REGIONAL Development Minister, Conor Murphy, officially launched the new high speed Rathlin Island ferry – the Rathlin Express.
The ferry is a 17 metre, twin engine, double deck catamaran with a passenger capacity of almost 100. It can complete the crossing in 20 minutes.
The Minister said: "I welcome this modern, faster, and more frequent ferry service which has already been positively received by both islanders and visitors.
"I'm committed to improving the provision of public services to the island and have championed the development of an Executive policy for Rathlin. The launch of the Rathlin Express is a major step forward in developing this vibrant island community.
"I congratulate Rathlin Island Ferry Limited on their investment of 1 million in this ferry which increases the passenger capacity by a third.
"It's encouraging that there has already been a significant growth in the number of passengers since the operator began offering an enhanced timetable, of around 2,500 extra visitors, in one month alone. This increased number of visitors using the ferry service will make a positive contribution towards the Rathlin economy and the future sustainability of the island."
New infrastructure has also been put in place to facilitate the Rathlin Express including new pontoons at both harbours and a new passenger facility for Rathlin. The Rathlin Express is wheelchair accessible. The operator has also improved the service by introducing online ticketing and a new text alert system for frequent users.