Article and Editor’s Comment from this weeks Kerry’s Eye ahead to this weekends ‘Cycle the Line’ event.
John Brassil TD raised the lack of progress on the Tralee Fenit Greenways and in Kerry in general with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil during the week.
On page 45 of the programme for Government there is a commitment to providing significant funding towards developing a national greenway network. In my county of Kerry, there is a disused railway line from Tralee to Fenit. There has been a walkway proposed for it for a number of years but there has been no progress whatsoever this year or last year. The south Kerry greenway from Glenbeigh down to Renard was announced amid great fanfare in 2014. Again there has been very little progress.
When will we see delivery of this commitment in County Kerry and across Ireland?
The Taoiseach asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to reply.
Photo – John Brassil at the launch of phase two of the greenway in June 2014
The Tralee to Fenit Greenway was mentioned in the Dáil yet again recently this time during a debate on the finance bill.
Minister Brendan Griffin was waxing lyrically about the benefits of Greenways while welcoming the extra €50 million allocated for greenway development in the budget, lets hope we see some of that funding down here next year !
I am glad that an extra €50 million has been allocated to greenway development, which has sustainability written all over it. There is huge potential for additional greenways. Research shows that every euro spent on greenways has a massive return in terms of economic activity. An example of that is the greenway from Westport to Achill. I was on the route from Newport to Mulranny in 2010 and it was a short, quiet greenway. I went back in 2013 and when I was sitting in a hotel in Achill waiting for a taxi to bring me back to Westport after completing the greenway I wrote a blog entitled “Why greenways should be called goldways”. Activity on the route included taxi hire, cafés, bicycle hire and many other little shops doing very well out of it. There is great potential to do even more in that regard. Members know of the Dungarvan greenway, which is going very well, and there is much more potential in terms of canal banks, old railway lines and various other assets. In terms of old railway lines, I am particularly familiar with the south Kerry line from Farranfore to Valentia Harbour and lines from Tralee to Fenit and Kilmorna to Listowel. Not only are those assets available but we have an obligation to those gone before us who built those fantastic feats of engineering by hand to make the most of those resources. Not to do so would be a terrible waste. Those fantastic feats of engineering were put in place in the late 1800s when there was little machinery to assist in their construction. We have an opportunity to make the most of them for this generation and for future generations and need to grasp that opportunity. I am, therefore, glad that €50 million has been allocated for drawdown in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and will be working on that within my Department.
You can read the full thread here.
Photo – Minister Griffin walking the yet to be developed part of the line north of Mounthawk in 2013.
An online petition with over 1000 signatures in support of the Tralee to Fenit Greenway was presented to Kerry County Council last week, this petition follows the previous petition with approximately 1000 signatures which was submitted to Tralee Town Council in 2012.
The submission coincided with the Tralee Muncipal District Budget meeting which yet again saw no funding provided for the project, while concerns were raised about the proposed Tralee Fenit Greenway not being included in the coming year’s budget only Cllr’s Ferris and Daly voted against the budget, which passed after the other seven Tralee councillors: Foley, Locke, McEllistrim, O’Brien, McCarthy, Finucane and Spring voted in favour.
Mr. Stephenson (Fenit) who presented the petition told the Kerry’s Eye
“It’s going on far to long, we have had 20 years of excuses”
The report goes on to quote Moira Murrell CEO of KCC saying “she is hopeful that there will be funding in the near future. It is now with the Department of Tourism”
While this maybe suggest that a funding bid has been made to the department this is not the case and the indications from the department are that in order to be successful in a funding bid planning would need to be in place.
How can Kerry Co Co keep saying this project is a priority and then continuously fail to allocate any funding ?
If there was a factory of 80 or 100 jobs created in Tralee or Fenit politicians would be jumping up and down saying isn’t it great and everything etc. But you know it’s time to step up to the mark because obviously there are issues that need to be sorted but millions and millions and millions or euro and hundreds of jobs are being lost because this isn’t being built…
Well said Alan Kelly we couldn’t have put it better ourselves !
Radio Kerry report that the final pieces of the legal agreement for transferring ownership from CIE are currently being dealt with, and the council is expected to officially own the lands by the New Year.
The next phase of works to be undertaken include completing the design for the planning application, the assessment of the environmental impacts, and lodging the planning application – this is expected to be done before the end of March.
Earlier this week (June 28th) representatives of the Friends of the Tralee – Fenit Greenway met with the CEO and senior engineer of Kerry County Council.
Mike o Neill thanked Ms Murrell for meeting the delegation and asked that an update
would be given on the current status of the Tralee to Fenit Greenway. He explained that
this project had been the subject of negotiation over a long period of time and there was
deep frustration at the seeming lack of progress and the many promises which for one
reason or another were never realised.
Ms. Murrell outlined that the Greenways were a priority and that they understood the
value of such projects. She explained that they had sought funding for the Tralee/Fenit
and the South Kerry Greenways and they had been granted aid for the South Kerry
project. They had therefore allocated their resources to that project. They do not have
the resources to tackle both projects but they should become available before the end of
this year and they would then allocate them to the Tralee/Fenit project.
Secondly. There was a problem with ownership of the land as Irish rail wanted the
council to absorb the cost of ducting the Fenit and North Kerry lines at a cost of a
million plus euro. This could not be agreed to as it would have caused problems when
funding was later sought for these projects.
However this matter was now resolved and the council is now satisfied that they now
own the land. This will now allow them to apply for planning and do an EiS, which may
be necessary. They will do this as soon as the resources become available, which should
be before the end of this year. In the meantime they will survey the land.
