A draft plan for the Midleton to Youghal greenway is to go on public display in the coming weeks.
Councillors at the September sitting of the East Cork Municipality yesterday, Wednesday 20 September, gave formal approval for the plan to go for public consultation.
Cork County Council’s heritage and tourism departments have been working together to create a greenway and biking route between villages along a 22km section of disused rail link between Midleton to Youghal.
The aim is a concertive effort to enhance quality of life through the authority’s inter-urban network linking rural towns and villages with urban centres.
The master plan forms part of an official Eurovelo bicycle route crossing the country that will see East Cork form part of a national route, connecting Larne, County Antrim in the north east with the north west and the southern coasts via Kerry, Cork and Waterford, ending in Rosslare Co Wexford.
In July, Wexford County Council launched its Eurovelo route which links Rosslare to Waterford. The 120km route takes cyclists along the quieter and more scenic areas of the county.
Eurovelo is a network of 15 long-distance cycle routes promoting Europe’s natural beauty.
The development of the Midleton – Youghal Greenway began in 2013 with the aim of providing opportunities for recreation, public health, economic development and environmental stewardship.
Cork County Council Senior Executive Planner, Claire Cronin said public comment will form the final plan before funding is sought.
“Nationally there is a strategy being developed for greenways. What we really want to do is to be in a position to make a funding application if we get through the part 8 process (public consultation process).”
The new amenity would not only benefit the towns along the way like Mogeely and Killeagh, it is also hoped that it would benefit the greater East Cork region, encouraging tourists to stay longer in the area.
East Cork Municipality Chairwoman, Fine Gael Cllr Susan McCarthy said the Greenway is a resource we need to tap into.
“It’s a local amenity that is valuable and accessible to all and that includes people with disabilities. It’s so much the way forward and great to see it happening around the Country and in East Cork.”
Fellow Fine Gael Cllr Michael Hegarty said “the Dungarvan to Waterford greenway has been a phenomenal success. It has revitalised villages and towns along the way, the footfall is exceptional.”
While Independent Cllr Mary Linehan Foley said the repurposing of the line was a “no brainer.”
The Youghal based Cllr warned “If we don’t take this Greenway project, there’s nothing going to happen to the railway between Youghal and Midleton. It’s never going to reopens as a railway line.”
Youghal railway station was opened in 1860 with regular passenger services withdrawn in February 1963. The line was closed to all goods traffic in August 1982.
The last train to depart the seaside station was in 1987 by the Irish Railway Record Society. A year later in 1988 the line was then abandoned. Later in 1992, 7 miles of track between Midleton and Youghal was removed, to reuse in Sligo.
There have been a number of calls locally to have the line reopened.
In 2009 the Cork – Midleton line reopened after a 15 year battle.
Last year Irish Rail recorded 379,000 journeys on the Midleton section from Carrigtwohill and Midleton stations, representing a growth of 11.5% in Midleton line passenger numbers.
However last November the company sought permission from government to permanently abandon 10 sections of closed rail line, because of high costs in maintaining them; in which for they receive no government funding for.
Irish Rail claimed they were spending in excess of €3million maintaining routes that are unlikely to reopen.
It’s estimated the development of the East Cork Greenway route will cost in the region of €6 million.
In May Cork County Council received a €3million grant to develop the Cork Harbour Greenway linking Glenbrooke to Rafeen Bridge near Carrigaline.