Councils split western leg of Galway-Dublin cycleway

The Athlone to Renmore section of the Dublin-Galway cycleway has been split into two separate projects in a fresh attempt to deliver the long-delayed route.

Galway County Council and Westmeath County Council have both issued separate tender requests for technical consultants to advise on architectural, engineering and surveying challenges on the almost 200km circuitous route from Athlone to Galway city.

RPS Consulting Engineers reportedly withdrew from its contract to oversee the entire Athlone to Galway route last autumn, ending its agreement with project lead Westmeath County Council by mutual consent. It had been hired in 2019 to provide engineering and planning services.

Galway County Council will now oversee 114km of the route which is expected to run from near Portumna Castle gardens on the banks of the River Shannon, to Ballyloughane Beach in Renmore. This ‘preferred route’ will loop south from the western shore of Lough Derg past the Slieve Aughty mountains to Gort, then head north to Galway city through Kinvara, Killcolgan and Oranmore.

Meanwhile, Westmeath County Council has issued a tender for similar services for part of the route from Athlone to Shannonbridge, then through Meelick to Portumna. It is not clear if Westmeath County Council will also oversee a proposed spur which runs along the route of the River Suck to link Ballinasloe to the national cycle infrastructure.

Work on the Co Galway stretch of the Dublin to Galway cycleway was initially suspended almost ten years ago when landowners made strenuous objections to then transport minister Paschal Donohoe (FG ). With a more direct route proposed between Ballinasloe to Galway via Loughrea and Craughwell, farmers raised concerns about cutting through privately-owned farmland, bogs and forestry.

Editor of IrishCycle.com, Cian Ginty, says the new preferred route does address some landowner fears because the much longer southern County Galway leg now mostly traverses commonage or state-owned land.

“The newer route is much longer, but also more scenic. The problem is that we’ll probably hear the same complaints from a different batch of landowners. Local councillors need to look at this holistically,” he says. “The IFA [Irish Farmers’ Association] has a code of conduct agreed when it comes to landowners communicating with officials about greenway proposals, but it seems to be the exact same issues every time.”

The County Galway section of the national bicycle route cutting across the island is expected to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála (ABP ) in 2025 once consulting engineers and local authorities conclude both informal and statutory processes with landowners.

Last year, ABP ruled against a section of the River Boyne greenway in County Meath because of potential damage to wildlife habitats. Landowners in County Mayo are expected to object to a proposed greenway along the southern arc of Clew Bay for similar reasons, and call for upgraded cycle paths on the R335 Westport to Louisburgh road instead.

 

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