Sunday 18 August 2019

Greenway to bring great potential

Entrepreneurs urged to capitalise on potential for greenway to transform town into busy tourism centre

The old railway station grounds in Rosbercon where the greenway hub will be located
The old railway station grounds in Rosbercon where the greenway hub will be located

David Looby

The South East Greenway should be a catalyst for an upturn in the retail life of New Ross and entrepreneurs are being urged to capitalise on the river and cycle path's potential.

Last month €8m in funding was allocated for the project by Transport Minister Shane Ross. The 24.3km greenway is expected to cost €13.3m, Brian Galvin of the council's special projects section told councillors.

Mr Galvin said the name, the South East Greenway was used in the funding application as the 24.3km route will connect with the Waterford Greenway at Ferrybank, Waterford, once the North Quays development is built.

He said Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford local authorities will contribute the remaining 5.3m between them.

'The development of this greenway and its linkage to the Waterford Greenway (via the proposed North quays and Viking Triangle cycleway projects), will create a regional greenway of around 72km that will be capable of attracting international visitors, boosting local and regional tourism and significantly transforming the economies of New Ross and south Kilkenny.

Wexford County Council is the lead authority in the project which is at detailed design stage.

'It is planned to tender for a works contractor by the end of 2019 and to begin construction of the greenway in the spring of 2020.'

Mr Galvin said the greenway should take one year to complete.

'The proposed greenway will be constructed substantially along the disused railway line from New Ross to Waterford. Passenger services finished on the line in 1963 and freight services from New Ross were discontinued in 1995.'

The railway line for the greenway remains in the control and ownership of CIE and is operated by Irish Rail. Mr Galvin said the formal abandonment of the railway by CIE and Irish Rail will facilitate the transfer of the railway lands to the three local authorities. 'This will provide greater flexibility and control of the detailed deign, construction and the future operation of the greenway.'

He said the 24.3km route will provide security of investment for all three local authorities and will allow for continued investment in the greenway over its lifespan.

'It allows some cost savings in developing the greenway as technical design requirements necessary under licence will not apply.'

He said Wexford County Council has requested CIE and Irish Rail to declare their intention to abandon the railway line within the functional areas of the local authority to facilitate the development of the greenway from Mount Elliott to Ferrybank.

Cllr Michael Whelan welcomed the announcement of funding and the plans to link the New Ross and Kilkenny sections of the greenway with the Waterford Greenway. 'I understand the amount of work that is going into it. Wexford County Council took the lead on this and I am hugely looking forward to it opening. It's very welcome and hopefully it will be a big boost to New Ross.'

Cllr Pat Barden asked how the council is going to get people to come into New Ross from the greenway to spend money in shops, cafés and in B&Bs.

Mr Galvin said many greenway users will be coming to a stop at the old railway station in Rosbercon. He said with the downgrading of the Waterford road, the greenway will extend to the bridge.

A bicycle lane on one side of O'Hanrahan Bridge is being considered as an option, with pedestrians walking on the other side of the crossing.

'It's critically important that we bring people into the town,' he said.

Cllr Bridín Murphy enquired about progress made on creating an entrance and exit at Mount Elliott. Cllr Murphy said: 'There have been some concerns expressed from residents due to the narrow nature of the road.'

Mr Galvin said council planners are developing detailed designs for the route, making use of the Victorian Red Bridge and a 300m tunnel which he said will be a very attractive, unique feature of the greenway route. He added that Mount Elliott won't form part of the greenway but will be a link from the route to the road back into New Ross.

Cllr Michael Sheehan said the quay area of New Ross should be central to the greenway, pointing out that there are several bike rental and repair businesses in Waterford City. 'There is a need for business people to start coming up with plans now as there is a need for a lot of different shops. My fear is that the companies who are doing very well in Dungarvan and Waterford will expand up here. There is an opportunity for a load of new entrepreneurs to come forward. People have stayed in New Ross (to use the greenway) because Waterford and Dungarvan have been full.'

Cllr Barden asked if there will be facilities where people can park their bikes.

Mr Galvin said there will be a number of locations where people can access the greenway. 'We will seek to develop businesses that are greenway centred. For the facilities people use on a greenway there are enough existing facilities in the town to accommodate that.'

District director Eamonn Hore said: 'When the railway came to New Ross there was an argument it was on the wrong side of the river and it's raising its had again now.'

He said the timing of the greenway decision, coupled with the near completion of the New Ross Bypass is ideal. He said Transport Infrastructure Ireland has committed to upgrading O'Hanrahan Bridge as part of its overall plans for the area, adding that one or two of the paths can be widened. With 450 car parking spaces in town, parking of bicycles and cars by greenway users won't be an issue, he added. 'There is plenty of parking in the Dunbrody car park, the Dunnes car park and in Foley's car park.'

Cllr Michael Sheehan said a public toilet complex is needed, only for district manager Sinead Casey to highlight the toilets in Pearse Park, which are open during the day but closed at night due to anti social behaviour reasons.

'Maybe that could be a good business idea for someone to provide such services for customers,' Mr Hore said.

Cllr Anthony Connick quoted Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, saying: 'If you build it they will come.'

'When we get the greenway footfall in town will go up. We will build on our infrastructure,' he said, suggesting the council invest in some bike stands for public park and leisure areas.

He called on the council to seek funding for public lighting along Cherry's Road for greenway users looping back into New Ross having crossed the red bridge.

'It will be the main route into town as you're coming off the greenway,' he said.

New Ross Standard