New Shannon bridge opens up world of opportunities for Galway tourism

Ronan Mullen (6) from Glenamaddy Co Galway and Anna Kiernan (8) from Glasnevin Co Dublin at the centre point of the bridge pictured at the official opening of the new Athlone Greenway Bridge

Ronan Mullen (6) from Glenamaddy Co Galway and Anna Kiernan (8) from Glasnevin Co Dublin at the centre point of the bridge pictured at the official opening of the new Athlone Greenway Bridge

It is not every day that you move closer to the far-side of Europe, but that mammoth 5,500km journey became a lot more doable with the opening of the impressive new Athlone Greenway Bridge over the river Shannon.

As a crossing of a major river, it is the clearance of another obstacle on the drive to complete the 300km Dublin to Galway greenway, which will eventually make its way into Galway city via Shannonbridge, Portumna, Gort and Oranmore.

When that is complete (and ‘when’ is always a major word when it comes to getting things done in Galway where things move at a snail’s pace compared to the rest of the country ), the coast-to-coast greenway, aimed at cyclists and pedestrians, will be part of the EuroVelo 2, a 5,500km route passing through Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

With that completed, a whole new world of tourism opens up to the west of Ireland, and in particular to Galway which because of its peripheral location on the edge of Europe will always be seen as a must-see must-do for anyone embarking on a mammoth trip across Europe from whatever starting point they choose.

It will create new opportunities for Galway to service this type of tourism, bicycle hire and repair, places for sustenance and refreshment, an opportunity to make part of the route attractive and aesthetically pleasing, new attractions along the way.

The Galway to Dublin greenway, which is partially completed, was first announced in 2012 by then-minister for transport Leo Varadkar. A preferred route corridor for the Athlone to Galway section of the greenway was selected after a public consultation process that opened in December 2021.

Previous efforts to select a preferred route corridor stalled in 2015 after opposition from landowners in east Galway, who said adequate consultation had not taken place.

But now, the end is in sight. It is up to the local authorities to complete our end of the bargain. What other places would give if they had such an opportunity to be an end-spot on a cross-continent route. Our neighbours in Mayo have been benefitting from their superb greenway for over a decade now; and what a boon it was in lockdown.

At the moment, detailed engineering, archaeological and environmental assessments are being undertaken on the route and it is hoped that next summer, a planning application will be made to the planning authority. Here’s hoping the final design is pleasing to everybody.

 

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