Thirdly. In order to secure funding for the project, it will be listed as a priority in their
action programme due to be launched in July and they will apply for funding from the
newly launched Failte Ireland funding for larger projects. They confirm that it is suitable
project for such funding. Should that not be successful there is another avenue which
will be pursued.
Ms. Murrell and Mr Sheehy assured the delegation that Tralee/Fenit Greenway and Fenit
itself were priority projects and they were positive that they would be delivered
Despite the miserable weather, GAA, rugby and even great surf conditions over 100 people (and a good collection of dogs) came out on Sunday last for the 4th Walk the Line to call for the continuation of the Tralee to Fenit Greenway. The group braved the wind and rain and walked the completed section of the Greenway from the Big River out to Mounthawlk, where representatives of community groups, the Great Southern Trail and election candidates called time on excuses and demanded that work recommence on the route, before a group continued on further to the junction of the Feint and North Kerry railways.
With the general election campaign in full swing it was great to see a number of candidates for the Kerry constituency attend the walk and show their support for the project, those included, Donal Corcoran (Renua), Michael Fitzgerald (Green Party) and Brendan Griffin (Fine Gael). Apologies were also received from Arthur Spring (Labour), Martin Ferris (Sinn Fein) and John Brassil (Fianna Fail) who although unable to attend gave the full support for the project.
In 2009 Spa-Fenit parish council secured funding for a project that had been talked about or years, namely the redevelopment of the old Tralee to Fenit railway as a greenway.
By 2011 there was still no development with the project due to stories of ‘individuals’ claiming ownership of the state-owned land, lack of funding, planning issue and issues dealing with CIE. With fears that this project might never see the light of day a group of people young and old came out on a miserable October Sunday afternoon to Walk the Line, and despite the erection of barricades that’s what they did. Weeks before Christmas on an equally miserable Sunday people came out to Walk the Line again, this time not even a JCB and barbed wire could stop them… within months of these walks despite years of inaction, work began on the line, the fruits of which we can see today.
That was 2011, we now find ourselves in 2016 and despite a 500m extension to the train station the story is much the same, depending on who you talk to this lack of progress is down to ‘individuals’ claiming ownership of the state-owned land, lack of funding and planning issues, issues dealing with CIE or some combination of the above.
It took people power to get what we have today and if we want to see further progress we have to ensure that this project is not forgotten about.
If you wish to see progression of this trail to Fenit then make a stand, come Walk the Line this Sunday the 7th of February, meeting at St. Brendan’s Church 2.30 or a 3pm departure.
And remember politicians will also be calling to your door over the next few weeks, make sure you ask them about this project which could revitalise the area.
After 25 years of tireless work developing the greenway along the old Tralee to Limerick railway the Great Southern Trail Limited have decided to cease managing the day to day running of the route.
For Limerick this makes a lot of sense as managing the route was proving taxing for a voluntary community group and it will be better managed and promoted by Limerick County Council.
This is great news for the Kerry too as the change of role will hopefully free up time and resources for the group to return to an advocacy role and to help realise of the rest of the route, from the Kerry border to Fenit.
The full statement is bellow, hat off to all involved for the great work, here to another 25 year, but hopefully it wont take that long !
The Directors of the Great Southern Trail Limited (GST) have decided to cease managing the Greenway as and from Sunday November 8th 2015 and their licence with CIÉ who are the owners of the Greenway will end. The GST thanks the Board of CIÉ for their vision in 2002 in facilitating the initial development of what was to become the first rural Greenway in Ireland along CIÉ property.The GST is the only Greenway in Europe which is currently managed by a voluntary group. This fact had its origins over 25 years ago when the then State Agency, Shannon Development, withdrew from what had been their flagship and visionary Greenway project. As a result the prospect of the old Limerick-Tralee railway being reclaimed as farmland loomed large with the consequent loss of a very valuable State owned corridor. To safeguard the railway right of way the GST was founded and with excellent public support much of the old line was subsequently rejuvenated.Initially only the 4km from Newcastle West to Ardagh was opened to the public as a walking route. Gradually, the GST was extended to 40km in West Limerick from Rathkeale westwards to the Kerry Border and upgraded to a cycleway. This success has placed a considerable onus on a volunteer group and despite the support of Community Employment, Rural Social and TÚS schemes the challenge of maintaining the Greenway to the standards demanded throughout the E.U. is a demanding one. In particular a very small number of farm crossings are the subject of unfavourable comment due to the difficulties encountered in keeping them clean.
In recent years all newly developed comparable Greenways have been managed by the respective local authorities. CIÉ has current partnership arrangements with Kerry, Waterford and Westmeath County Councils in respect of disused/abandoned railways that remain in CIÉ ownership and are also in negotiation with Kilkenny and Wexford County Councils about new projects. In fact it is probable that the entire Irish Greenway network will become part of the remit of the new Transport Infrastructure Service [TIS] when that organisation takes over the responsibilities of the National Roads Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency.
In June the GST notified CIÉ and Limerick City & County Council (LCCC) of its intention to cease management of the Greenway and is confident that an arrangement will be forged between CIÉ and LCCC to ensure that the 40km of infrastructure in West Limerick will continue to be available to the public after November 7th. This is an amenity into which about €2 million has been invested by many State and local agencies including the GST Ltd. which has also contributed thousands of voluntary hours to the project.
The GST Ltd. will be happy to support any new management structure and to be represented on it. The GST will also assist in promoting the Greenway and its further extension along the old North Kerry railway to Tralee/Fenit and looks forward to a link also being provided from Limerick City westwards to the GST at Ballingrane/Rathkeale thereby providing an attractive 120km route from the city to the sea.