A Waterford councillor has expressed his concerns that plans to restore the long-idle Waterford-Wexford rail line could ‘jeopardise’ the potential for an international-standard Greenway.
Cllr. Donal Barry (Independent) outlined his worries at the March Plenary meeting of Waterford City & County Council at City Hall, in the context of the findings of the All-Island Strategic Rail Review soon being presented.
It is anticipated that the findings of the review, which will be presented by the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan TD, will recommend the restoration of the old Waterford-Wexford rail line, an eventuality that has been lobbied for many years by ‘South East on Track’, who have in past presented a business case for the reinstatement of both passenger and freight services between the neighbouring counties.
Cllr. Barry believes there may be a significant loss on separate fronts however, should trains return to Rosslare in whatever capacity.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr. Barry queried Council officials as to whether there had been talks of any kind, be it formal or informal, with Port of Waterford authorities on a potential loss of business at Belview should the rail line end up back and running.
He also questioned what is ‘Plan B’ for the local authority, regarding plans for a Greenway link between Waterford and Wexford, given that the said plans have been put on hold while the findings of the rail review are awaited.
“I think a Waterford to Rosslare greenway would connect us more with the European and all-important English tourism market,” said Cllr. Barry. “There are passenger boats arriving from the UK and France on a daily basis, especially during the summer. It’s part of our economic strategy to increase domestic tourism by 7% and international tourism by 9% annually. I think also, if you have a Waterford to Rosslare Greenway, it will make us an international greenway.”
In the instance that rail services are restored between Waterford and Wexford, Cllr. Barry says he will be calling for a meeting between Council representatives in Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny, in order to see what can be done to ‘salvage’ a Waterford to Rosslare Greenway proposal.
Director of Services for Economic Development with Waterford Council, Mr. Michael Quinn, said that officials in Wexford are awaiting the outcome of the rail study, and that he would assume they have given some thought to any potential impacts resulting.
Wexford County Council have in the past reiterated that the Waterford to Rosslare Greenway link, which had estimated costs of €12m in 2020, would only go ahead in place of the existing rail line and they were unlikely to run concurrently. However, when expressing his
preference for the re-establishment of the rail line, Minister Ryan urged council officials in Wexford to consider any potential alternative routes.
“The Port of Cork has undergone a massive upgrade to cater for freight, and Foynes will get new port facilities”, continued Cllr. Barry. “I hope this does not affect the Port of Waterford and the jobs around the port area. With a network of motorways to ports and a new bridge at New Ross, it’s a shame to have jeopardised the chance to develop an international greenway from Rosslare to Dungarvan and hopefully extending westward along the old Mallow line. That would make us part of one of the longest Greenways in Europe,” he said.
“Plans are afoot to link Dublin to Cork and Galway by Greenway routes. The southeast needs to keep up with any greenway extensions which have proved so financially important and added to the health and wellbeing of our local communities.”