The Northern Ireland Executive has diverted £27 million from the upgrading of the A5 to the project, which will allow track relaying to begin on the Coleraine - Castlerock and Eglinton - Londonderry sections next July. This work will require the complete closure of the line for around nine months.
Londonderry has been designated Britain's City of Culture in 2013, and the works have been brought forward to allow eight trains per day to run to and from Belfast during this event. Resignalling work will be carried out during 2014-15.
The project was originally scheduled to begin in April 2012, but a budgetary shortfall saw the start date pushed back. In order to keep the line open, the Northern Ireland executive proposed a programme of remedial measures to prolong the life of the infrastructure. This would have required the withdrawal of three of the nine trains per day that currently operate over the largely single-track line in order to maintain schedules.
Passenger groups and politicians have long voiced concerns over the future of the Coleraine - Londonderry line, which has seen little investment in recent decades. Journey times between Belfast and Londonderry are currently around 2h 15min, compared with 1h 40min for the express bus service.