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Assembly member Peter Weir
"Must invest in the railways now"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Fears over 'poor' transport system
Northern Ireland Railways train
A railway taskforce is looking at the options
Northern Ireland is in danger of becoming the only part of the British Isles without a proper public transport system, according to an Ulster Unionist.

Assembly member Peter Weir said the proposed investment in railways in the province was "derisory" compared to what was being spent in the Irish Republic and other parts of Britain.

A government taskforce is looking at the future of the rail network in Northern Ireland after it emerged that 183m was needed to maintain safety standards and keep it viable over the next 10 years.

On Monday, the Irish government said it was spending over 3bn on its rail transport.

Mr Weir, who represents north Down, said that almost 180bn was being spent on transport by the exchequer over the next 10 years.

But he said this highlighted the little investment which was planned for Northern Ireland.

Peter Weir
Peter Weir: Concern over railways
"Clearly there has been a long scale under-investment in the railways in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Public transport in general, and railways in particular, has to be give a much higher priority.

"Otherwise we're going to be left standing on the platform as the train pulls away from the rest of the British Isles."

The government task force has hosted a series of public meetings over the future of the railways, to gauge opinion about the service before it prepares a report later this year.

The assembly is likely to decide in the autumn what sort of railway network it can afford.

Recently, the taskforce put forward four possible alternatives to the current system.

These ranged from providing all the money needed for safety, and some additional funding, to closing everything except the Belfast to Dublin railway line.

Earlier this year, the assembly backed a motion expressing concern at the "poor state" of the public transport system and seeking a comprehensive and integrated policy to be implemented.

Threat to system

Translink, the company which runs Northern Ireland's railways, also launched a campaign to save the system.

In June, staff handed out leaflets urging commuters to attend public meetings which were being held to discuss what they saw as a threat to the railways.

It is thought that up to 700 workers could lose their jobs if the railway closes due to a lack of investment.

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