Gobbins may boost numbers using rail route

A new Class 4000 train on a test run at Whitehead recently. INLT 39-888-CON
A new Class 4000 train on a test run at Whitehead recently. INLT 39-888-CON

Greater investment at Ballycarry Station could boost passenger numbers across the entire Larne railway line, Sammy Wilson MP has said.

The East Antrim representative suggested that the re-opening of the Gobbins path later this year could generate significant tourist trade in the area.

And increased footfall on public transport services could secure the future of the Larne to Whitehead route, he added.

With Translink required to make savings of £15million following recent DRD budget cuts, the transport body is currently reviewing its network of services.

“As a consequence of the reduction in government funding of 2015/16, Translink is considering measures that would need to be taken to adapt to these cuts and their associated impact,” a spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Mr Wilson indicated he had been approached by a number of constituents who were worried about the future of the railway link from Larne to Whitehead.

He said: “With reductions in Translink’s budget, the need to reduce spending and the huge deficit on the Larne line, there were fears that the service was to be cut further or close part of the line altogether. Translink have confirmed further cuts in services across their current provision and there will be announcements and consultation in the near future.

“Whilst I welcome the assurance that Translink has no desire or intention to close any part of the Larne railway line, the fact is that the more sporadic the service becomes, the more likely customers are to switch to bus or use their own transport, so increasing the deficit on the line and calling into question the long term viability.”

He continued: “The fact is considerable capital investment has gone into upgrading the line and purchasing new rolling stock. I believe that there is considerable potential for new customers if park and ride facilities could be provided at Ballycarry, and if there was greater use of the Ballycarry halt by the Gobbins project.”

The possibility of using the line for freight transport to Larne should also be explored, Mr Wilson added.

“The line will only be viable if used and that depends on how the public value it,” he said.

“Equally Translink must ensure that their pricing and timetable policies for buses and trains do not distort the market putting the future of the railway in jeopardy.”