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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
Fresh call for airport rail link
Belfast International Airport
The closed rail line runs close to Belfast International Airport
A South Antrim assembly member has renewed a call for a railway station at Belfast International Airport.

The SDLP's Thomas Burns says a rail line already exists within a few miles of the airport and it is time the idea of an airport link was taken seriously.

Last month, the assembly was told that the volume of passengers would not sustain a rail link, but that the issue could be discussed again.

But Mr Burns said the assembly needed to show "vision".

Rail services were withdrawn from the Lisburn to Antrim line in June 2003 due to costs.

The stations at Knockmore, Ballyinderry, Glenavy and Crumlin were all closed.

Conor Murphy
Mr Murphy said that a rail line could not be sustained

Last month, Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy was asked to look at proposals for re-opening what is known as the Knockmore line.

However, Mr Murphy said more than 100m passengers had to be using an airport every year to sustain a railway link and the volume of those passing through Belfast International Airport fell "far short" of that.

But Mr Burns said it was simply a matter of extending a line which already runs within a few miles of the airport.

"We are not talking about starting from scratch and undertaking a massive engineering effort. We are talking about completing an unfinished job," he said.

"The International Airport currently handles around six million passengers a year and is growing at a rapid rate. We must get the plans in place now."

Last week, Aer Lingus announced it was investing 100m at its new UK hub in Belfast, and it said it had the potential to bring up to 1m new passengers every year.

Julian Hine, a professor of transport at the University of Ulster, said there were already increased traffic levels around the airport.

"It seems sensible to be looking at the idea of re-opening the Antrim-Lisburn line, particularly as it runs quite close to the airport," he said.

"If we are serious about getting car-borne journeys off the roads and promoting Belfast metropolitan area it seems a sensible thing to be doing."

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