Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Newry on track for new train services

Newry is set to benefit from a host of additional new train services being introduced by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard this summer.  Announcing the increased services last week, Mr Hazzard said a recent review of train provision at Newry had flagged up areas for enhancement and led him to expedite plans to implement the increased services.

The changes, which are expected to cost around £200,000 per year, include two additional weekday trains to Belfast from Newry at 6.30am and 7.30am and a late night train back from Belfast after 10pm – services which local campaigners have vociferously called for.  An extra Saturday morning service to Belfast will also be introduced, departing Newry Train Station at 7.45am with additional Saturday return services to Newry from Belfast set to run at 5.30pm and 10.10pm.

Announcing the much welcome increase in services, Mr Hazzard said,

“When I came into post just 8 months ago I was determined to invest in improving our rail infrastructure and accelerating the growth in passenger numbers right across our public transport systems.

“I am delighted therefore to be able to announce some exciting new changes to our Newry service provision and I am confident that in the future further enhancements will follow as passenger numbers continue to grow and demand increases.

“We have also discussed with Irish Rail the option of extending their 5.20pm Dublin/Dundalk service to Newry which would give an additional Dublin service to Newry at a peak time. I am very confident this service will be agreed in the weeks ahead.

Mr Hazzard thanked Translink “for their very engaging and constructive approach to this review and their ongoing commitment to meeting the increasing demand for Newry service provision.”

Newry & Armagh MLA Conor Murphy welcomed the announcement as “great news and a very hefty rebuke to those who flippantly dismissed  the Minister’s recent focus on addressing issues of dissatisfaction with the Newry service as a “political stunt.”

Mr Murphy described the changes as “an excellent development and good news for service users and for those who seek to encourage use of and access to public transport.”

“I, along with others have worked diligently with the Minister and Translink in genuine efforts to enhance the service. We met with key decision makers and argued that the citizens of Newry and south Armagh deserve a train service that was on par with other parts of the north. Certainly with the huge investment in the Newry station that I oversaw as a minister it made sense to utilise this state of the art passenger hub.”

Meanwhile, SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty  gave a cautious welcome to the announcement saying he would adopt “a wait and see approach at this stage.”

The Newry and Armagh Election Candidate praised the local community for “keeping the pressure on Translink and Chris Hazzard to deliver the additional services.”

“This is something the local community has been demanding for many months now and it’s good to see action, even on the eve of an Assembly Election,” said Mr McNulty.

“Over the last eight months, I have pushed the Minister from the position where he wasn’t even asking officials about the Belfast-Dublin rail service to now announcing additional services.  I have asked many Assembly Questions, raised it during debates and have been working with local people on a petition urging the Minister to act.”

Mr McNulty also called for details of “the timetabling, the number of carriages involved and if we have just been added on to Portadown’s schedule” and added that he hoped the much promised hourly Enterprise Service from Belfast to Dublin will be progressed during the next Assembly.

The full list of changes which will commence in July this year are the introduction of 6.30am  7.30am weekday morning service from Newry to Belfast; an additional evening service at 6.20pm from Belfast to Newry; additional late night service Monday – Friday from Belfast to Newry at 10.15pm; a Saturday morning service from Newry to Belfast at 7.45am; a Saturday evening service from Belfast to Newry at 5.30pm; Saturday night service from Belfast to Newry at 10.10pm; extension of 5.20pm weekday Dublin/Dundalk service to Newry – providing an additional Dublin service to Newry at peak time.