Train station plaque unveiled by Queen Elizabeth removed within 24 hours

The plaque at Bellarena train station, unveiled by Queen Elizabeth in June, was removed within 24 hours amid concerns for its safety. Picture by Niall Carson/PA
John Monaghan

A PLAQUE unveiled by Queen Elizabeth at a railway station in Co Derry was removed within 24 hours due to concerns over vandalism.

The plaque, to mark the opening of a new platform at Bellarena train station, was officially unveiled during a royal visit in June.

However, infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard has now confirmed it was taken away just hours later.

The Sinn Fein MLA said: "Translink has advised that, because the halt at Bellarena is unmanned, it was concerned about the safety of the plaque and the possibility that it could be vandalised. Translink is currently looking at options to minimise this risk."

The current whereabouts of the plaque remain unclear.

The British monarch, along with the Duke of Edinburgh, toured the north coast as part of a two-day trip to Northern Ireland earlier this year.

Work at Bellarena was completed in March as part of a £46m upgrade of the rail line between Derry and Coleraine.

The royal couple travelled by steam train from Coleraine for the official opening and were accompanied by then Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, First Minister Arlene Foster and East Derry MP Gregory Campbell.

Confirmation that the plaque was removed came in response to a written assembly question by People Before Profit Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann.

Mr McCann said he had been contacted by fellow members of the railway lobby group Into the West who were puzzled by the plaque's disappearance.

The group had campaigned for the upgrade work to be carried out at Bellarena and is hoping that it will eventually lead to the introduction of an hourly service between Derry and Belfast.

Mr McCann told The Irish News: "I have been assured by senior officials from Translink that there is nothing ominous about it being moved.

"What concerned me was not the safety of the plaque but whether there was any question mark over the development of the line. We in Into the West wanted to know that there would be no hold-up on its development."

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