The Belfast–Derry line (referred to as the Derry~Londonderry Line by NI Railways) runs from Belfast to Derry in Northern Ireland. The line is double-track on the short section it shares with the Belfast-Larne railway line, but is composed mainly of single track from Monkstown up to Londonderry Waterside station with passing points at Templepatrick, Antrim, Magherabeg, Ballymena, Killagan, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Bellarena.
Services on the line run on an hourly between a service from Great Victoria Street to Londonderry Waterside (and vice versa), and a shuttle from Coleraine to Portrush via the Coleraine-Portrush railway line. In the other direction, all trains run hourly to Great Victoria Street, with the exception of some late night and peak time services, which terminate at Lanyon Place. Stations between Coleraine and Londonderry Waterside are served every two hours on Sundays.
On Saturdays, the service remains much the same throughout the line as during the week, except for a reduction in peak-time services.
On Sundays, all trains run between Great Victoria Street and Londonderry Waterside, with the exception of the first and last services of the day, which start from or terminate at Coleraine. Only seven trains run each way on the line on Sundays.
Any passengers travelling to Portrush have to change at Coleraine station.
Prior to 2001 and the reopening of the Bleach Green viaduct, services operated via Crumlin, Glenavy, Ballinderry and Lisburn. The reopening of the Bleach Green viaduct resulted in shorter journeys between Belfast and Londonderry. A skeleton service continued on the Lisburn–Antrim line until 2003, when the line and its stations were closed. This section of railway is now used solely for driver training or other operational requirements e.g. special services to major events.
Recent history and future
In August 2011 it was planned to reduce services on the Coleraine to Londonderry section to five services, in each direction on weekdays, to facilitate safety improvement works during 2012. A refurbishment of the line was due to commence in April 2012, however the £75 million that it was to cost, was unavailable. This resulted in opposition from supporters of the section who feared that the line would be permanently closed down.
In October 2011, after years of uncertainty, Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy relocated funding from the A5 dualling project to the railway upgrade project, allowing for a 3-phase upgrade, which commenced in July 2012.
Phase 1 saw the line close for nine months to completely relay two sections (Coleraine to Castlerock; and Eglinton to Londonderry) of the route, extending the life of the remaining section by converting the currently jointed track to continuous welded rail, elimination of wet spots, and essential bridge repairs. This was completed on 24 March 2013, and new timetable changes have resulted in a morning train reaching Derry before 9am for the first time since Northern Ireland Railways took control of the network in the 1960s.
Phase 2 has seen the passing loop removed and the 'down' track lifted at Castlerock, replaced with a new loop further down the line at Bellarena halt. New signalling has been introduced, and the signalboxes at Castlerock and Londonderry Waterside closed, with the line operating under absolute block. An hourly service between Belfast and Derry was introduced on 3 July 2017. 
Phase 3 will include rail renewal between Castlerock and Eglinton, the introduction of a 90 mph (140 km/h) line speed between Castlerock and Londonderry and other works, however funding for this part of the project is doubtful for the foreseeable future.
Other future plans for the Londonderry line include the reinstatement of the double line from Antrim to Ballymena, the doubling of the track from Monkstown to Templepatrick, and relocation of the route terminus in Londonderry.
Railway engineering feature
Coleraine has a bascule bridge for the railway over the navigable River Bann. Just after Castlerock station there are two tunnels created during an event known as the Great Blast in October 1845. Castlerock tunnel is 668 yards (611 m) long and is the longest operational railway tunnel in Northern Ireland. After passing through a short opening trains pass through the shorter Downhill tunnel which is 301 yards (275 m) in length.
Signalling on the line from Great Victoria Street to Slaught level crossing (just south of Ballymena station) is controlled by the Belfast Central control terminal. From Kellswater South, the signalling and level crossings are controlled by the Coleraine signal cabin. Following the signalling upgrade in 2016, the line north of Coleraine is no longer controlled by electric token, instead being centralised in the Coleraine signalbox. The signalboxes at Castlerock and Londonderry Waterside, which previously controlled the token system, have now been closed. The whole of the Belfast to Londonderry line is now controlled by colour light signals, the last semaphore signals at Castlerock station being removed after the 2016 signalling upgrade. The signalbox at Coleraine will be moved to Lanyon Place upon completion of the Belfast Hub project.
- "NI Railways Timetable – Londonderry Line, Winter 2012" (PDF). Translink. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 December 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Northern Ireland Railways (March 2013). "NIR Service 3 Timetable". Translink. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
- "Kennedy calls for more money for Londonderry rail link". BBC News. 25 August 2011.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
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