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Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Deputy Prime Minister's comments do not apply to Northern Ireland Railways. However, the Government acknowledge the need for Northern Ireland Railways' slam door carriages either to be replaced or to have electric locks fitted as soon as possible. The timescale cannot be determined until the outcome of this year's Spending Review is known.

Northern Ireland Railways

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Railway Task Force is undertaking a consultation exercise, inviting all interested parties or individuals to make their views known. Should the Government of the Republic of Ireland wish to present its views, these will be fully considered by the Task Force.

24 May 2000 : Column WA97

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 2 May (WA 171), how the 4.5 per cent. increase in passenger traffic on the Belfast to Dublin railway line between 1995-96 and 1998-99 was calculated; and what was the increase year on year during that period.[HL2297]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Figures available from Translink show that the cross-border rail patronage for 1995-96 was 810,600 and that the cross-border rail patronage for 1998-99 was 846,997. This gives the advised percentage increase of 4.5.

The year-on-year details during the period 1995-99 are set out below.

YearsPatronage increase/decrease %
Between 1995/96 and 1996/97Decrease of 15.4
Between 1996/97 and 1997/98Increase of 21
Between 1997/98 and 1998/99Increase of 2.07

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 2nd May (WA 172), that there were no proposals to carry freight on the Belfast to Londonderry railway line, what was the purpose of recent trials involving the transportation of timber from the Republic of Ireland to Londonderry.[HL2298]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Translink has advised that the recent trials involving the transportation of timber from the Republic of Ireland to Londonderry were part of a pilot study to assess the feasibility of transporting timber from Irish Forestry Commission areas in North West Donegal to Londonderry and from there to Belfast, Limerick and Waterford via the rail network. Negotiations on this matter remain ongoing and no proposals have been made.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 4 May (WA 187) concerning European Union funding for the Belfast to Larne Railway, which is the appropriate agency to apply for European Union funding for the relaying of the railway line from Belfast to Larne; what part the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company has in making any such application: and, in view of the route's Euro-route status, why no such application has been made.[HL2432]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: It would be a matter for the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company to apply for European funding for the relaying of the railway line from Belfast to Larne. The company has not submitted any such application, largely because it has accorded other parts of the network greater priority for the limited amount of European funding available.

24 May 2000 : Column WA98

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the importance of good track work to the safety and comfort of rail passengers in Northern Ireland, whether they will list the track renewed under Northern Ireland Railways annual replacement scheme over each of the last 10 years and the yearly cost.[HL2452]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Translink has provided the following details, which relate to all track renewed, with approximate costs, for each of the last 10 years. Translink has advised, however, that around 1992 the annual track replacement scheme was amalgamated with capital projects relating to track renewal. Therefore the information post-1992 relates to both.

YearMiles£ Cost (approximate)
1989-9011£4.2 million
1990-917£2.5 million
1991-927£2.5 million
1992-938.25£6 million
1993-948£8 million
1994-9510£10million
1995-9618£12 million
1996-974£4 million
1997-98NilNil
1998-9917.5£16.7 million
1999-00NilNil

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 2 May (WA 170), what steps they are taking to resolve the difficulties surrounding the upgrading of the railway station at Newry.[HL2453]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Translink have advised that, with the continuing lack of progress on the provision of the access road to the proposed new railway station site by the private sector developer, they are currently investigating other options.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that, in any report from the Railway Task Force in Northern Ireland, social and environmental issues as well as financial issues are fully addressed.[HL2470]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes. As part of its deliberations, the task force has been considering the methodology to be used in evaluating the options it will consider. It has been agreed that the method to be adopted will take social and environmental aspects fully into account.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that, in any planning proposals over the next 10 years, the possibility of reinstating the rail links from Portadown to Armagh and from Templepatrick to Ballyclare using, where possible, the existing track beds is fully taken into account.[HL2554]

24 May 2000 : Column WA99

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Responsibility for this subject has been delegated to the Planning Service under its chief executive Mr H S McKay, and I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Northern Ireland: Public Transport

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What European Union grants are available for public transport in Northern Ireland, what applications are currently lodged and what is the channel for such applications.[HL2471]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: European funding has been available for public transport in Northern Ireland through the Transportation Sub-Programme of the Northern Ireland Single Programme 1994-1999 and the joint INTERREG Programme for Northern Ireland and Ireland 1994-1999.

Applications lodged and approved under both programmes are as follows:


    Transportation Sub-programme


    Bangor Integrated Transport Centre


    Antrim to Bleach Green Rail RE-instatement


    Rail Vehicle Transfer Equipment


    Newry Bus Station


    Westlink Busway Phase II


    Belfast to Bangor Rail Up-grade


    Belfast Central Station Refurbishment


    Interreg


    Armagh Bus Station


    Coleraine Integrated Transport Centre

There are no other applications currently lodged. Applications were lodged by the transport companies with the former Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.

Negotiations are in progress between the European Commission and relevant Northern Ireland Departments about European funding for the period 2000-2006. It is too early to invite applications for European funding for this period.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the current structure of the Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development is adequate to reflect the competing priorities of public and private transport in such a way as to create public confidence; and whether they will underline the Department's commitment to public transport, including railways.[HL2353]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am satisfied that the current structure of the Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development is adequate to address the significant transport issues, involving both public and private transport, including railways, as evidenced in Moving Forward, the Northern Ireland Transport Policy Statement published in November 1998.

24 May 2000 : Column WA100

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 4 May (WA 188) which noted that the policy of a target average bus fleet age of eight years does not apply to the devolved administrations, why the same Answer suggested that the policy is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly to consider.[HL2538]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Transport policy in Northern Ireland is a transferred matter under the Northern Ireland Acts 1973 and 1998, so decisions in this area are a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive or Northern Ireland Office Ministers in their absence.


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