Keep up with Armagh i

Armagh-Portadown rail link on course with £800,000 just announced for feasibility study

The money - announced on Thursday - comes less than a fortnight after a technical study found the line to be 'feasible and deliverable'

Armagh railway line

Armagh’s quest for a rail link with Portadown has taken a massive step closer with confirmation of £800,000 in funding to carry out a feasibility study.

It is one of the final hurdles required before the project would move to potential implementation.

The major cash award was announced as part of a £4.8 million package to deliver rail improvements in Northern Ireland.

The announcement came from Transport Secretary Mark Harper today (Thursday) in his response to Lord Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review.

It will “provide £800k to Translink to deliver a feasibility study on reinstating the Portadown to Armagh railway line”.

It is a huge boost for the Portadown and Armagh Railway Society which has been to the forefront of fighting for the re-opening of the line.

And it comes less than two weeks after a technical study concluded that the local network link was “feasible and deliverable”.

Transport Secretary Harper said: “We are committed to delivering growth opportunities across the United Kingdom, including ways to look at improving rail links across Northern Ireland.

“Today we are announcing more investment into projects that will boost connectivity and enhance transport connections across Northern Ireland. These projects will identify schemes that can bring economic benefits to people across the UK.

“I’d like to thank the Northern Ireland Executive for working collaboratively with us on these projects and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them on improving UK transport connectivity.”

The recent in-depth technical study explored the potential for re-opening the former Portadown to Armagh railway line and determined that this major infrastructure project is operationally feasible, technically deliverable and would promote sustainable transport across the borough and wider region.

With funding provided by ABC Council and the Department for Infrastructure, leading infrastructure consulting firm AECOM was appointed to assess the potential merits of reinstating the rail link which closed in 1957.

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.

The study has been a long-term ambition of PARS, who supported council throughout the delivery of the study.

Speaking after the release of the technical study findings, Lord Mayor Margaret Tinsley said: “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.”

The news of the feasibilit study, therefore, could not have come at a better time.

The Northern Ireland allocation announced on Thursday will also see a further £3.3 for Translink to deliver a study on the cost, feasibility and value for money of electrification of the railway in Northern Ireland from Belfast to the border.

It will fund a £700k feasibility study on reopening the Antrim-Lisburn railway line, with an additional stop at Belfast International Airport.

Funding has also been committed to deliver targeted improvements to the A75 between Gretna and Stranraer, improving links between Scotland and Northern Ireland via the Port of Cairnryan.

To kickstart this work, the UK Government will provide Transport Scotland with up to £8m from the UK Connectivity Development Fund for a detailed study on options for realigning the A75 around Springholm and Crocketford.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Improving connectivity across Northern Ireland and the UK is a priority of the UK government, and I am pleased that these feasibility studies will support that aim in Northern Ireland, for the benefit of businesses and people living and working here.”

The response to the Union Connectivity Review marks an important step in increasing UK connectivity and delivering the strong, reliable transport connections people depend on every day.

“The review was conducted by Lord Hendy as he called for improved transport connectivity across the UK. The review was the first UK-wide multi-modal strategic transport assessment in a generation.”

Lord Hendy also welcomed the Government’s response and said: “My recommendations outlined the next steps that the government should take to identify investments that will improve connectivity and support economic growth, job creation, house building, social cohesion and sustainability. The government’s response shows that they are taking the necessary actions to move this work forward and demonstrates their commitment to improving UK connectivity.

“I am also pleased to see that partnerships between the UK government, and each of the Scottish government, Welsh government, and Northern Ireland Executive have underpinned this work and I look forward to seeing them continue in the future.”

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Most read today

More in Armagh