A RAIL campaigner has backed plans for Stormont to be bypassed in order for the future of Fermanagh’s rail restoration to be revealed.
Steve Bradley of “Into the West” has long campaigned for rail lines and train travel to be restored to Fermanagh, Donegal and Tyrone.
A public consultation launched by the All Island Rail Review was launched in June 2021 with the biggest respondents coming from the Fermanagh & Omagh Council district.
However, for the review’s publication to sse the light of day, both governments in Dublin and Stormont have to sign off on it.
With no Minister at Stormont to do just that, the Review are exploring ways to bypass that requirement so that the next step to rail restoration can begin.
Bradley said: “We’ve got a bit more clarity now on how the report is going to see a bit more daylight. The concern is that the report can’t be officially released until it is signed off by a Minister in the North.
“Because there is no Minister because of the Executive not being set up, there is a danger that the report is just going to be sitting up on a shelf and gathering dust.
“This is too important a publication to be left in limbo. Firstly, because Councils need to plan. If rail is going to be returned to Enniskillen and Omagh, the Council need to know that’s in a public document and they need to start thinking where is this route going to go, where would stations be and be looking at development plans.
“There’s real work that needs to be done around the back of this. If it’s stuck in limbo then how can that work go ahead?
“Secondly, the highest number of submissions in the public consultation to the review came from the Fermanagh and Omagh district. The second highest was from Derry and Strabane with Donegal being the third highest.
“That just shows you that this part of the island of Ireland is where the demand is for restoring rail.
“It would not be fair on all those who made submissions a year and a half ago to then not been told what decisions have been made on the back of their contributions.”
However, Bradley concedes that the report might not be good news for Fermanagh residents hoping for an immediate restoration but by giving the green light to Omagh, it will open up the route for our county to be included in a future stage of redevelopment.
He added: “It’s already been reported that the Derry to Portadown route via Omagh is being recommended by the report. Our understanding is that this route will score the highest on the whole island so this should get through the business case (for restoring the route).
“That will indirectly help the Fermanagh bid – which is the Omagh-Irvinestown-Enniskillen-Sligo route. Because if you’re ever going to bring back rail travel to Fermanagh, trains will need to be coming from Omagh.
“My own suspicion will be the case will be that the Report won’t make a case right now for Fermanagh. But once you get rail to Omagh, it’s so much easier to get it to Enniskillen than it would be from Derry or Portadown.”
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