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Translink is currently involved in the preliminary stages of a project to refurbish Portadown station, and it expects the feasibility study to be completed by the end of 2008. After that, several further stages must be completed, including the production of an economic appraisal to establish value for money and the obtaining of planning permission. My Department will consider granting approval for that project when all those procedures have been successfully completed, and if the necessary funding can be secured.
As I said, a number of processes must be completed before the project can start. What I am about to say relates to the question that Basil McCrea asked: the Department’s intention is to give a commitment to try to improve trains, journey times and facilities at various railway stations, because it has been shown that, where facilities and public transport improve, the number of passengers increases. The Department’s intention is to increase the numbers of people using public transport. I will undertake to speak to Translink to ensure that no unnecessary delay takes place in pursuing the scheme. I am not au fait with the discussions between Translink and Craigavon Borough Council, so I do not know what assurances were sought or given. However, I will certainly make it my business to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays in delivering the project.
The Member will be aware that Translink has been given approval to proceed with a new £14·6 million railway station at Newry. It is expected that that work will be completed in 2009. A scheme for a bus/rail station in Antrim is also to be developed over the next few years.