The British government was today urged by a Northern Ireland MP to spend more on the UK’s rail network as part of measures to tackle global warming.
A motion has been tabled by former Stormont Regional Development Minister Gregory Campbell urging the UK cabinet to invest in railways in the face of environmental concerns about increased traffic.
The East Derry MP explained: “There has been a huge increase in environmental awareness due to global warming and the consequences this has had for many regions with flooding etc.
“This is likely to get worse in the next few years.
“The use of driver only vehicles on commuter routes adds to the problem.
“Every urban centre in Northern Ireland along with the M1 and M2 are experiencing the problems associated with the growth in car ownership.
“The government cannot expect the public to switch to public transport until there is a safe, comfortable, reliable and cost-effective system in place to offer alternatives to the car user.”
In recent years the British government has tried to improve the Northern rail network by purchasing 23 trains from Spanish manufacturer CAF at a cost of £80m (€117.9m).
An £11.4m (€16.8m) train care facility has been built beside the M2 motorway at Fortwilliam in north Belfast to clean the trains.
Northern Secretary Peter Hain yesterday also announced that in the strategic investment plan for the North over the next decade rail travel would form a key part in the development of the public transport network.
Mr Hain said the core railway network would be developed in line with the report of a Railways Review Group.
Politicians in the north-west have been critical of the British government over the rail link between Belfast and Derry.
Mr Campbell said today the growth in air travel at the North’s three airports in recent years had been considerable, reflecting a trend that had seen almost 70 million people use Heathrow Airport.
This had also added substantially to the global warming problem, the Democratic Unionist MP claimed.
“For short to medium length journeys, rail travel can be made effective but it must be supported,” he argued.
“In Spain, the government there are committed to spending on average more than £10bn (€14.7bn) each year over the next 15 years in upgrading their rail links.
“It is that type of financial commitment which can make the difference.
“For this reason I have tabled a motion in the House of Commons which has attracted cross-party support for this type of investment in rail. The government needs to act now.”