AFTER news emerged last month the North’s finances are to get a £1 billion boost, thanks to the “confidence and supply” deal between the DUP and the Conservatives, attention quickly turned to the sorry state of transport infrastructure west of the Bann.
While much of the talk has been of improving the local roads network, almost exactly 60 years since the closure of the railways in Fermanagh, social media has been awash with calls to “bring back the trains” in recent weeks.
Selwyn Johnston, curator at Headhunters Railways Museum, said the effects of the closure of the line, which connected Sligo, Bundoran, Enniskillen, Omagh and Clones, have been widely felt over the decades.
“Promises were made to improve the network of roads in Fermanagh to compensate for the loss of the railways,” said Mr Johnston. “The railway lines have long been lifted, but unfortunately many people feel that the promise to invest in roads did not materialise. Sixty years on, Fermanagh and every county bordering it has the unique distinction of having no rail network.”
Unsurprisingly, Mr Johnston was not overly optimistic about the return of the lines any time soon.
“Everyone can be sentimental in their wish to see railways return to Fermanagh, however financial constraints and current demand dictate that this will not be in the short-mid term,” he said.
“However we have an obligation to plan for the transport needs of our population decades in advance.”
Mr Johnston added while it would be costly and challenging to reopen or design a new railway today, it was not impossible, with “innovative rail transport solutions” and “new generation trains” which are quieter and environmentally friendly.
“The business case for reintroducing railways would have to be carefully examined and will be affected by such issues as future energy costs, environmental issues and capacity,” he said.
“When you are looking at a 25-50 year transport plan it’s not unrealistic to review why Fermanagh should not benefit from a railway network in the future.”
Posted: 6:52 pm July 13, 2017