The Belfast–Larne line, or Larne line, is a railway line in Northern Ireland, operated by Northern Ireland Railways. It runs as double track along the majority of its route north along the scenic east Antrim coastline from Belfast to the coastal seaport town of Larne, serving commuters and ferry passengers.
From Belfast Central, the line crosses the River Lagan, branches from the Bangor line, recrosses the Lagan parallel to the M3 motorway on the Dargan Bridge and reaches its first stop, Yorkgate, which replaced the former York Road terminus in 1992. Parallel to the dual five-lane M2 motorway (once the UK's widest), the line now heads northeast, past the main Northern Ireland Railways engineering depot and engine sheds, along the coast towards Whitehouse, a former halt. The M2 branches north becoming the A2, whilst the efficient railway runs alongside the shore of Belfast Lough generally and skirting the shore in sections.
At Whiteabbey, the line enters a cutting and climbs towards Bleach Green Junction. The station is long gone here too, but the lines diverge here, with the Londonderry line continuing to Mossley West and Antrim. The next stops – Jordanstown (University of Ulster, level crossing), Greenisland (former junction) and Trooperslane (level crossing) – are still a few hundred yards inland, and Belfast Lough can be seen from time to time where development is sparse. After Trooperslane, the line passes through a former halt at Mount. This station was closed in the early 1970s.
Carrickfergus town still boasts three stations, Clipperstown, Carrickfergus and Downshire. The former halt at Barn has been closed since 1977. At Downshire bridge the line crosses the A2 road once more and from here north, it hugs the coastline at low level, offering spectacular views over the lough towards County Down and the Copeland Islands.
From Downshire, the line runs through a former halt at Eden. The station here was closed back in 1977. Erosion has played havoc with the minimal maintenance along this section, and the line singles now at Kilroot (closed halt, power station) where previously it carried on as double track to Whitehead. The outer up track has been removed (officially temporarily) for safety reasons. At Whitehead Station, there is a passing loop and a spur to the former Excursion Station which is the headquarters of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.
Then north to Larne as single track, there are three intermediate halts, Ballycarry, Magheramorne, and Glynn, each serving villages en route. On the coastal side, the peninsula of Islandmagee blocks views of Scotland, but forms the wildlife wetlands of Larne Lough. Small sections of the track at the Larne end are built on causeways, forming ponds landside of the railway.
On entering the town, the railway again crosses the road inland to Larne Town station before reaching its terminus at Larne Harbour station, sharing its building with the ferry terminal for the Port of Larne.
On weekdays, trains run half-hourly from Great Victoria Street, with the outbound terminus alternating every half an hour between Larne Harbour and Whitehead. Extra services operate at peak times to and from Carrickfergus. Evening services are reduced to hourly operation after 8pm between Larne Harbour and Great Victoria Street and the last trains of the day in each direction typically at around 11:20pm only operate to or from Belfast Central. The last train arrives into Larne Harbour at 12:20am.
On Saturdays, there are no extra peak time services, but the service pattern is similar to the weekday operation.
On Sundays, the line reduces to hourly operation from Great Victoria Street, with the outbound terminus alternating every hour between Whitehead and Larne Harbour. First services on Sunday are later and Last services are earlier.
P&O Ferries operate ferries to Cairnryan throughout the year and seasonally to Troon. There are also occasional sailings to Douglas, Isle of Man in conjunction with the Isle of Man TT.
The nearest railway station to Cairnryan is Stranraer railway station. This is around fifteen minutes away by a dedicated connecting bus, route 350 operated by McLeans. Local buses provide additional journeys between Cairnryan and Stranraer. From Stranraer station Abellio ScotRail trains operate to Glasgow Central. Sometimes a change is required at Ayr.
Connections can be made on Abellio ScotRail from Troon station along the Ayrshire Coast Line to Glasgow Central and Ayr and the Glasgow South Western Line to Kilmarnock, Dumfries and Carlisle (for the West Coast Main Line).
From Carlisle trains connect Newcastle, Preston, Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston. From Glasgow Central trains connect with Edinburgh Waverley, along the East Coast Main Line to York and London Kings Cross and along the West Coast Main Line to London Euston.