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28/11/2023

Former Portadown To Armagh Railway Deemed Feasible

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Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough (ABC) Council has announced that a study has deemed the former Portadown to Armagh railway as operationally feasible.

The railway line is technically deliverable and would promote sustainable transport across the borough and wider region. It would also reduce journey times between Armagh and Portadown and Armagh and Belfast as well as a 10 per cent shift in sustainable trip-making. The railway line has the potential to attract 670,000 journeys each year.

Funded by ABC Council and the Department for Infrastructure, AECOM was appointed to assess the potential merits of reinstating the rail link which closed in 1957. The study ahs been an ambition of the Portadown Armagh Railway Society (PARS) who supported the Council throughout the study.

A range of transport options were considered but a direct, heavy rail passenger service between Portadown and Armagh best met the objectives set for the study.

The study examined a range of aspects including the need and demand for rail passenger services, land requirements, an economic appraisal, the technical feasibility of reinstatement, the impact on the operational rail network, stakeholder engagement, future strategy and funding options.

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The results from the study show that there are clear economic benefits to the reopening of the railway, which would outweigh the investment and operating costs of the project.

Lord Mayor Alderman Margaret Tinsley said: "Thanks to the extensive research undertaken as part of this study, Council has renewed its commitment to work in partnership with the Department for Infrastructure and Translink to take this project forward.

"Armagh is the only city on the island of Ireland without a rail connection. The lack of investment in its infrastructure is hindering the historic city from reaching its full potential.

"Restoring the Portadown to Armagh line will provide a higher quality, sustainable, low carbon and climate resilient public transport network that connects the city to Belfast and beyond. It will cater for an increase in demand from the borough’s rapidly growing population, help connect communities and improve accessibility to jobs, homes, education, and social and economic opportunities.

"Furthermore, it will boost the city’s attractiveness as a major tourism hub in NI and support economic growth along the Craigavon corridor. Council is keen to work with the Department for Infrastructure and Translink to further develop the proposals."

Jackie Robinson, DfI Director of Public Transport Policy & Climate Change Response said: "We appreciate the work that has gone into this technical study by the Council and their consultants AECOM. This provides further evidence and information that will assist in the prioritisation of recommendations outlined in the All-Island Strategic Rail Review once the responses to the consultation on it have been considered and the Report finalised and agreed. In addition the Department is currently drafting a Transport Strategy for Northern Ireland which is a high-level strategic document to look at the overall policy context and identify transport priorities across the region; whilst also considering how we make our contribution to net zero. This is expected to be published for public consultation in the coming months. The Transport Strategy will guide the future Transport Plans within which this rail extension can be considered."

The recently published 'All-Island Strategic Rail Review' also recommended the re-opening of the Portadown to Armagh railway line as part of a wider reconnection of the rail network to Monaghan and all the way to Mullingar via Clones and Cavan.

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