Ulster Transport Authority - UTA And The Benson Report - B

Ulster Transport Authority - B

UTA And The Benson Report

In 1962, on the recommendation of Dr Richard Beeching, the Government of Northern Ireland commissioned a senior Coopers & Lybrand accountant, Sir Henry Benson, to report on the future of the UTA's railways. In 1963 Benson submitted his report, which recommended closing all UTA railways except the Belfast commuter lines to Bangor and Larne and the main line between Belfast and Dublin, and the reduction of the main line between Portadown and Dundalk to single track.

Benson recommended the only reason for retaining the main line between Portadown and Dundalk was not for transport or economics but solely political. The Republic of Ireland's government objected to Benson's proposal to single the track between Portadown and Dundalk so the Northern Ireland Government withdrew it.

Derry had two rail links with Belfast: 

  • The former NCC main line via Coleraine and the former GNR one via Portadown. 

Benson's recommendation to close both lines provoked strong protest from Northern Ireland's second city and towns along both routes. The Northern Ireland Government responded by retaining the former NCC main line, which was slightly the shorter of the two but also served strongly Unionist parts of County Antrim, plus the short branch between Coleraine and the seaside resort of Portrush.

In 1965 the Northern Ireland government implemented Benson's recommendation to close the former GNR route between Portadown and Derry, informally known as the "Derry Road", at the cost of 400 jobs. This ended all railway services to stations including Dungannon, Omagh, Strabane, and left the entire southwest of the province, including the whole of County Tyrone, with no rail services. The government also closed the Belfast Central Railway, (that Benson had recommended retaining). The branch between Goraghwood and Newry Edward Street was also closed, leaving Newry with only the inconveniently sited Newry Main Line station some distance up a hill outside the town.

These closures left only the Belfast York Road-Londonderry Waterside, Bleach Green-Larne Harbour and Coleraine-Portrush lines in service.

UTA Split into Rail and Road Companies

Transport Acts in 1967 split the UTA into road and rail operations, the bus operations being taken over by a new company called Ulsterbus in the same year. The rail operations temporarily became Ulster Transport Railways (UTR) before being taken over by Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) in 1968.

Ulster Transport Authority

UTA Industry: Bus and Railway operator
UTA Predecessor:
Northern Ireland Road Transport Board
Belfast and County Down Railway
Northern Counties Committee (LMS; 1949)
Great Northern Railway (1958)
UTA Founded: 1948
UTA Defunct: 1966
UTA Fate: Demerged
UTA Successor:
Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company
Northern Ireland Railways
UTA Headquarters: Belfast, Northern Ireland
UTA Area Served: Northern Ireland


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