Incompatible Roles

• The current Derry-Belfast rail service tries to fulfil two conflicting roles.

• It primarily exists as a commuter rail service for Belfast. Hence – of the 14 stops on the line, 5 are in Belfast city and another 4 within 30 miles. Two thirds of the stops on the entire 95 mile line are therefore within 30 miles of Belfast, and designed primarily to meet the needs of travellers to/from the city.
• This Belfast commuter role is further reflected in the timetable – e.g. weekday frequency is doubled out of Belfast from 4-6pm, but only as far as Coleraine.

• The line also exists to fulfil an additional role = as an inter-city service between Derry and Belfast (two major cities and destinations on the island’s rail network). However – this role is very much the poor relation, and a secondary consideration to the Belfast commuter function.

• It is impossible to fulfil both of these roles simultaneously on a singletrack line. The commuter function necessitates multiple stops within a short distance of Belfast city centre. This increases considerably the end-to-end journey time between Derry and Belfast – making rail unappealing as a travel mode between those two cities. As a result the line is prevented from genuinely fulfilling its secondary inter-city/island-wide function for the network.
• This conflict in roles results in passenger demand from Derry being undermined and suppressed – as evidenced by the sharp contrast in passenger volumes from stations east of Coleraine versus those to its west. This is despite Derry having a population larger than every other town on the route between it and Belfast combined.
• A city of 105,000 people should be contributing significantly greater passenger numbers on the same line than towns with a population of 25-30,000 people are. The fact this isn’t happening shows that the current arrangement is failing both Derry and the rail line/network as a whole.

• With passenger demand from Derry effectively suppressed in this way, the under-performance of the Derry-Coleraine section of line is used by Translink/DFI as a reason to reject further improvements to Derry’s rail service (e.g. denying an hourly service on Sundays).
• As Derry is NI’s second-largest urban settlement, the unused train capacity between the city and Coleraine presents an untapped opportunity for Translink to increase incremental revenue on the line at no additional cost.
• Translink’s failure to exploit this untapped potential is a missed opportunity for an organisation that is reliant upon public subsidy and suffering financial constraints. As this and other examples show, Translink is neither innovative nor ambitious in seeking to maximise the revenue it secures from existing