Passenger numbers in Northern Ireland have almost doubled since 2002, from 6.7m to 13.2m in 2013. Following a public consultation, the NI Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has published a Railway Investment Prioritisation Strategy, which allows for a significant enhancement of existing rail capacity, preparation for the future electrification of the network and the first major extensions to the railway since the closing of lines following the Benson Report in 1963.

Three priority themes will be pursued in bidding for future railways investment funding up to 2035:

  • Maintaining and improving passenger capacity of the existing network: priority will be given to a number of projects including the completion of the Coleraine to Londonderry track relay; track relays between Coleraine and Antrim and at Lurgan station; refurbishment of the Enterprise rolling stock; refurbishing stations and halts including Adelaide, Ballymena, Londonderry and Lurgan; purchase of up to 60 extra carriages; and a programme of new Park and Ride facilities.
  • TEN-T Network: Removing bottlenecks (The railway line from Belfast to Cork, through Dublin has been designated as a “Core Network Corridor” of the European TEN-T Network).
  • Enhancing the TEN-T comprehensive network: possible network extensions that will be considered include first the enhancement of the Northern Line between Bleach Green and Antrim; extensions along the A6 corridor between Antrim and Castledawson; along the M1/A4 and the A3/A29 corridors towards Dungannon/Armagh; and a route to serve Belfast International Airport.

The speed of development will depend on funding from the NI Executive and European programmes.

NI Transport Minister Danny Kennedy said "I am particularly keen to extend the option of rail travel to commuters from mid-Ulster and to the populations in the south and west within the catchments of Armagh and Dungannon. I am committed to exploring all funding opportunities and making this happen."

NI Executive announcement
Railway Investment Priority Strategy
Summary of responses to consultation