Railway Line: North Belfast

Oral Answers to Questions — Regional Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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Photo of Nelson McCausland Nelson McCausland DUP 3:00 pm, 22nd February 2016

6. Mr McCausland asked the Minister for Regional Development, in view of the development of the Ulster University campus in York Street, which may result in increasing rail use, what consideration is being given to changes to the railway line in north Belfast. (AQO 9687/11-16)

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I recognise the importance of supporting this development, and, clearly, public transport will be critical. I recently met officials from the University of Ulster, and I understand that it is working closely with Translink. Future plans to encourage students to access the new campus by public transport will include a range of direct bus services, discounted ticketing options and a wide range of promotional activity. Currently, Yorkgate rail station has capacity to deal with greater numbers of passengers. Translink will improve bus links from the station and is working with Transport NI on improved walkways and cycleways.

Translink has also looked at the possibility of providing a new station at Gamble Street. However, to operate a new station on the line at this location will require the existing single-line Dargan viaduct to be reconstructed to twin track. That is because a delay to each train on the single line section for services from Larne and Londonderry could not be justified. A recent review indicated that the single line across the Dargan viaduct will be sufficient for projected passenger growth well into the next decade.

To justify the track dualling earlier would require a sufficiently robust business case and consideration of impacts across the whole rail network. There is also a question of timing. Reconstructing the viaduct to take a twin track will most probably require an extended period of line closure, which brings with it its own difficulties.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker 3:15 pm, 22nd February 2016

I am sorry; there is not time for supplementary questions. We now move to topical questions.