A new Transport Minister but an old answer to the question!
Please, please, please can the people of Armagh have a rail link?
Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen, like her predecessors, has insisted that, while she’d love to make it happen, the money’s just not there.
Despite a campaign and petition signed by thousands, led by Suzan McComb and a band of supporters, it has been one disappointment after another.
Now the point has been reemphasised by the Minister, who provided the update in a personal letter to Gareth Hampton, a student of the Royal School Armagh and the Newry and Armagh Member of the Youth Parliament.
Just last November, Gareth raised the issue on the floor of the Houses of Commons.
He and his young peers from across the United Kingdom took over the House to debate five issues which had been voted on.
The Youth Parliament event – which was screened on BBC Parliament – saw members discuss issues which just under one million young people across the UK voted on, of which 2,145 came from Newry and Armagh – the highest ever involved in this constituency.
Gareth used the opportunity to raise the issue of Armagh’s much sought-after railway link under the debate theme of public transport.
He told Armagh I at the time: “I stressed how beneficial it would be, not only to the young people of Armagh, but people of all ages, to access education, work and leisure. I felt the message was received positively and definitely raised awareness of the need for better transport links in Armagh.”
Unfortunately the message was not quite so positively received at the house on the hill!
Gareth also wrote recently to Transport Minister Michelle McIlveen.
The Minister has now replied saying that the rail transport prioritisation strategy was published in 2014 and had included proposals for feasibility studies and a number of possible extensions of the railway network, including to Armagh.
But Minister McIlveen adds: “The extent to which such feasibility studies can be taken forward will however be very much dependent upon the availability of additional funding in future budgets.
“While I am supportive of improvements to our railway system, including, if feasible, extensions to the existing network, by immediate priority for railways expenditure is to maintain, improve and upgrade the existing network.
“This is likely to be difficult within the resources currently available.”
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