Northern Ireland

Number of NI train journeys hits record high of 13m

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Media captionTransport Minister Danny Kennedy called the rise a "huge success"

Northern Ireland Railways saw passenger journeys jump to a record high of almost 13m in 2013, according to figures.

Last year, the number of passenger journeys rose to 12.9m - an increase of 1.6m, the highest they have been for several decades.

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy called it a "huge success".

In the coming weeks, he hopes to secure up to £12m for refurbishment on the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise service.

It has seen passenger journeys grow by 100,000 in the past year.

Bus travel largely remained static with a combined 68m journeys between the Ulsterbus and Metro services, according to figures from Mr Kennedy's Department of Regional Development (DRD).

'Record levels'

Mr Kennedy said the railway network was reaping the benefits of significant investment in 20 new trains over the past two years and upgrades to stations like Portadown.

"Using the train is now a very serious option for people," he said.

"We now have record levels and it is very impressive."

Train usage has grown by 21% since 2011.

Good performance was recently cited as a reason why train and bus fares will remain frozen at current levels in 2014.

The figures show that Ulsterbus had 40.6m passenger journeys in 2013 - down by about 200,000.

Metro journeys, which run in the Belfast metropolitan area, increased by 200,000 to 26.6m.

Translink operates the bus and train network and is heavily subsidised from the public purse, and much of the funding covers free travel for people aged over 60.

But Mr Kennedy's department said the majority of the new journeys were made by fare-paying customers.

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