PASSENGERS on an express train escaped being blown up by IRA terrorists thanks to a 35-minute delay and a better radio system, top secret files reveal.
The Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) Dublin to Belfast service was packed with passengers on July 31, 1989, when a warning was phoned to the Samaritans at 10.10pm – timed to coincide with the moment it would have struck and detonated the bomb.
But because it was delayed at a previous stop, the train was halted in time and bomb disposal experts found the explosive device on the southbound track at Lurgan station, in County Armagh. However, had the train been operated by Irish network CIE, a “potentially disastrous” incident would have happened, because it used a different radio system and would not have been in contact, the declassified records said.
CIE used UHF frequency radios, which worked on only parts of the line, while NIR’s dual UHF and VHF band system operated anywhere.
Diplomatic cables at the time said: “The Dublin to Belfast train, which was a NIR express, was travelling approximately 35 minutes behind schedule and was stopped at Portadown.
“The British side say, however, that if the train had been a CIE (Irish Rail) owned locomotive and had been travelling on time, a potentially disastrous situation would have arisen. “The train would have been due in Lurgan at 10.10pm, the precise time at which the warning was received.