Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

In keeping with the “Super” theme, this looks like a job for…Roads Man?

Posted in Infrastructure, Ireland, Politics by Chairman Pip on 3 March 2011

I noticed a story reported by UTV News on my trawl through the various things going on that made me think. Apparently, owing to the public spending cuts, the Department for Regional Development, which has ultimate responsibility for the railways in Northern Ireland, is now not able to find the £40m it had planned to put in to work on the Belfast-Dublin main line to raise the line speed between Knockmore and Lisburn from its present 60mph to 90mph, owing to the (admittedly more pressing) need to relay the line between Coleraine and Derry. Of course, this latter project is more important, because the Derry route is so badly in need of upgrading that, were it not to be, it is threatened with closure. However, for the wont of a measley (in public spending terms) £40m, what is supposed to be Ireland’s flagship railway service, Enterprise, will continue to suffer. The DRD has already said that it would not be able to afford the subsidy for Enterprise to go to an hourly service, something that (given Iarnród Éireann’s propensity for scrapping its withdrawn rolling stock) will prove difficult to run anyway without new trains. Now, I know that the provision of public transport is a devolved matter for the Northern Ireland Executive, but what harm would it do if the Roads Man made an offer of paying for the Belfast-Dublin upgrade, even if it was a loan that the DRD could pay back to the DfT on easy terms? This is something I’ve suggested before. Given that what is good for the economy of Northern Ireland is good for the economy of the United Kingdom, is it not right that the British government takes an interest, rather than just saying “here’s your £xbn grant, go spend it on whatever”? In addition, is that sort of thing not a more worthwhile contribution to the Irish bailout than just handing over another £xbn, as it would potentially contribute to the growth of the Irish economy too. I’m not suggesting that the DfT makes a habit of stocking its nose into Northern Ireland, but on occasions where there is a smallish shortfall of money for work that is not massive but could make a sizeable contribution to improving the service, then why not make the offer?

“Belfast to Dublin railway work shelved”

Investment in the route by the British government could help improve Enterprise's service, and thus Northern Ireland's economy

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