THE council has revealed its aspirations for ‘the provision of an interurban rail network’ servicing the wider district. Responding to the Department for Infrastructure’s recent All Island Strategic Rail Review consultation paper, the local authority stated its desire to see a significant enhancement of current rail services. In its response – published in a report presented to Monday’s meeting of the Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee – the council highlighted that, whilst Newry has rail links, ‘the entire south-eastern area has no rail provision to the wider urban areas of the district, which spans 1,633 km² with over 100 miles of coastline’. ‘Future rail links to service the Newry, Mourne and Down District area would greatly assist in the provision of transporting individuals to work in, invest in and visit the council area, and particularly the principal urban areas of Downpatrick, Ballynahinch, Kilkeel, Newcastle, Warrenpoint and Crossmaglen,’ it read. ‘The provision of an interurban rail network would undoubtedly improve the connectivity and accessibility of residents and visitors to the council area, ensuring a strong economy with better connections and opportunities with financial benefits.’ The response also stated that ‘offering an alternative option to car transport would definitely assist with the sustainability and decarbonisation agendas, albeit at a substantial long-term investment’. ‘Tourism opportunities, with the provision of necessary transport services, would be enhanced and make the entire district more accessible,’ it continued. ‘However, departments would need to work together to ensure onward travel to more rural areas is provided for the betterment of our local villages. ‘A collaborative approach with key stakeholders should be adopted to ensure the needs of the local urban and rural areas are considered and addressed.’ The response highlighted the council’s mission to ‘support and advocate for a welcoming district that is progressive, healthy and sustainable, providing better economic, environmental and social outcomes for all’, and which aims to see ‘an increase in infrastructure investment that enables the future economic growth of the district’ and ‘enhanced investment in the sustainable tourism offering’. ‘Both of these could be vastly contributed to with an improved interurban rail network connecting cities with urban and rural areas across our district,’ it added. ‘The provision of an adequate and sustainable rail network would be very much welcomed and beneficial in achieving our strategic objectives, namely: invest in and support new and growing businesses, job creation and employment skills; promote the revitalisation of our city, towns, villages and rural communities to further develop desirable places to live, work, invest in and visit; and to attract investment, develop modern infrastructure across the district, address needs and improve the quality of life for all.’ The Downpatrick and Newcastle railway was closed in the 1960s, and Newcastle’s old railway station, which was built in 1906, currently houses a supermarket.