New Ross Standard

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New river cruise will sail between New Ross and Waterford City


A new river cruise run by an established Wexford boat tour operator is due to start bringing people on the Barrow by 2019.

New Ross Municipal District Director Eamonn Hore told last week's meeting of the body at Tintern Abbey that Kilmore Quay man Declan Bates has been planning the business venture - which will see up to 13 people employed - since 2013.

The vessel will be able to take between 90 and 150 people and would employ nine onboard staff on year one, running from mid-March to mid-October.

Describing the proposal as 'really exciting,' Mr Hore said the River Barrow is under utilised.

'There is a whole story to be told about the River Barrow. We want this to be a large scale, flagship experience linking Waterford and New Ross,' Mr Hore said.

The vessel is expected to cost around €1m and would run from opposite the Granville Hotel in Waterford city centre, to New Ross quay and back daily from March to October.

'We hope it will be a game changer and act as a catalyst,' he said.

Mr Bates went to Wexford Local Development in 2013 and had a report carried out into the business the following year.

'He has carried out extensive research and both the harbour company and other relevant tourist operators have come to very strong, positive conclusions. There is real potential to attract domestic and overseas visitors to what would be a unique offering.'

Mr Hore said Mr Bates's venture has the backing of Wexford and Waterford county conucils and the harbour boards, and needs to be on a large scale.

A feasability report and business assessment has been carried out and the project was featured in a tourism scoping report developed by Tony Ennis and Yvonne Doyle.

Kilkenny Leader project carried out a survey which outlined how central New Ross is for blueways and greenways planned for the region.

A Part 8 and foreshore licence applications will be sought over the coming year.

Mr Hore said the promoter has two vessels running from Kilmore Quay to the Saltee Islands.

'Part of the New Ross to Waterford offering will be bike and cruise. There will be racks for bicycles and people can go back on the bus or on the cruise. It's a first class offering.'

There are 369,000 overseas coach tourists visiting the region and around 37 per cent come to the county. 'If we have a flagship project we would hope to increase on that. If we can link in with Kilkenny and Waterford, (which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the castle and Waterford Crystal), we will grow our numbers. People want day trips and high class tourism experiences and this will be a draw for domestic tourists and tourists coming in from Rosslare.'

He said the river itself - which is the second longest in the country - is an attraction while the new bypass bridge, which will be Ireland's longest at 887m, costing around €90m, will be a huge draw.

Mr Hore said the river cruise would offer users access to a city with a great Viking heritage and a town with a great Norman heritage. He said a ticket office could be located at the New Ross harbour office if that site is chosen for the pontoon. The other possible site is on the riverside just beyond the oil tanks on the quay.

There would be four jobs created indirectly and he said the Dunbrody Inn hotel has been bought by a developer, so accommodation is expected to be opened opposite the pontoon.

He said the river cruise would complement the service offered by The Galley river restaurant, which is due to open again, possibly next year. 'A Part 8 planning application is going in next month and Wexford County Council is submitting a foreshore licence.'

New berthing facilities in Waterford would cost the council there €31,000, while the cost in New Ross would be around €350,000, depending on the length of the pontoon.

'We will apply for co-funding grant aid and private investment will look after the river cruise.'

He said New Ross could attract large vessels which cannot be accommodated in Kilmore Quay.

Part 8 planning will be sought for a pontoon on the quay in New Ross which will be paid for by Wexford County Council. He said Mr Bates met with council CEO Tom Enright earlier this year.

Cllr Willie Fitzharris said: 'I think it's a brilliant development. As chairman of the JFK Trust I think it's a great New Ross project. I still here negative things about New Ross, post bypass. I know that there are a lot of different organisations working very hard. When we get our bypass New Ross is going to be a fantastic place. We, at the JFK Trust, are due to be up 3,000 visitors this year. Along with the Greenway, St Mary's Church, this facility is tremendous for tourists coming to New Ross.'

Cllr Anthony Connick asked if the cruise will stop in the Pink Rock area to view the new bridge and if people can hop off at a half way point and return to Waterford or New Ross. Mr Hore said that will be up to the investor, adding that it would be wise to have infrastructure in place for drop-off points.

Journeys will take between 60 and 90 minutes. Cllr Michael Sheehan said he hopes the business gets strong backing, while Cllr John Fleming praised Mr Bates's foresight. Mr Hore said this is the latest exciting addition to New Ross, adding that more than 50 per cent of the new Euro Velo cycling route is in the New Ross district, while most of the Norman Way lies in the district and a greenway will run through the town and district. Cllr Larry O'Brien said: 'I have a vision for New Ross and that vision is coming true. This is another string to the town's bow. If you look at quay fronts in French coastal towns with people sitting out under umbrellas and enjoying themselves. It's up to us to drive that dream.'

Cllr Martin Murphy praised Mr Hore for his enthusiasm and hard work in making these projects a reality.

'The type of enthusiasm he brings means a lot ot developers. They are not left wondering will the support be lukewarm.'

He said having the ticket office and pontoon located on the quay will send a positive message out to drivers passing though the town to stop and have a look around the town.

Mr Hore said the harbour board is not due to be transferred to the council until late this year or early 2018. 'The harbour office could be used as a ticket office or a tourism centre,' he said.