The train journey between Londonderry and Belfast has only gotten slightly faster since the 1940s, the Northern Ireland Transport Minister has confirmed.
The train between Londonderry and the York Road Station in Belfast was almost as fast in 1948 as it is today. In fact, in almost 60 years, just 14 minutes have been shaved from the journey times.
The Transport Minister, Danny Kennedy, made the shocking revelation in response to a query from East Londonderry MLA John Dallat, who is a member of Stormont’s transport committee.
Mr Dallat asked the Minister to “detail the journey time by train between Derry and Belfast in 1955 and 2015”.
Mr Kennedy replied, however, to say that there are no timetables from 1955. He said: “Translink has advised me that NI Railways do not have records of 1955 timetables. It does however have access to the 1948 and 1967 timetables.
“A direct comparison between those years and the present day service is not possible as in both 1948 and 1967, Londonderry line trains terminated at, and started from the old York Road station, whereas currently they terminate at and start from Great Victoria Street station and there are more intermediate stops on the current service.
“However, the equivalent running time for today’s train service from York Road Station is 2 hours 1 minute, albeit with 9 intermediate stops. This compares with 1948 when it was 2 hours 15 minutes, with only 5 intermediate stops, and 2 hours 5 minutes in 1967, with 6 intermediate stops.
The current running time from Great Victoria Street station to Londonderry, with 12 intermediate stops, is 2 hours 15 minutes.”
Meanwhile, the long-awaited second phase of the Londonderry to Coleraine rail upgrade will be completed in 2016, the Minister Danny Kennedy promised at the beginning of this month.
Back in April the Sentinel reported how the start date for work on Phase 2 had slipped from May to September.
But Mr Kennedy has today promised the work will be completed by the end of next year.
In a statement he said: “The rail track between Londonderry and Coleraine has suffered for years from under investment. The original preference was for a complete relay and signalling to be carried out in a single project.
“However, funding constraints meant that the project could not go ahead at that time. In October 2011 following my intervention we approved carrying out the relay in 3 phases.
“Phase 1 relayed the worst parts of the track and was completed ahead of schedule in March 2013 and within its budget of £26.7m.
“Phase 2 involves the full re-signalling of the Coleraine to Londonderry line section and the addition of a passing loop originally to be completed by the end of 2015 and estimated to cost £19.9m based on analysis at that time.”