Mr Mal McGreevy, a representative from Translink, told the council last night that the line is to re-open one week ahead of schedule.
This year has seen the introduction of 20 new trains across Northern Ireland, as well as a new timetable for Coleraine services.
From January 6th, there has been a 70% increase in trains from Belfast to Coleraine. Services will now operate 19 times a day – 16 times on a Saturday and seven times on a Sunday.
There will also be four commuter trains in mornings, some of which will be extended from three to six carriages.
Passenger numbers are continuing to grow at a “remarkable rate” and there has been a 10-15% increase on last year’s figures.
This will however mean that trains from Belfast to Londonderry will now pass through Coleraine in morning services, adding 19 minutes to the journey time.
Councillor David McClarty praised the bright future of the service which he described as “resurrected” given not long ago the council had been predicting the demise of the route.
Many other councillors joined Mr McClarty in his praise, including Councillor Barbour who commended the “greatly enhanced” public service.
The Mayor also congratulated Translink on their developments and expressed his thanks for the opening of the new line given the landscape is “second to none.”
Mr McGreevy concluded with the announcement of a report that is to be published throughout the year by the Department of Rural Development highlighting issues with the transport services.
The report estimates that £600 million will be needed in the next 25 years in order to maintain the current services which are said to be worth more than 10 times that amount.
Without further extensions, services are estimated to cost £30 million a year. However Mr McGreevy did add that he would like to consider more opportunities for improvements to existing services, such as the extension of all trains from three to six carriages.
Every day in the UK, nine women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three lives are lost to the disease, a major charity has warned.
In Northern Ireland, women are invited to cervical screening appointments at the age of 25. However, the uptake of women attending smear tests is lower than the rest of the UK with one in four women ignoring the invitation completely.
Health Minister, Edwin Poots said: “Raising public awareness of cervical cancer prevention is important because in Northern Ireland almost a quarter of women still do not attend for cervical screening, however there has been a steady increase in the proportion of eligible women attending for cervical screening.”
Reasons for this figure include confusion, embarrassment, fear and a lack of convenient appointment times for working women. Many women are unaware of the symptoms of the disease, such as lower back pain, which can often be misdiagnosed as minor ailments. However the consequences of a missed smear test can be very severe.
It is because of this that Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust launched Cervical Cancer Awareness Week at the beginning of this year to help increase awareness of the issue. Bus campaigns were launched in January along with the first ever support group meeting for people affected by the disease.
Michelle Roe is leading the Belfast support group and has previously been diagnosed with the illness.
She said: “I had advanced cervical cancer myself and Jo’s Trust was a lifeline to me when I was going through treatment. I wanted to help other women, so I heard about the group being set up and have been working for them since September.”
Since her diagnosis, Michelle has undergone a radical hysterectomy and had her ovaries and lymph nodes removed. She suffers from bowel damage, lymphoedema, infertility and going through the menopause in her thirties. In addition, Michelle has completed more than 40 sessions of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and internal radiotherapy. Michelle has emphasised the need to educate women on how this cancer can be prevented.
She added: “Please don’t put off having your smear, a few minutes of discomfort could save your life or having to go through all that painstaking treatment I went through, which compared to a smear is nothing.”
Donna Hand is also leading the support group and began her training last year. Her role is to facilitate support group meetings within the Belfast area to help provide support to women living with or beyond cancer.
She said: “Our first meeting was really to establish the group, we talked about Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and its history and what the charity aims to achieve and then it was really an open forum discussion for women to talk about cervical cancer and their experiences.”
“We have had a positive response from all those who attended our first meeting. As the group is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, the nursing professionals who attended are delighted that Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust are investing its services here in Northern Ireland and have already and I know will be a great support in referring patients to the group in the future,” she added.
Prior to her role with the charity, Donna supported her mother and aunt who both lost their lives to cancer. In addition, she was personally treated for abnormal cells in 2005, which may have progressed into cancer later on in life if they had not been discovered in regular smear tests.
She said: “For me, the past five years has been a rollercoaster of emotion and I still find it hard to comprehend life without my mum but I know that she would be extremely proud of me and the voluntary work that I am doing with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.”
There was a large increase in the number of women attending screening in 2008, following Jade Goody diagnosis. Since then, figures have fallen back to pre-2008 levels.
Donna said: “I fully understand the power of celebrity but feel that it is very sad when that’s what it takes for women to take notice and attend screening.”
“I can’t stress enough how vitally important it is for ladies to attend regular screening and look after their health,” she added.
The Department of Health has implemented a four year action plan from 2012 – 2015 to help promote informed choice in cancer screening which has been developed by the Public Health Agency. This includes actions to promote cervical screening.
Health Minister Edwin Poots stressed: “I would urge all women to take up her invite for cervical screening when asked to do so. The message is clear – screening saves lives.”
Warhol gets more than “fifteen minutes of fame” in Belfast
A collection of pop art pieces by the iconic Andy Warhol can now be seen in Northern Ireland for the first time.
It is particularly impressive for the new MAC gallery to be hosting his work given the gallery opened in Belfast less than one year ago. This exhibition is part of the ARTIST ROOMS collection, jointly owned by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland.
More than 500 guests attended the launch of this collection including deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness and the Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy.
First time visitors will notice the unusual structure and layout of the modern building which is currently housing Warhol’s work. Chairman Mao, Hamburger, Cow Wallpaper and Marilyn Monroe are among Warhol’s most recognisable pop art pieces in the exhibition.
The tall gallery is filled with some of colourful prints displayed in busy clutters of different sizes of frames. In contrast, the large gallery displays his later work in a stark setting – a large open, white space.
The visual work of Warhol is also displayed in a room with his ‘silver floatations’ which consists of metallic balloons shaped like pillows that float in the air due to the presence of an electric fan. Clips of his most famous films can also be seen in the basement gallery.
A programme of Warhol-inspired events has also been created as part of the Warhol season including a Studio 54 club themed night. The full programme can be found here.
As one of the artists who had the greatest influence on popular culture, Andy Warhol’s pieces appeal to people of all ages. The significance of his collection being in Belfast will promote Northern Ireland as a cultural tourist destination, coupled with the City of Culture being held in Londonderry this year. Entry is free to visitors and the event will run throughout all three galleries until 28th April. For more information check out the gallery’s website: http://themaclive.com