Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Cllr Michael O’Brien are urging Westmeath County Council to consider utilising the Athlone to Moate railway line as part of a tourist train amenity.
Both the Independent TD and the councillor want the council to undertake a feasibility study into opening the section of railway between Athlone and Moate for a tourist train, which could attract both local and outside visitors to both towns.
“With the cycleway creating increased tourist numbers, I feel the railway line can be opened up to a whole new experience for visitors. This in turn will deliver a shot in the arm to the town of Moate, for its businesses and restaurants, as well as increasing visitors to places like Dun na Sí,” said Deputy Moran.
He explained that funding is available through a new scheme under the operation of Rural Affairs Minister, Heather Humphreys. The 2016 REDZ (Rural Economic Development Zones ) scheme will provide up to 80 per cent financial support for proposed projects, with the balance of costs to be provided from other sources, such as local authorities, business interests, or community-based funding.
A total of €5 million will be made available under the 2016 scheme, building on the success of a 2015 pilot scheme which saw €3.8 million being provided to projects across Ireland.
Cllr O’Brien (Ind ) will be bringing forward a motion at the November meeting of Athlone Municipal District, calling on the council to avail of REDZ funding for the provision of the train. Cllr O’Brien said this would be a fantastic way to enhance the Greenway and strengthen the tourism product in the county.
Deputy Moran believes that tourists boating on the Shannon could also use the tourist train to explore Moate and the surrounding countryside. They could also bring their bikes on board and go for a day’s cycling, away from the cycle greenway.
“Similar tourist trains have been very successful in other parts of the country including Galway, Kilkenny, and Waterford and I firmly believe a similar one operating on the old Athlone to Moate railway line has huge potential.”