The Western Rail Nothingway, if you please.
dowlingm this really is the whole point its not about the standalone sligomayo greenway or the stand alone great western greenway its about offering the potential for a week or two of safe cycling in the West of Ireland unhindered by 8 axel trucks or family vehicles that resemble troop transporters coming round the bend of some wee boreen and wiping you out.
As mentioned in that letter to the Irish Times - provide the SMgreenway and link it with the GWG and you begin to get the prospect of 3 or 4 day cycling breaks on the route, take the route south of Claremorris to Athenry and link it with Galway - and put in the proposed Galway Clifden route and you might start seeing the picture. Put a parallel greenway next to the re-opened southern WRC and connect that with the Great Southern trail and we will begin to compete with our european neighbours in offering long distance leisure touring cycling as an option if we add a dublin to the west route using the old canal banks, disused rail lines and quieter minor roads then you really do have potential to attract touring cyclists from the east coast to come out west on their bikes on a two week holiday. its got huge potential for both domestic and in bound tourism.
is an aricle from the IT last year that I have just stumbled on here is the important extract:
Failte Ireland are well aware of this problem, back in 2007 they issued a reprot on cycling in ireland - the opening gambit from that report says it all
THE REPORT WAS CALLED MARCH 2007
FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF IRISH CYCLE TOURISM
NEW EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
IT CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE: anyone who really wants to see the potenta
Anyone with any interest in seeing why we just can't get it right - even though the problem has long since been known about - should look at this report. It does have some serious flaws mind you - for one it does not recognise or include the WRC as as potential greenway route - I think had FI insisted on a parellel greenway on the southern WRC we would have seen more bike/rail users on the line - bike one way train the other woudl have been a successful formula.
Not seeing the potential of the SM Greenway in the Failte Ireland report simply shows the lack of imagination in that organisation, however the serious loss of opportunity in not having cycle network is recognised in the report:
THE OPENING COMMENT IN THE REPORT SAYS:
have a look at the report scroll through it and begin to see what the WRC really should be - a goldmine for irish tourism that will cost very little. If you throw in the potential for high quality fibre optic ducting along the route to help technology based companies in the west of Ireland and you can stop seeing it as a "Railway" and start seeing it as an economic corridor for tourism and technology. In other words a goldmine.
Try to find figures for the number of foreign nationals who took part in that triathlon in Athy on Saturday and most of those will be doing one triathlon a week as part of a cycling holiday. Cycling is far more popular as a sport and just for recreational travel than people realise. I was in Sligo a few years ago and there was some cycle race on, just some regional event but Sligo was packed, pubs were full as were all the guesthouses as well as the hotels. Many people had travelled from where they were holidaying in Belfast and Dublin and Wicklow to take part. These people have a lot of money to spend and we should be looking at ways of. Giving them something they will use and a slow bumpy train ride is not such a thing.
Failte Ireland realise it - they have realised it since the report they published in
2007 - and the market research they commissioned in 2006 that told them its in a mess as a product - they have just sat on their backsides doing very little about it - and apart from the GWG and one or two other off track greenway isolated projects - we are no nearer achieving a national cycle network of off road trails and greenways that will attract cycling tourists in in their droves - in the meantime - the rest of Europe, and the UK are marching on developing the infrastructure that is needed. Our friends in WEst on Track once spoke of the thousands of jobs the WRC would create - they were right! It just doesn't need the railway to be put back in place to create those jobs, it doesn't need the millions of euro on infrastructure they are asking for and it doesn't mean creating a drain on the public resources for evermore by putting in a huge loss making and unnecessary railway line - it needs imagination to use the goldmine that is the WRC route for something that is relevant and needed for todays toursim industry. This is the point that west on track never got!
We don't need a network though because these tourists have and will travel great lengths to get to a good cycle path, unlike with the railway the saying "build it and they will come" actually does apply to Greenways.
Foggy if you build a network it creates far more access points for people to make decisions to get on their bikes and get tired and hungry on their journies. Just take the domestic tourism market - if the network I envisage happens in the west, there is potential for say groups of cyclists from Sligo to get on the SMG cycle for 70k down to kiltimagh - stay there overnight - cycle to say newport - stay there overnight - cyclet to Achill stay there overnight etc etc. B n Bs and hotels could co-operate to provide accomodation packages for people wanting to do certain routes, of for companies to offer bag carrying services from point to point. There are huge marketing opportunities like this, these opportunities will create jobs. If the network has an east west connection - it brings a lot of potential internal tourists to say join the network in the midlands and cycle west for a few days and back. Or for people from our largest domestic market the dublin area to plan a cycle trip to the west. 2 or 3 days to cycle to the west, 2 or 3 days cycling in the west and the train home (ok so the bikes on trains issue needs sorting), so I disagree the aim of a network with as many access points as possible for as many people as possible to use the network - even if its only for an evening stroll or cycle from Tubbercurry to Charlestown - the greenway network is just as much about providing locals with a safe walking and cycling facilities as it is about catering for needs of long distance walkers and cyclist - this is the vision of a cycling greenway network - the sligomayo greenway and using the WRC for this is only part of the whole thing to increase activity tourism in this country; the WRC is a potential economic goldmine for the west - if the opportunity can be grasped to do the right thing with the old alignment and to tie it into a network of greenways - this is what failte ireland, michael ring and the two county councils need to wake up to.
