Three greenway projects — all of which are connected to the Royal Canal Greenway — are to be given unspent funding from a previous round of greenway funding the Department of Transport said yesterday afternoon. The three projects will go a long way in joining the greenway dots between Dublin and the midlands.
The three projects are in counties Kildare, Meath, Longford and Westmeath. The department said they are shovel ready, with planning permission already obtained.
Minister for transport, tourism and sport Shane Ross said: “I am confident that the projects in Longford and Westmeath will be finished by the end of this year whilst the project in Kildare and Meath will be finished by the end of 2017.”
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We have asked the Department of Transport where the money was earmarked for, but given we did so on Friday evening, we don’t expect a reply until Monday at the earliest. It could be from projects which are incomplete, stalled or which came in under budget — at this stage we don’t know.
The funding for the three projects is as follows:
- €2,533,000 for 38km of a section of route along the Royal Canal from Maynooth to Westmeath County Border, where it will meet an existing section of the Royal Canal Greenway, from the county border to Mullingar. This project includes counties Kildare and Meath and is part of the eastern section of the Dublin to Galway Greenway.
- €513,000 for 15.2km of a section of the Royal Canal Greenway between the village of Abbeyshrule to Longford Bridge, outside the town of Ballymahon. This is an extension of the canal greenway currently branded as the “Mullingar to Abbeyshrule Greenway”. This greenway is in County Longford and is not part of the Dublin to Galway route
- €496,187 for 2.2km of an urban section of the Mullingar to Athlone Greenway within Athlone town. The Mullingar to Athlone Greenway follows the disused railway between the two towns, but the current route ends on the eastern outskirts of Athlone, at Garrycastle. The new section will bring the route as far as a railway level crossing on the Ballymahon Road, just north of Athlone train station. This will bring the route closer to the town centre but will fall short of reaching the River Shannon by about 1km or so. All of this route is within the Westmeath county area.
Minister Ross said: “Since my appointment as Minister, I have been particularly struck by the far-reaching benefits that greenways can bring to the localities in which they are situated as is evidenced by the success of the Great Western Greenway and other projects around the country. These benefits are not just confined to the economic realm from jobs created and sustained through the construction of the greenways to the spend on food, drink and accommodation by those using the greenways. They also extend to the health benefits, both physical and mental, of cycling and walking and to the environmental benefits from a reduction in emissions.”
He added: “It has recently been brought to my attention that some funding awarded to projects under the National Cycle Network funding call of 2014 would not be fully drawn down in 2016. I have been examining a number of other ‘shovel-ready’ projects that would be in a position to utilise this funding in 2016 and am pleased to now announce funding for three projects in four counties that have planning permission in place.”
“These projects build on the great success of the Old Rail Trail between Athlone and Mullingar and will provide the country with a long distance, multi-day, off-road cycling route that I’m sure will prove to be a great attraction for tourists, both foreign and local, and indeed anyone looking for a wonderful day out.”
Referring to the objections by Galway landowners to the western section of the Dublin to Galway Greenway, Ross said: “Funding the Kildare and Meath sections of the Galway to Dublin Greenway shows my department’s commitment to the medium-term goal of completing this coast to coast greenway. Whilst I understand the concerns raised regarding the preferred route in Galway that led to the pausing of the planning for the route west of the Shannon, the time is now right to continue construction of this project east of the Shannon and ensure that progress is maintained.”
Hinting at the programme for government which referenced new greenway funding, he said: “I look forward to the further roll-out of Greenway projects in the coming years as they provide so many benefits that meet the goals of this partnership Government most notably rural re-generation, job creation and tourism development”.
IMAGES: Main image of the existing towpath between Abbeyshrule and Ballymahon from Google Street View, graphic by IrishCycle.com, using a Google Maps base.