By Dan Walsh
The first sod on the South East Greenway was turned today with Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council Cllr Ger Carthy, Cllr Andrew McGuinness, the Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council and other local representatives, marking a significant milestone for the project.
Meanwhile, plans for another greenway from Rosslare to Waterford are in jeopardy due to moves to bring the rail link back into operation.
The U-turn for that route has happened due to a Strategic Review which is being undertaken on many old rail lines nationwide.
Cllr Carthy told KCLR it is due to fortunate timing of the project that the Kilkenny Greenway was not similarly affected. “We turned the sod on the New Ross to Waterford line and we’re fortunate that we were so advanced before the strategic review was called upon that the line and development may have come to a shuddering stop the same as the Rosslare to Waterford one. We were extremely fortunate that we had the line cleared, the rail was taken up and indeed today we turned the sod at Rosbercon, New Ross.”
The South East Greenway will be a state-of-the-art 24km cycling and walking route linking New Ross with Ferrybank, Co. Waterford through south Kilkenny.
The South East Greenway is a joint initiative of Wexford County Council, Kilkenny County Council and Waterford City & County Council, supported by the local Partnership organisations. The three Councils have together committed funding of €5.3m towards the overall project costs of €13.3m, with a recently announced €8m grant from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport providing the balance.
The Greenway is to be constructed along the former railway line between Mountelliott and Waterford, crossing the River Barrow via the renowned Red Bridge and passing through the scenic countryside of south Kilkenny, before reaching Abbeylands and Ferrybank County Waterford.
The disused railway line has remained in the ownership of CIE / Irish Rail since the discontinuation of passenger services in 1963 and discontinuation of freight services in 1995.
Two of the most exciting aspects of the old railway line are located Barrowside -the atmospheric Mount Elliot Tunnel is the starting point in New Ross for the South East Greenway. The 680 metres long tunnel is a reminder of the rich railway heritage of the South East.
The impressive Victorian railway bridge north of New Ross – known as the Red Bridge – spans the River Barrow, with views of unspoiled countryside on both sides of the bridge.