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BBC NI's Annita McVeigh reports
"It could be several days before services return to normal"
 real 28k

Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 18:39 GMT
Rail travel disrupted by alert
Part of the line was closed during the security operation
Part of the line was closed during the security operation
The closure of a cross-border rail link, following reports of several explosions, has disrupted travel plans for thousands of people.

The security forces searched the area near Newry, County Down, after the blasts were heard at about 0330 GMT.

About 40 miles of track between Portadown, County Armagh, and Dundalk in County Louth was closed and six train services cancelled.

A helicopter and spotter plane were used in the search operation.

More than 2,000 people were due to travel by train to Dublin on Saturday morning.

The vast majority of them were rugby fans heading to the Ireland Six Nations match against France at Lansdowne Road.

Many passengers were bussed to the game
Many passengers were bussed to the game

Bus and rail company, Translink, had laid on three special trains to take the fans to the game, in addition to the three scheduled Dublin services.

But as the security operation got underway, staff worked hard to come up with contingency plans.

Ken McKnight of Translink said: "We have been bringing buses from all over the province to try to minimise the inconvenience to passengers.

"They are all very understanding at what the bus companies and the railway are trying to do. But they are very, very angry at the situation."

Translink fears it could be several days before services return to normal.

The railway line only opened a few days ago after a five-day security operation on the line outside Newry.

Dissident republican

Later the police said a bomb, thought to have contained about 100lbs of home-made explosives, had gone off.

On Friday, services were also disrupted following a security alert further up the line, between Lurgan and Moira in County Armagh.

It followed a telephone bomb warning, but nothing was found.

Last June, an explosion damaged the Belfast to Dublin railway line a few miles from Newry.

The dissident republican Real IRA was blamed for that attack.

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See also:

05 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Bomb alert on rail line ends
26 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Rail device was 50lb bomb
12 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Blast was '100lb bomb'
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