Northern Ireland

Rising sea levels threaten Northern Ireland’s rail network, Translink report claims

A new report on climate change from Translink has warned rising sea levels could threaten parts of Northern Ireland's rail network in the coming decades.

RISING sea levels could destroy key parts of Northern Ireland’s rail infrastructure, according to a new report on climate change from Translink.

The issue was highlighted during an Assembly debate on Tuesday, with the SDLP calling for greater progress on the All-Island Strategic Rail Review – a £30bn plan to improve railway connections across Ireland.

The report was prepared for Translink by AECOM Infrastructure and Environment UK.

It suggests that 22 rail locations across Northern Ireland are at risk of damage from climate change by 2040, 2060, 2080 and 2100.

By 2040, seven locations are said to be at high risk of sea level rising and another four classed as medium risk.

The UUP’s Infrastructure spokesperson, John Stewart MLA, said that investing in railways could not wait.

“Northern Ireland currently has only six rail lines operating and any loss to our rail infrastructure will have detrimental impacts on our economy and local communities,” he said.

“However, it is inevitable that within the next 16 years, the impacts of climate change will destroy parts of the Larne and Londonderry Line, with no option existing to save these tracks.

“With today’s debate, brought to the Assembly by the SDLP, on the development of an all-island rail network there needs to be a focus on investing in our current established rail networks that are under threat of being destroyed.”

He said that while a feasibility study was underway for Phase three of the Derry line to Coleraine, it was important to acknowledge that in the next 16 years “several of the locations on the Londonderry Line will be destroyed” due to sea levels rising.

“Therefore, rather than looking to expand the Line, there needs to be urgent discussions around how any available resources can be used to save or redirect the areas at risk.”

As an East Antrim MLA, he said the study would greatly concern his constituents who heavily rely on the Larne line as their main form of transport.

He called on the Department for Infrastructure to urgently consult on moving the Derry and Larne line as well as planning for any other future rail moves.

A Translink spokesperson said “This report was proactively commissioned by Translink and completed in December 2023, as part of the risk assessment of our sea defence assets across the railway network for a range of sea level rises associated with climate change projections for 2040, 2060, 2080 and 2100.

“This report forms part of the overall risk assessment of railway assets across the network and will be used to contribute to a climate resilience strategy and programme of works going forward to ensure the railway network remains protected against medium and long-term impacts.

“Translink also maintain short term resilience in our sea defences through a series of annual inspection and maintenance works, including before and after storm events”.