East Cork Greenway gets go ahead to run along old rail line

New greenway, hailed as tourism boost, will run between Midleton and Youghal stations

A stretch of the old rail line between Youghal and Midleton. Photograph: Denis Minihane

A stretch of the old rail line between Youghal and Midleton. Photograph: Denis Minihane

 

Members of Cork County Council have cleared the way for the local authority to apply for government funding for a new greenway along the old rail line between Midleton and Youghal in east Cork after unanimously backing the council management in seeking part-8 planning for the route.

Independent Cllr Mary Linehan Foley from Youghal proposed the motion, saying that the rail line had been derelict for the last 30 years and converting it into a 23km-long greenway from Midleton to Youghal Railway Stations would prove a major tourist boost for east Cork.

The proposed greenway route, between Youghal station on the coast, and Midleton further inland
The proposed greenway route, between Youghal station on the coast, and Midleton further inland

Cllr Linehan Foley’s proposal was seconded by Fine Gael Cllr Michael Hegarty from Ladysbridge who said it offered a huge opportunity to develop tourism in east Cork, given the success of the Deise Greenway in Waterford which attracts 250,000 users annually.

Midleton Fine Gael Cllr Susan McCarthy also backed the move but stressed that it included a provision that if Irish Rail ever wanted to take back the rail line and re-open it if they felt it would be economically viable, then it would be possible to reconvert the greenway back to a rail track.

Welcoming the move, Cork County Council senior executive officer for rural development Sean O’Callaghan said he was confident the East Cork Greenway would meet the criteria set out by the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport, which is providing €53 million nationally for greenway development.

“That €53 million is to be spent between 2019 and 2021 – this funding is aimed at projects which are shovel ready and which have planning, or are in the planning process, and obviously with today’s vote we have planning, so we would be confident that we now meet those criteria,” he said.

Mr O’Callaghan said, unlike in some other areas, the Midleton-to-Youghal line has remained in Irish Rail ownership and, except for one minor encroachment near Killeagh where they have reached agreement with the landowner, there are no land issues and no need for compulsory purchase orders.

Youghal’s former railway station. The greenway is set to run between this point and Midleton station
Youghal’s former railway station. The greenway is set to run between this point and Midleton station

The next step is for Cork County Council to obtain control of the line for a four-metre wide greenway under a 20-year licence from Irish Rail who would have engaged in a similar with Waterford County Council to allow the development of the 46km Deise Greenway.

Mr O’Callaghan said that a detailed design would now be undertaken and once that was completed, it would allow detailed costings to be obtained. The council intends to provide 25 per cent of this from its own funding, and the remaining 75 per cent will be sought from the Department of Tourism fund.

He said that he expected the council to engage in detailed discussions with the Department of Tourism over the next six to eight weeks but once funding was approved – and he was hopeful that would happen before the summer – work could begin on clearing the line which has become overgrown in many places.

A group of children from Limerick on a visit to Youghal by train in 1952
A group of children from Limerick on a visit to Youghal by train in 1952

He said the council expects the construction to take 18-24 months but with everything going to plan, it was possible that the greenway would be operational by 2021 and he was confident that it would attract a similar number of users to Waterford Greenway.

The rail line between Midleton and Youghal opened in 1860 with regular passenger services operating daily until 1963 when they were reduced to a popular summer Sunday service which ran until 1987; all freight services ceased a year later and the track has been unused since.