More rail services to Newry will be introduced in 2017.
The confirmation was given by Transport Minister Chris Hazzard, who said he had noted the concerns expressed by a wide cross-section of the South Armagh and Down areas.
They, he said, had expressed the view that train services from Newry to Belfast were so limited currently that “we are not exploiting the potential for growth in numbers using the train”.
The Minister said:”My colleague Conor Murphy delivered a state-of-the-art rail station for the area and it is important that we make use of this facility to attract greater numbers to use the train.”
Mr Hazzard tasked Translink with drawing up plans to see rail services increased daily to ensure Newry is better connected to Belfast and implementing this when the budget is finalised.
He continued: “I recognise that Translink provides a regular 238 Goldline service to and from Newry but I also recognise legitimate concerns about the frequency of the Newry to Belfast service.
“Improving frequency will have important economic and tourism benefits for Newry and surrounding areas. I believe it is important that we continue to set ambitious targets to grow rail numbers. To do this we need to provide frequent and reliable services.
“Increasing use of public transport is a key objective in the Programme for Government. That means we provide quality and frequency of services particularly between our major cities. This step will support that process.”
Local Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy welcomed the move.
He said: “The Minister recognises concerns about the frequency of the Newry to Belfast service and he has asked Translink to draw up plans for enhancing frequency for consideration when the budget is finalised.
“This development has to be welcomed by all. I share the dissatisfaction by many of the service available and whilst we understand that services are dependent on demand, this request by Minister Hazard for Translink to enhance the service is a very positive step indeed.
“The citizens of Newry and south Armagh deserve a train service that is on par with other parts of the north and following on from the huge investment in the Newry Train Station it makes sense to utilise this state-of-the-art passenger hub.”
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