Passengers derailed by changes
THE General Manager of Translink, Mal McGreevy, is to meet disgruntled commuters who have been left feeling derailed by alterations to the evening rail timetable to Londonderry.
Prior to the closure of the rail line between the City and Coleraine last year for vital upgrade work to the tracks, commuters had been able to access a return journey to the city at 5.37pm. The proposed new timetable, due to come into effect this weekend, only offers return journeys from Coleraine at 4.43pm or 6.43pm, meaning business commuters, lecturers and students at the Coleraine campus of the University of Ulster who want to get back to Londonderry either face a long wait at the station or have to leave early to get the late afternoon train home.
Waterside woman Christine Ritchie said she and her fellow commuters had no issue with the morning service, but were deeply concerned at having to spend up to two hours waiting at Coleraine station in the evenings for the link home.
“Whenever we were consulted about the service Translink did not mention the changes to the evening service. The issue was completely avoided, which means commuters to Derry/Londonderry have a wait of nearly two hours in Coleraine. Coleraine closes at 5.30pm, so people will be stuck at the closed station for about one-and-a-half hours.
“The General manager of rail services, Mal McGreevy, has told us he will be available to meet commuters today, March 20 at 5.45pm at Coleraine station and we will be calling on him and Translink to have a rethink about the changes to the evening rail timetable,” Christine said.
Ms Ritchie said that if the changes went ahead, and commuters were forced to wait for the later train, it meant they would not get back to the city until after 7.30pm, before making their way home, and the problem was worse for a number of commuters from Donegal.
“There are people who travel from Donegal to use the Londonderry line, and whenever they get out at Derry/Londonderry they may have another half hour or more to travel to get home,” she said.
Ms Ritchie said she also understood that before the line closed for repairs that Portrush was the branch line, but it now appeared that this had also changed: “Portrush used to be the branch line, but it has now taken the main line status. Commuters from Derry/Londonderry are now the branch line travellers and will have to disembark, which we will have to wait 20 minutes in Coleraine to get on the Belfast line in the morning, but this is not the most pressing issue, the evening trains are,” she said.
Supporting Ms Ritchie’s call for a revision to the new timetable, DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney said commuters to and from Londonderry were facing an unacceptable wait in the evening.
“The DUP has serious concerns about the new timetable. We understand commuters will have to pay an extra £30 if they use the later services. We are concerned that in the UK City of Culture year those travelling to and from Londonderry face an inferior service rather than an improved one.”
A Translink spokesperson said: “The new train timetable between Coleraine and Derry~Londonderry has been designed in consultation with passengers and other stakeholders and is based around a 2 hourly service pattern. Unfortunately, due to this being a single line track, it is not possible to operate rail services from Coleraine to Derry~Londonderry between 5pm and 6pm as there is a train leaving Derry~Londonderry to Coleraine and beyond at 5.30pm to cater for the evening peak from Derry~Londonderry.
To cater for the evening passenger demand from Coleraine there is an Ulsterbus Goldline 234 service leaving Coleraine to Derry~Londonderry at 5.30pm and an Ulsterbus 134 service leaving Coleraine to Derry~Londonderry at 17.45.
“It is planned however that following further engineering work to install a second passing loop, an hourly service will operate between Derry-Londonderry and Coleraine. This is planned for early 2015.
“The Derry~Londonderry line will reopen on March 24th 2013.
“We are currently reviewing ticketing options for passengers travelling from Coleraine to Derry~Londonderry on our evening services and are in constant communication with these passengers.”
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Weather for Londonderry
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west