Minister pours cold water on Ballykelly rail halt idea
TRANSPORT Minister Danny Kennedy has poured cold water on the idea of a new rail halt or station in Ballykelly.
Local politicians had been lobbying for a new station to accommodate the relocation of the Department of Agriculture to Ballykelly – a move that will see an extra 800 jobs move to the Roe Valley village.
Michelle O’Neill, the Minister of Agriculture, has confirmed that the Department will move its headquarters to the site of the former Shackleton army base in 2015, and on the back of the announcement a host of local politicians had been calling for a new rail stop in the village.
The Minister in charge of Transport, UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, has now moved to dispel any hopes for a train halt in Ballykelly.
He told the Stormont Assembly that no proposal had been made by the Department of Agriculture for a train halt to accommodate their 800 Ballykelly-based workers, that his own Department had not been consulted before the move was announced and that no funding was available.
He had been asked by Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer, who represents the West Tyrone constituency; “given the announcement on the relocation of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development headquarters, whether the option of providing a railway halt or station at Ballykelly will be examined.”
UUP Minister Danny Kennedy replied: “My Department has not received any approaches from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) for a new rail link to its proposed new headquarters at Ballykelly.
“For such an option to be considered, a business case would be required to test its commercial viability and funding would need to be found. In the current Budget, no funding is available for my Department for a station or halt at the Ballykelly site.”
However, Mr McAleer followed up by asking: “Does the Minister agree that a relatively minor adjustment of the plans to insert passing loops could be made to accommodate such a halt?”
Danny Kennedy again pointed out that no preliminary work had been conducted and stressed that there was no funding in his current budget for such a project: “As I said in my original answer, my Department was not consulted in relation to the announcement made by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. No preliminary work has been carried out. Of course we would look at any such proposal. However, I must reiterate that there is no funding in my current budget for a station or halt at the Ballykelly site.”
East Londonderry MLAs David McClarty, a unionist politician unaffiliated to any political party, George Robinson of the DUP and John Dallat of the SDLP then stepped into the debate, to ask the Minister a number of follow up questions.
Mr McClarty asked for an update on the progress of the line from Londonderry to Coleraine, to which Mr Kennedy replied that he was “optimistic” the line would re-open in April next year, as scheduled.
Limavady man George Robinson then asked the Minister whether he agreed that “a halt would benefit the new potential workforce and the wider local community?” Mr Robinson added: “It would be beneficial if some money could be found and a request from the DARD Minister were forthcoming.”
The Minister responded: “I have clearly outlined that both me and my Department were unsighted by Minister O’Neill’s announcement of the relocation of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. We have not had any conversations or correspondence, to the best of our knowledge, on the issue. If such a request is made, of course we will seek to co-operate.”
John Dallat praised the Minister for securing funding for an improvement to the Londonderry to Coleraine railway, and further pressed the case for a train halt at Ballykelly, saying that it would be a “missed opportunity” if it did not go ahead. The Transport Minister re-iterated that he had received no proposal from DARD, had not been consulted ahead of Michelle O’Neill’s announcement and that no money was available.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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