing the line speed.
I agree that improvements are needed, but I don't know if it will ever be competitive on journey time as it's not as direct a route as by road. I suppose it can compete on reliability, but that will require significant double-tracking or additional passing loops.
 
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ainsworth74

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Yes perhaps, if anyone really wants to delve into that particular can of worms, a new thread in General Discussion might be a better idea otherwise this thread could get rather off the point...
 

thenorthern

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As I understand it the station in Derry/Londonderry is officially Londonderry station although given the difficult situation many locals call it Waterside station.

I think as well it would be useful to have more trains to Newry as the stations after Portadown seem like they could do with more trains. Improvements on the Enterprise service I think are also a must.

I have seen talk of re-instating the services to Enniskillen but I think its too small to be viable.

It would be good as well to have more lines in Belfast as parts of the city such as Castlereagh and Andersonstown which aren't currently served by trains. I have seen talk of trains to the western side of the Foyle in Londonderry but given the size of the city I don't think it will ever happen.
 

najaB

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I have seen talk of trains to the western side of the Foyle in Londonderry but given the size of the city I don't think it will ever happen.
If it was going to happen, it probably would have happened in the late 1800's or early 1900's when the technology was equal to the task, and the railway was still king. Once road transport took over, any chance of a rail bridge became vanishingly small.
 

thenorthern

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Given we have left the EU I think any cross border service improvements will happen for a while due to the uncertainty of that route.

One thing I have noticed though in Northern Ireland is all services seem to be concentrated on the Belfast area I think it would be useful to do what they do with the bus branding in Northern Ireland (Ulsterbus for outside Belfast and Metro for inside Belfast) and have something like UlsterRail for the Belfast to Londonderry, Belfast to Newry and Coleraine to Portrush while inside Belfast on the trains to Portadown, Larne and Bangor use MetroRail.

Also no one has mentioned it yet I think the Both the Belfast to Londonderry and Belfast to Portrush should both be hourly in order to give stations between Belfast and Coleraine an hourly service.
 

Elwyn

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Also no one has mentioned it yet I think the Both the Belfast to Londonderry and Belfast to Portrush should both be hourly in order to give stations between Belfast and Coleraine an hourly service.

The service between Belfast and Coleraine is already hourly (plus a couple of extras at rush hour). Did you mean half hourly? If so, I agree.
 

thenorthern

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The service between Belfast and Coleraine is already hourly (plus a couple of extras at rush hour). Did you mean half hourly? If so, I agree.

Yes I did mean half hourly sorry, I think I did read somewhere that there were plans for a half hourly Belfast to Londonderry service by 2021 or something alternating between the line through Lisburn and the one through Mosley but I think there would need to be some serious infrastructure improvements to make it worthwhile in terms of both capacity and journey times.

It would also be useful if there was at least one through Dublin to Londonderry service and if the terminals in Dublin weren't like the London Terminals as Cork to Londonderry service would be useful as well.
 

backontrack

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Well, obviously you'd need some more double tracking on the (London)Derry line, but it could still work. And the Dublin stations are connected..it's just the tunnel between them (the Phoenix Park Tunnel) is only used rarely. But services are planned to use that tunnel more later in the year.

Unfortunately the line to (London)Derry misses out Limavady (the nearest stop is Bellarena) and the centre of Newtownabbey.
 

Mordac

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The line between Coleraine and Londonderry is being upgraded now, with a new passing loop built at Ballerena and the removal of the last sections of mechanical signalling in the NIR network. This will see signal boxes at Castlerock and Londonderry close down, with control centralized to Coleraine, and enable the delivery of an hourly Belfast-Londonderry service, as discussed above. So think of something else, this one's already covered. :D

There's a phase 3 of upgrade for this line planned, involving the relay of the track between Castlerock and Eglinton, with a supposed ETA of 2021, but anyone who's followed rail projects before should know to take that with a whole salt shaker. This would supposedly enable the delivery of a half-hourly service.

The NIR Network Statement has a list of other possible projects on page 20, but with very little detail.

Finally, the then DRD, now Department of Infrastructure, published a depressingly unambitious long-term rail invesment plan in 2014: http://www.nienvironmentlink.org/cm...orisation-strategy-april-2014-final-draft.pdf
 

thenorthern

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Realistically though would would be the maximum speed for a Belfast to Londonderry service? I think its 50mph at the moment which is far too slow for an inter-city route if you ask me.

What is the top speed that any Irish Gauge train ever built by the way?
 

ainsworth74

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I must admit that decreasing the journey time for Belfast to Londonderry would seem like a priority as right now it takes an absolute age and feels very very slow.
 

Elwyn

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I am pretty sure I read that the section between New Mossley and Antrim (on the Belfast to Derry line) is cleared for 90mph by the CAFs.
 

Calthrop

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I must admit that decreasing the journey time for Belfast to Londonderry would seem like a priority as right now it takes an absolute age and feels very very slow.

This was my impression, on a recent holiday visit to NI. First-ever rail ride for me, between Belfast and Londonderry: found the run delightful and fascinating -- but at a little over two hours, definitely not speedy. Reckon that if I had to do this rail journey regularly, it would quite quickly become wearisome.
 

Flying Snail

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This was my impression, on a recent holiday visit to NI. First-ever rail ride for me, between Belfast and Londonderry: found the run delightful and fascinating -- but at a little over two hours, definitely not speedy. Reckon that if I had to do this rail journey regularly, it would quite quickly become wearisome.

You should have done it in the days of 80 class thumpers and jointed track. The section out of Derry in particular was very rough and the suspension in the power cars would bottom out, it certainly didn't feel slow then.

