I wrote a blog recently (or started it) while travelling back from Coleraine on the train to Belfast. It was about the Setanta Cup match at the Showgrounds, which Shamrock Rovers won. Now I am writing on the move again, on the same stretch of track. But the difference this time is that I am returning from a day out in Derry.
Northern Ireland Railways (Translink) has just re-opened the line from Coleraine in County Londonderry to Derry City. The new timetable began this morning with the 09:20 service from Great Victoria Street station in Belfast, arriving at the Waterside station in Londonderry at 11:33am, one minute ahead of schedule. But even with the new track, the train takes nearly half an hour longer than the Goldliner express bus, which terminates at Foyle Street bus station, near the Guildhall.
This important rail infrastructure project has been timed to coincide with Derry being the UK Capital of Culture for 2013. It marks the completion of the first phase of the track renewal and improvement project at a cost of over £30m. Translink say it will secure the long-term future and sustainability of the Northern corridor rail link which provides vital connections to jobs, colleges, universities, shops, businesses and local attractions.
The GAA Congress was held in Derry for the first time this weekend and brought several hundred delegates from clubs throughout the island and further beyond to this rejuvenated city.
This blog was originally published as the train back to Belfast arrived at Yorkgate staion. I updated it later with a link to the new timetable. All in all, a very enjoyable day out, including a nice lunch at a popular bistro close to the station. So at this stage I think thanks are due to the Into the West rail link campaigners such as Eamonn McCann and the local politicians such as rail enthusiast John Dallat for putting the pressure on Translink to deliver what I hope will be a very successful improved service linking the two main cities in the North.