The Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway has welcomed the publication of the final draft of the Masterplan for the regeneration of the town.

Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, described the document as “extremely encouraging” and welcomed its endorsement of the heritage railway’s role in the town’s regeneration.

Mr. Collins continues, “The Masterplan has fully endorsed our strategy and with their support we are confident that we can make the railway proposals a reality.”

He says, “When we met with the Consultants preparing this report we were confident that we could make a significant contribution to both the tourism appeal of the town and help offer other transport options. “The Downpatrick Masterplan now includes recommendations for the completion of the railway’s currently ‘mothballed’ southern line to Ballydugan, and to restore the bridge over the A25 to connect with the Racecourse,” adding, “It has also endorsed our plan to move our engineering activities to a new site at the Business Park and allow our Downpatrick base to be totally given over to public space.”

The local tourist attraction had initially expressed concerns back in February about the plan when the first draft was launched, as one proposal featured a new road or busway along the railway’s Inch Abbey line. He says, “We are pleased that the Masterplan now recognises that some form of public transport to and from the Business Park or potential Velodrome development along this route doesn’t need to involve tarmac, but rather can use the existing rail infrastructure.”

Mr. Collins states, “While we note that the option of a dedicated busway is still on the table, we agree that both a road or rail scheme would need to stand on its own economic feet, but we are relieved that we could agree on common ground and stand ready to help assist with the development of any future proposals for such a scheme.”Mr. Collins adds that the credit for this endorsement of the proposed extensions to the Downpatrick railway rests largely with the public.

“Throughout the consultation process many people got in touch with us and the consultants to express their support for our plans – we are absolutely grateful for this vote of confidence from the community and we pledge that we will deliver the schemes you have told us that you want us to build.”