Press ahead with GST, say supporters

Dnal Nolan

SUPPORTERS of the Great Southern Trail (GST) are urging Kerry County Council to press ahead with plans to develop the old railway line from Listowel to the west Limerick border at Kilmorna following an announcement this week the authority is going to take ownership of the line.

It is estimated the greenway would bring hundreds of visitors to north Kerry each year, helping to grow the area's tourism industry and providing a much needed boost for the local economy. However, some local landowners remain fiercely opposed to the plan, claiming it will bring unwanted visitors close to their homes and disrupt farm work.

The landowners dropped a case against Iarnród Eireann in which they claimed ownership of the track - something the rail company vehemently denied. Now, Iarnród Eireann is to transfer ownership to Kerry County Council in an agreement reached 'in principle', Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly said this week.

"I asked the Minister at the opening of the Tralee to Fenit track what he meant exactly by that and he explained it will entail an oral hearing in a court in which everyone can have a say," Fianna Fáil County Councillor and GST supporter Jimmy Moloney, pictured, said. "If developed this greenway will be of huge benefit for north Kerry, and I very much welcome the fact ownership will now be transferred to Kerry County Council as it is a big step in the right direction," he added.

Landowners fears that the acquisition of the disused railway line by Kerry County Council will lead to the immediate development of the greenway were played down this week as any plan will be subject to a stringent planning process.

"This doesn't mean it will be developed immediately as there is a planning process that will have to be observed in which everyone will have input," Cllr Moloney said.

Kerry County Council Senior Engineer with new responsibility for greenways, Tom Sheehy, is now hoping to meet with everyone with both the landowners and the supporters of the GST plans.

"One of the other big concerns is whether or not the trail will get funding as Kerry received more than half the entire [national] allocation this year already in the funding secured for the Kells Greenway.

"There were 35 applications in from all over the country and just three received funding, so I would be worried Kerry will be waiting for a long time for more money towards greenways here," Cllr Moloney said.