Some €3 million has been allocated for the planning and design of a new greenway linking Galway and Athlone, which will ultimately form part of a 270km cycling route stretching to Dublin.
The project is being undertaken by the Galway city and county councils, as well as local authorities in Roscommon, Meath, Kildare, and Westmeath.
Westmeath County Council is currently seeking tenders for a €3 million contract to carry out all planning and development stages of the Galway-Athlone cycleway. The route from Athlone to Dublin is being progressed separately. It is estimated it will take 36 months to complete the planning and design phases of the project.
The Galway-Dublin cycleway is expected to boost annual tourism by €13.4 million for local economies, based on modest visitor numbers of 13,600.
The allocation has been welcomed by Fine Gael Galway West TD, Hildegarde Naughton, who says the greenway will be "a major addition to the growing network of cycleways in Ireland and across Europe". She believes it will result in "significant economic benefits", was well as enhance Ireland's reputation as a tourist destination.
“We’ve seen the huge success of cycling and walking routes around the country, such as the Great Western Greenway, and their ability to not only increase, but to disperse, tourism revenue and numbers throughout regions,” she said. “The aim of this project is to create a world-class, traffic-free greenway that will tap into the growing global cycling tourism market. It will form part of an international touring route from Galway to Moscow, and the EuroVelo network of long-distance cycling routes in Europe."
New way of thinking
The Minister for the Diaspora and International Development and East Galway TD, Ciaran Cannon, says Galway's appetite for greenway development was welcome in the face of continued calls for the reinstatement of rail lines.
Galway boasted the highest number of applications for greenway developments in the country since 2012 which continues to highlight the "economically retrograde stance" being taken by some on the reinstatement of the rail line between Athenry and Claremorris, he says.
"The creation of greenway infrastructure represents a new way of thinking, a new way of doing business and importantly, a new way of bringing business into communities."
"I take great pride, therefore, in the confirmation that out of all Irish counties, Galway has submitted the highest number of applications to the Department of Transport for greenway developments since 2012."
There were 12 applications from Galway with the next nearest number of applications at nine from Dublin, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.
Since 2012, €80,180,065 has been allocated to greenways around Ireland, but "not a single cent of that" benefited East Galway.
"We may hold the rail review chiefly responsible for that fact in recent years.