Campaign to have Donegal railways restored to meet tonight – Donegal Daily | So Good News


A campaign calling for the reopening of two key railways in Donegal which closed in the 1950s and 60s is holding a launch event in Letterkenny tonight.

‘Into The West’ campaigns for rail improvement and extension across counties Donegal, Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

The organization was founded in 2004 when they successfully defeated a proposal to close Derry’s rail line. Since then, the group has helped secure major investment in the Derry rail line, as well as a new transport hub for Derry.

In recent years they have also expanded their focus to promote the restoration of important railway routes to the west of the province of Ulster. And now they have launched a campaign for what they describe as “the biggest priority for re-opening rail across the island”.

It is almost 60 years since the Great Northern line last ran between Derry and Portadown. That route included five stops in Donegal (Carrigans, St Johnston, Carrickmore, Porthall and Lifford) before trains continued via Strabane, Omagh and Dungannon to Portadown and Dublin.

The line was controversially closed in 1965 in a decision that ended a century of rail access for Donegal and Tyrone, stripping the west of Ulster of most of its infrastructure. The closure also severed a vital link between Dublin and the north-west of the island, ushering in decades of car dependency. The railway line running between Derry and Letterkenny had previously been closed in 1953, greatly affecting the role of both cities as important transport hubs.

Since these closures, two whole generations have been brought up in Donegal without access to a mode of transport that most of the rest of the island takes for granted. And it has had a negative impact on the economic growth, population and tourism of Donegal and the North West.

The public’s desire to see the railway return to the North West has remained strong ever since. This was demonstrated earlier this year when the public consultation for the cross-border ‘All-Island Rail Review Strategy’ saw the highest number of submissions from the region.

Into The West has therefore launched a major campaign that seeks to make that ambition a reality.

They are calling for the restoration of what they have dubbed ‘The North West Rail Corridor’ – which would see trains start in Letterkenny and travel through Derry, Strabane/Lifford, Omagh and Dungannon to Portadown, from where they would continue on to Dublin and Belfast via the the existing railway network.

Indicative journey times from Letterkenny via the route will be 20 minutes to Derry, 2 hours 20 minutes to Belfast and just over 3 hours to Dublin. Access to the rail corridor from East Donegal will be provided by a shared Strabane/Lifford station, with journey times from there to Dublin of 2 hours 30 minutes.

Chairman of Into The West, Steve Bradley, said “The North West Rail Corridor is an exciting proposal to reopen a much-missed railway spine that previously linked the North West of the island to Dublin and Belfast. It will mark the return of rail to two of Ireland’s largest counties – Donegal and Tyrone – and put key towns such as Letterkenny, Strabane/Lifford and Omagh back on the rail map.

“By linking these cities and counties directly to the island’s main economic and tourism hubs of Belfast and Dublin, the corridor will enable employment, tourism and population growth in places that currently feel neglected and abandoned on the periphery. And it would help tie the North West City Region of Letterkenny, Derry and Strabane much more closely together. No other initiative would have as great an impact on Donegal as restoring rail access.

“And no other rail project on the island would connect such a large number of people across so many key cities and counties. That’s why the North West Rail Corridor should be the top rail reopening priority for governments north and south, and the number one focus for cross-border funding .For too long the North West of the island has been left disconnected, disadvantaged and neglected.Committing to the North West Rail Corridor will enable the North and South governments to demonstrate their commitment to addressing this.

Into The West has launched this campaign ahead of the publication of the ‘All-Island Rail Review Strategy’, which is likely to be published in the New Year. They aim to galvanize public support across the region to influence the report’s findings and to build a head of steam around making the North West Rail Corridor a priority reopening.

Into The West highlights that the North West Rail Corridor will also serve as a cornerstone for further rail reopenings across the west of Ulster – including the extension of the proposed Western Rail Corridor northwards from Sligo through County Donegal (Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Donegal Town, Ballybofey/Stranorlar) to Letterkenny, where it would connect to the North West Rail Corridor.

Into The West hold a series of public events about the North West Rail Corridor and their campaign in each of the main towns along the route. The first event last night in Derry attracted a large crowd and was standing room only.

The Letterkenny event tonight (Tuesday) takes place at 7pm in The Station House Hotel on Lower Main Street.

Campaign to have Donegal railways restored to meet tonight was last modified: 8 November 2022 of Staff writer


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