Unfortunately the route is just very indirect in comparison with the A6, I don't see much chance of a significant improvement in the near future. I doubt it would ever be able to compete with the frequent coach service for journey times.
 

najaB

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YUnfortunately the route is just very indirect in comparison with the A6, I don't see much chance of a significant improvement in the near future. I doubt it would ever be able to compete with the frequent coach service for journey times.
Agreed. The only competitive advantage it can have is reliability (as compared to the very variable Belfast traffic). To do so will require significant investment in double track/passing loops so that minor delays don't balloon into major disruption.
 

thenorthern

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Although may improvements are still to be made in Northern Ireland its important to note that 30 years ago the province was effectively a warzone and the railways were regularly disrupted because of terrorism and since then the railways have come on a long way.

The closure of York Street station and diverting the Larne service into Belfast Central has been a major improvement to services within Northern Ireland. Also the CAF stock introduction has really helped the railways in Northern Ireland.

The semi-closure of the Lisburn to Antrim line however I don't think has been the brightest moment for Northern Ireland railways as its meant the closure of 3 stations and money is still being spent on the line even though its officially closed.
 

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Flying Snail

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Given we have left the EU I think any cross border service improvements will happen for a while due to the uncertainty of that route.

The biggest obstacle to journey time improvements on the Dublin - Belfast line is the congestion approaching the two cities.

Transferring the route to Great Victoria St would cut 5 minutes and it is better located but improving speeds south of Malahide is going to be impossible with the frequency of local stopping services which are due to increase later this year. Short of quad-tracking from Connolly-Howth Junction there is no solution to this.

One thing I have noticed though in Northern Ireland is all services seem to be concentrated on the Belfast area I think it would be useful to do what they do with the bus branding in Northern Ireland (Ulsterbus for outside Belfast and Metro for inside Belfast) and have something like UlsterRail for the Belfast to Londonderry, Belfast to Newry and Coleraine to Portrush while inside Belfast on the trains to Portadown, Larne and Bangor use MetroRail.

That was tried before with Intercity and Suburban branding in the 90's, it wasn't really a success with the small network and inability to keep the stock on the correct services.

Currently all the stock is the same so what would be the point, Translink have progressively watered down the individuality of the 3 companies so it wouldn't really fit their current thinking anyway.

Realistically though would would be the maximum speed for a Belfast to Londonderry service? I think its 50mph at the moment which is far too slow for an inter-city route if you ask me.

What is the top speed that any Irish Gauge train ever built by the way?

NIR MU stock is 90 as is Enterprise, IE 201 locos + stock, 2200 railcars are 100 mph, the rest of their diesel railcars are 75mph, 071 locos are freight only now but are 90mph capable.

Agreed. The only competitive advantage it can have is reliability (as compared to the very variable Belfast traffic). To do so will require significant investment in double track/passing loops so that minor delays don't balloon into major disruption.

There is already a scheme due to start construction next year to improve access to Belfast from the M2 direction with the M1-Westlink-M2 becoming entirely freeflow which will provide a very quick route to Europa Bus Station.

As well there are plans for dualling a large proportion of the A6 from Derry- Dungiven and extending the M2 end as well.

By the time any rail improvements are forthcoming the road route will already be quicker and less delay prone, Belfast-Derry is one route that rail has no realistic chance of matching road journey times. Having said that the passenger numbers are healthy and growing on the Derry line so while it won't be the quickest it does seem to have a healthy future.

It really is a shame that the post war Stormont government was violently opposed to rail as if they had survived a number of the lines closed in the 50s and 60s would be very well used today. Certainly the Derry-Portadown-Belfast/Dublin route is a great loss as well as some of the County Down commuter lines.
 

Elwyn

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I wouldn’t worry too much about how many passengers want to travel from Belfast to Londonderry by train. I wouldn’t use that as a measure of how successful the line is. From my experience, apart from some tourists doing it for pleasure, there probably aren’t that many. However what the line does attract are plenty of people going from say Belfast to Coleraine and also from intermediate places like Ballymoney to Londonderry. So people get off and are replaced by people getting on. One of the staff at Antrim told me they sell as many southbound tickets as northbound tickets. Most of the daytime trains are packed to standing. So the line is doing well. It has more passengers than the Belfast to Dublin route (according to one of the guards). But if the service were increased to half hourly, it’d do even better.

Redoubling the line between Mossley West and Ballymena is the next step, but that would require major engineering work between Mossley West and Antrim as the line takes the easiest route and so occupies both former trackbeds. North of Antrim it would be easier as the line to Ballymena wasn’t skewed and reinstating double track would be that much easier.
 

Calthrop

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Unfortunately the route is just very indirect in comparison with the A6, I don't see much chance of a significant improvement in the near future. I doubt it would ever be able to compete with the frequent coach service for journey times.

It appears to be a quirk of how things sorted out in this part of the world, viz. both rail routes (one living, one dead) between Belfast and Londonderry -- NCC via Coleraine, and GNR(I) via Portadown and Omagh -- being long and circuitous ways round, compared to the main road.

I seem to recall reading about a wild scheme, floated around the turn of the 19th / 20th centuries, for a 3ft gauge line westward from Ballymena, more or less directly across the mountains to Londonderry. If that had come to pass, it would have significantly reduced the actual rail mileage for the "north-about" route: but the gauge issue would have been, in various ways, one heck of an issue.
 

thenorthern

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I think I read somewhere that someone managed to cycle from Londonderry to Belfast quicker than the train took which was rather embarrassing.

I would say though as a whole even in Belfast Northern Ireland is a very car oriented region and the railways and buses are seen as secondary. I would say its a similar picture in the Republic of Ireland as well.
 
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