Public consultation opens over Athlone to Galway greenway route

Previous route selection process stalled in 2015, after ‘vociferous’ landowner objections

Members of the Shannonside Cycle Club on the Athlone Cycle Greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson

Members of the Shannonside Cycle Club on the Athlone Cycle Greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Route options for a 130km Athlone to Galway greenway have been published as part of an online public consultation process.

The project will become part of the Dublin to Galway greenway which, in turn, is part of EuroVelo 2, a “European Capitals” 5,000km route from Moscow via Minsk, Warsaw, Berlin, London to Galway.

Five possible route corridors have been outlined for the Athlone to Galway section, in a study area that runs from Tuam in the north to Portumna in the south.

The first route is a central or direct route taking in Ballinasloe; Athenry; Oranmore; and Galway. To the north of this route, a variable corridor has been identified from Ballinasloe via Ballyforan and Mountbellew to Monivea or from Ballinasloe via Ahascragh to Mountbellew and on to Monivea.

To the south of the central route there are three options. The first is to go via Shannonbridge, Portumna, Woodford and Loughrea to Athenry. Second is a route via Shannonbridge and Ballinasloe to Athenry. The third southerly corridor is via Shannonbridge, Portumna, Woodford, Gort, Kinvara and Oranmore.

Plans for the route from Athlone Castle to Galway city had reached the “preferred route” stage before they were put on hold in 2015 following vociferous opposition from landowners in east Galway who said adequate consultation had not taken place.

However, engineering consultants RPS said it would now be possible to design a route that was mostly on State land. On non-State land, it should be possible to design around the perimeter of farms to prevent severance.

Public consultation

The design team led by project manager Cian McGuinness has opened a virtual public consultation where people can see the route corridors, maps and leave virtual comment cards. Mr McGuinness said the cycleway would be “a really great asset for east Galway, Roscommon and Westmeath” and would contribute to developing domestic and international tourism “as well as being a fantastic resource for local people”.

In a video overview of the cycleway, Mr McGuinness said it was driven by “five Ss” from the Government’s greenway strategy. These are that it should be scenic; involve things to see and do; be substantially segregated from motor traffic; be a strategic link; and be developed and operated in a sustainable manner.

A new pedestrian and cycling bridge over the Shannon in the centre of Athlone is to go to construction this year. Director of services with Westmeath County Council Barry Kehoe said the bridge would be a vital part of the future development and architecture of Athlone town.

Jim Maguire, chairman of Shannonside Cycling Club, said the Mullingar to Athlone greenway – The Old Rail Trail – offered “a tranquil, yet purposeful path through midland towns and regions”. The extension to Galway would be good for cycling, business and tourism in the region, he said.

He said cycling clubs in all the local towns regularly ply the Old Rail Trail and it had encouraged many who were wary of traffic on the roads to take to the bike.

“We are looking forward to the Athlone Castle to Galway city stretch” he said.

The public consultation site is at galwaytoathlonecycleway.com