A NEW government consultation paper on the future of railway in the west of Northern Ireland has lifted hopes for the revival of Dungannon’s railway line, which has been closed for almost fifty years.
The document, which was compiled by the Department of Regional Development, is now asking the public for its opinion on the future of railway in Tyrone, Fermanagh and Donegal.
According to the paper, the cost of relaying the railway line from Portadown to Dungannon would amount to £187 million.
Devoted train enthusiasts, who have spent years campaigning for the return of rail to the town, are urging local people to support the railway project and make their views known to the department.
According to the DRD, there have been proposals from a number of interested parties to re-open railway links to the towns in the west of Northern Ireland, which were formerly connected to the rail network in the nineteenth and part of the twentieth centuries.
Dungannon railway campaigner Jim Donaghy said it was the first time that elected representatives and funding authorities had taken the proposal seriously.
Dungannon last saw trains in 1965 and is just 15 miles from Portadown via the former rail alignment.
“This is part seven of the railway investment consultation paper”, said Mr Donaghy.
“While it is promising that DRD is still considering the reinstatement of railways in Tyrone and Fermanagh the document would suggest that there is no immediate intention to bring back train services to the area.
“This is a consultation document and the opportunity to express opinions on the need for rail transport in the Dungannon. Omagh and Enniskillen areas may never arise again so it is important that interested individuals, parties and local authorities should make their responses to Alan Heron at the Department for Regional Development before 12th April 2013.
“The Department is now realising the mistake made by the then Government in 1965 which authorised the closure of the Portadown - Derry line and more so the haste in returning the track bed to adjoining land owners at a nominal sum.
“The purchase of land is the largest cost in completing a relay of the railway.”
Re-opening of the railway through Dungannon would have enormous business, tourism and commuter benefits, as well as cutting CO2 emissions, energy consumption and car and lorry dependency. A new Derry - Omagh - Portadown route would also benefit travellers from the northwest to Dublin who could reach the city in under 3 1/2 hours by going via Omagh, Dungannon and Portadown.
However, the paper suggested that local populations in towns such as Dungannon would not make the railway service viable, and that such towns would be better served by new investment in high quality, bus-based alternatives.