ONLY one train at a time will be able to operate on the Londonderry to Coleraine railway track when it re-opens, hopefully, at the end of March, according to Translink General Manager Mal McGreevy.
Passengers are also being asked to choose whether they want to facilitate an early morning train arriving into Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 at 8.25am by forcing people who want to travel in the other direction to get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning.
In order to allow Belfast commuters get into Londonderry earlier the former 7.33am train from Londonderry to Belfast would have to leave at 7.13pm and wait at Coleraine for 20 minutes before a path was clear for it to complete the journey.
Translink is giving rail users two options. The first is an all day hourly service from Belfast to Coleraine with a special Goldliner busing early morning commuters into Londonderry for 8.45am.
This will be complemented by a two hourly service (eight a day) between Londonderry and Belfast with the first of these trains into the UK City of Culture 2013 at 9.25am Under this proposal the last departure from Londonderry to Belfast from Monday to Friday will be at 7.33pm.
The alternative option is that the first train from Belfast could go straight through to Londonderry for 8.25am.
However, as there is only one passing loop between Londonderry and Coleraine (at Castlerock) the first train from the city to Belfast would have to leave at 7.13am rather than 7.33am in order to allow the 8.25am western bound train through to the Maiden City.
Not only that but the proposed new 7.13am would have to wait at Coleraine from 8am to 8.19am before a path was available through to Belfast.
Translink point out that prior to the closure of the line far more people used the early service out of Londonderry (100-150 per day) than the early service from Coleraine to Londonderry (about 20 passengers per day). The last departure from Londonderry would be 9.33pm under this proposal.
Mal McGreevy said: “In early 2015, Translink plans to extend the hourly rail service through to Derry~Londonderry following the installation of new signalling and an additional passing loop on the track.
“This next phase of work will commence in 2014 after the City of Culture activities.
“In the meantime, when the line re-opens this Spring, it will only be possible to have one train in the Coleraine – Derry~Londonderry line section at any one time.
“Therefore, we have developed the two best possible options for the line re-opening this Spring and now invite public feedback to help shape and finalise our plans.
“Last year, we recorded the highest ever passenger numbers on local rail services with 10.7 million journeys made across the network – an increase of over 70 per cent in the last decade.
“This new timetable consultation is another important step to securing a bright future for rail travel in Northern Ireland and we hope our customers will take advantage of this opportunity to share their views,” said Mal.
“Both proposed options are clearly outlined in Translink’s North West Timetable Consultation Leaflet available from Coleraine and Derry~Londonderry Bus and Train Stations or online at www.translink.co.uk.”
The deadline for public responses to the Timetable Consultation is February 1, 2013.