Northern Ireland

Minister accused of ‘failing’ north-west rail infrastructure as long-delayed Derry to Coleraine upgrade pushed back

Phase 3 work to upgrade Derry to Coleraine rail line has been pushed back a further two years to 2027

A train runs under the Peace Bridge in Derry
Minister accused of 'failing' Derry in terms of rail infrastructure.

A RAIL campaign group has told of its “dismay and frustration” that a “long-delayed” plan to upgrade the Derry to Coleraine line has been pushed back a further two years.

The information was contained in a recent written answer from Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd to Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan.

Into The West (ITW) said the development to push back work on Phase 3 meant that Derry was being “failed” in terms of its rail network and upgrades.

Steve Bradley said that when the Sinn Féin minister took office in February, work to modernise the rail line plan was scheduled to begin after the British Open Golf tournament in Portrush, in July 2025.

However he says they have now learned that the start date has been pushed back twice and work will now not begin until 2027.

“ITW is angered by these continuing delays, and the fact it was not even been told about the changes directly.”

The group has also voiced concerned that the department only allocated funding amounting to 5% of the total cost of the work.

“We believe this calls into question his sincerity to see the project actually happen,” said Mr Bradley.

“Rail passenger numbers in Derry continue to grow rapidly each and every year – showing the degree of support that exists locally for our railway services.

“Yet we are still hampered with blatant timetable discrimination compared to every station on the line east of the Bann.

“And we are still stuck with slow trains and poor-quality track because work that was supposed to be completed a decade ago keeps getting kicked into the long grass.

“It is deeply disappointing a new minister has chosen to continue this same old story of delay over delivery for yet another two years – and doubtless even further beyond that again.”

Mr Bradley said he believed the situation would “not happen anywhere else in Northern Ireland except Derry,” which, he said, “continues to be treated shabbily.”

The rail campaigner pointed out that while Derry is not getting an upgrade “the plan for a massive new third-of-a-billion pounds station in Belfast has been conceived, approved, funded and built”.

“When it comes to major projects in Belfast, the cheque books come out. When it comes to even basic projects in Derry, the delays and excuses come out”.

“We have now lost all confidence that this work will begin at all before the minister’s term in office ends in May 2027.

Unfortunately, when it comes to rail in the north-west John O’Dowd appears to prefer delay and discrimination over actual delivery.”

The Department for Infrastructure was contacted for a response.