Stormont officials are to be asked to explore funding opportunities for a feasibility study into a new rail link between Portadown and Derry/Londonderry.
Confirmation of the move has come from Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd, in whose Upper Bann constituency the Portadown connection would conclude.
No details have been given as yet as to any potential route for any future line should such proceed, but it is understood it would cross County Tyrone, travelling across Mid-Ulster through Dungannon and Omagh.
A further feasibility study is also expected into the electrification of the line between Newry and Belfast.
Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has welcomed progress on the All Island Rail Review which is due to complete by the end of this year.
He said: “I recently received an update from my officials working on the All Island Rail Review who confirmed that work on the report is continuing and is due to be finalised at the end of this year. I want to keep the momentum of this vitally important work and to reaffirm my commitment to it.
“As we seek to connect communities and tackle the climate emergency, this review will be vital in providing a vision of how our rail network can support our strategic objectives.
“With that in mind, I have asked my officials to continue to progress this work with their counterparts in the South.”
Minister O’Dowd said that, without pre-empting the results of the All Island Rail Review, he had also asked officials to explore funding opportunities for feasibility studies into four areas.
These are a new rail line between Derry and Portadown; reopening the Knockmore line with a connection to Belfast International Airport; electrification of Belfast to Newry line; and better connections between the rail halt to Belfast City Airport.
Said the Minister: “I am keen that we continue to be ambitious around our rail network and look forward to a future where people across this island, in particular those in rural areas, have greater access to rail travel.”