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Northern Ireland invests

01 Aug 2002

UK: New stock for Translink's Northern Ireland Railways and a rapid transit network in Belfast are the key rail elements in a 10-year Regional Transportation Strategy announced by regional development minister Peter Robinson last month.

As part of the government's 25-year Regional Development Strategy, £1·4bn is to be invested in all modes over the decade, on top of existing commitments totalling £2·1bn. Funding will include developers' contributions and private finance.

The £100m first phase of the Belfast network is expected to open in 2008, running east from the city centre to Dundonald. The 8 km route will follow the alignment of the former Belfast & County Down Railway route to Comber, which was closed in 1950. The line is expected to be built as light rail, although guided bus has not yet been ruled out. Future extensions would run north to Newtownabbey, south to Newtownbreda and to West Belfast, but no timescale has been set for these.

The strategy provides £24m for NIR to buy new rolling stock, in addition to the 23 DMU sets on order from CAF (RG 3.02 p120) which are due for delivery from December 2003. The 357 km NIR network is currently worked by 19 Class 80 DMUs used for longer routes such as Belfast - Londonderry, nine Class 450 sets used for suburban routes, and three 1997-built push-pull inter-city sets owned jointly with Iarnród Éireann for the Belfast - Dublin Enterprise service. NIR also has a six-car set of former Gatwick Express stock purchased from Porterbrook.

The extra money is intended to allow all the remaining old stock to be replaced, and to provide a 50% increase in passenger capacity. No decisions have been made as to how many more vehicles will be bought, or when, but NIR intends to stay all-diesel.