Councillors to vote on railway cycle route

Councillors will vote on Monday week, July 22, on a proposed variation to the County Development Plan, which would allow a cycleway to be developed in the disused Mullingar-Athlone rail corridor.

If the councillors approve the variation, the Part 8 planning process will commence and the project will be open to submissions from the public from July 26 until September 20.

Addressing councillors at Monday’s Mullingar Area meeting, Michael Kelly of the National Roads Design Office outlined research from Fáilte Ireland which highlights the benefits of this proposed cycle route.

“The biggest market is Germany, with 11.4 million cyclists. A large percentage want long distance cycleways,” he explained.

The top five draws for cyclists, he said, are landscape and scenery, traffic-free cycling, safety, access to towns and villages, and the appeal of ‘getting away from it all’ - all factors which highlight the benefits of the railway corridor over other proposed routes such as alongside the N6.

“All the indications are that the market is for leisure cyclists - people coming with their families. They should hit a major town every 60 or 70km, and this route would take in Mullingar, Moate, and Athlone, and attractions such as the canal, Athlone Castle, Bord na Móna land - it captures a varied experience for the cyclist,” added Mr Kelly.

Mr Kelly said the Dublin to Galway cycleway, of which the 40km Athlone-Mullingar stretch is part, would be constructed over a three to four year period.

The council’s director of services David Hogan also reminded councillors that the proposed cycle route would not affect the possibility of reopening the railway line in the future - though Iarnród Éireann have stated there is little possibility of this in the next 20 years.

The now disused railway line was built 100 years ago, and space left in the rail corridor for a second line which was never built - with the result that there is ample room alongside the track for the proposed cycle path. However some bridge decks will need to be widened to accommodate the new path.

There are also stretches where the rail corridor is wider, and in these areas the cycle path will be pushed away from the track for some variety.

The overall budget for the Maynooth to Galway part of the cycleway is in the region of €25-€30 million, while the Dublin-Maynooth section could cost a further €20 million.

Mr Hogan said it would “more than pay for itself” by putting Mullingar and Athlone on the map as tourist destinations for cyclists.


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