‘Time running out’ to keep rail plans on track

Time is of the essence if plans to restore a rail link between Armagh and Portadown are to be realised this decade, a campaign group has claimed.

Friday, 19th February 2021, 10:04 am
Portadown Railway Station.

The 10-mile stretch of track between Armagh and Portadown has been closed since 1957 and Armagh is now one of only two cities in the British Isles that does not have a railway service.

However, thanks to financial assistance from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is on the verge of commencing a feasibility study for the £100 million infrastructure project.

Now, the Portadown to Armagh Railway Society (PARS) has called on the council to strike while the iron is hot.

“We are conscious of DfI’s new regional transport plan. It is important the Armagh to Portadown railway project is included in that document,” said PARS spokesperson William Hutchinson.

“That is the pathway to success and we fear that if the project misses the deadline for this document it could be 2035 before this rail link would be considered.

“Time is not on our side and we have a bit of leg work to do but we believe it can be done.”

With PARS estimating that up to 17,000 car journeys are taken between Armagh and Portadown on a daily basis, the society feels the potential benefits of the project are there for all to see.

“We believe this line could serve approximately 32,000 people,” said Mr Hutchinson. “There could be a great environmental boost as cars are taken off the road.

“It is time for our local government to show it is serious about rail as a sustainable transport network for the future.

“It is a very doable project, the political will, on all sides, is there for all to see but we need to hurry up or we could risk missing the boat.”

Commenting on the project, a DfI spokesperson said: “The minister has committed to providing funding in partnership with ABC Council for a feasibility study into the Portadown to Armagh rail project.

“It is hoped that the feasibility study can be prepared in four to six months, in which case it can be considered for inclusion in the draft regional strategic transport network transport plan.

“It is expected that the draft plan will be issued for public consultation in late 2021.”

A spokesperson for ABC Council said: “A meeting of the Portadown to Armagh railway working group will be arranged to discuss the next stages for the procurement of the feasibility study and the timeframe for inputting into the regional transport network plan.”