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Councillors pledge to back high speed rail study

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

NEWRY, Mourne and Down District Council has pledged support to a pre-feasibility study on a new Belfast to Dublin high-speed rail link and to contribute funding to the project.

November's meeting of the Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee meeting, which was held in Monaghan Row, Newry, heard that the total cost to the council would be 15,000.

A report on the matter presented to councillors stated that the Dublin to Belfast Economic Corridor was 'the only region on the island having the scale and population density to become a significant growth centre' and that it was 'essential to further strengthen the existing advantages of this corridor'.

And it was pointed out that the corridor's development would enable towns to enjoy increased economic growth and employment, as well as more inward investment.

The report also highlighted that there were only eight through services daily between Dublin and Belfast compared to between 40 and 50 services between paired cities in Europe.

Councillors were informed that a high-speed rail link would 'help unlock the potential of the region' and that existing transport links between Belfast and Dublin were 'increasingly inadequate'.

SDLP Councillor Gary Stokes hoped the rail link was "not just pie in the sky." Dublin was "booming" and with local people working there they had to get there as quickly as possible.

ERT Director Ms Marie Ward said the high-speed link would entail a new rail line and stressed that it would be "a significantly faster journey."

Supporting the project, Councillor Michael Carr (SDLP) pointed out that it was important that the timetable had to be right. If it was not, then the speed of the trains would not matter.

Replying to DUP Councillor Harry Harvey's question if there was the footfall to sustain it, Ms Ward said that a feasibility study would consider those type of matters.

Councillor Robert Burgess (UUP) complained about "feasibility study after feasibility study."

"In 10 years' time there would probably be another one done," said Mr Burgess and he added he would be wary of supporting yet another one.

The SDLP's Brian Quinn said he welcomed it on behalf of the people of Newry as the district had "one of the poorest infrastructures in Northern Ireland and further afield."

"It would be great, though, if we could get to the train station on time," he said.

Councillor Glyn Hanna (DUP) thought the train station in Newry needed to be upgraded.

Committee Chairman Pete Byrne (SDLP) believed a new high-speed rail link would be a great idea. He said many people were using the 5am bus service.

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