The Downpatrick & County Down Railway has described discussions with consultants writing the Downpatrick Masterplan as “extremely encouraging”.

Whilst recently welcoming the publication of the Masterplan and supportive of many of its aims, the local heritage railway had voiced concerns over some aspects of the report.

These included the proposals for either a “western bypass” of the town that would follow the route of their Inch Abbey line, or a bus-based “people mover” which would also use this route.

Michael Collins, chairman of the railway, said that both parties were able to find many areas of agreement at a meeting held last Wednesday.

“We had a very positive discussion with representatives of the Paul Hogarth Company, where we outlined our thoughts and concerns on a western bypass and we feel that these were recognised and taken on board.”

He continues, “We have always maintained that we are not opposed to such a road, only that when planning its route that our needs and those of the surrounding area are taken into account. We feel this has happened.”

“We also discussed the idea of the ‘People Mover’ and reached a broad consensus that the vision outlined in our ‘Future Directions’ plans fits in extremely well with these proposals.”

He continues, “Not only would the railway be able to get people from A to B quickly, we agreed that heritage trains had an advantage over a generic People Mover in that they also have a strong tourism appeal in their own right, along with the fact that the infrastructure is already largely in place.”

“We discussed similar examples of this type of operation on heritage lines in England, so there is precedence.”

Mr. Collins added, “In a broader sense too we found that we were singing off the same hymn sheet with regard to other aspects of the town regeneration, such as public access to the marshes area, as well as the area directly in front of our station and are encouraged that many of our ideas have been recognised.”

He also thanked the public for their support, “We want to thank everyone who has supported our position and we understand that you have made your voice heard; it’s heartening to see so much support out there for our work.”

It is understood that the DCDR will now be exploring some issues in further detail with the consultants, and is hopeful of a favourable outcome from the consultation report due in April or May.