One point there though about B&Bs co-operating etc - there has to be quid pro quo from the private sector. It can't be a case of "build a greenway and we just watch the tourists and their Euros roll in"
Dowling a fair point but did West on Track ask businesses in Gort to pay for the white elephant railway?? here's an example of one hotelier iwth a hotel on the route of the sligo mayo greenway who said to me recently if they build the sligo mayo greenway it will mean I can keep 3 or 4 staff on = less dole = more paye and social charges + more sales of VAT attracting items eg food beer soft drinks crisps bottled water. Not to mention the renting of bikes, the purchasing of bikes etc. I think it has to be seen in the context of the economic activity it will generate. If for example the SM greenway created 2 million euro of extra spend between Collooney and Claremorris and that 2 million attracted VAT then you could be looking at 400 k a year extra in VAT payments - if it cost 5 million to do - it pays for itself in 12.5 years - not bad for any public capital project in my book. I know this is back of the envelope stuff but these are the kind of figures the government need to look at ....now how much would the train line cost to build ....and how much tourism revenue would it bring in...and how much would it cost to subvent each year..... this is what I mean about the economics of a greenway project.
I know this is anecdotal but someone I met recently told me turnover in a 7/11 store near the end of the GWG in Achill had increased turnover by €1000 a week as a result of the greenway. It really ain't rocket science is it? Think how much of that extra spend goes back to the government in VAT, this store may employ one extra person as a result of greenway spend - they have to pay the social charges and taxes on wages and they in turn spend their wages in the local economy - it ain't rocket science is it?
Dowling a fair point but did West on Track ask businesses in Gort to pay for the white elephant railway?? [\QUOTE]First I am no defender of what went on with the Ennis-Athenry line as my posting record shows. Second I'm not saying that the businesses in Mayo should pay for the greenway. However there is a tradition in Ireland that tends against local initiative and instead depends on demanding that the Council or better still Dublin pays for everything.
The greenway operators could say for instance, "we're going to set up stations using refurbished shipping containers every 20km or so to offer refreshments/lavatories etc. together with wayfinding to local shops/hotels/B&Bs but these will only be maintained in locations which, on an ongoing basis, have the majority of such businesses contributing to a fair share of the expense of marketing schemes for the greenway as a whole and if the locality stops paying then the stations go on the back of a lorry for somewhere else.
In terms of the net-work of cycle routes, there are bike lanes from cork airport and most of the way from ringaskiddy to cork city , a quick train ride to midleton and a disused rail line to youghal, it'd be great for cork midleton and youghal, and would cost not much more than clearing the scrub and weeds and lifting the rotten sleepers... With a bit more imagination a picturesque more challenging route could get u to dungarvan, and on to Waterford along that disused track ( that could be gone now) from a tourisim point of view all of this could be potential gold mines ..... A little bit extra to keep local shops, pubs , b+bs , restaurants going,a customer stream for small Eco and adventure tourism, a longer tourist season ( think April to oct rather than June to aug )
We just need to use a bit of imagination and give tourists a reason to come..... A lot of the time the best part of the holiday is the journey.....
Dowling I wasn't suggesting you supported the Ennis Athenry debacle sorry if you read that into my comment! Yes I know your views on that charade! I agree with what you are saying and yes it would be worth doing the kind of thing you mention -- actually I think your idea is a great way of using the old station buildings. Many of the greenways in the UK have done just that retain some of the railway heritage - maybe there is an opportunity for some lateral thinking on this one - how about co-operatives of unemployed to have the opportunity for small business start ups in these buildings to offer refreshments etc - just thinking out loud -but yes you have made a very valid point.
Markcheese all great points - and if we can tie all these fantastic opportunities into an interconnected network nationally imagine how the cycling tourists would roll in....
Markcheese the Midleton Youghal stretch would be nice and flat for cycling alright, Youghal-Dungarvan something else entirely! The Dungarvan-Waterford stretch would be interrupted at Kilmeaden but I doubt that would be the end of the world.
I don't think railway gradients will bother cyclists. They will still be less steep than average road gradients.
True but there was never a youghal to dungarvan line.... And the narrowish main road hugs the coast for a bit till it starts going up....but with a little imagination a boat across the backwater estuary and small back roads designated as cycle / walking ways to ardmore and helvick then dungarvan and on ....
Plus to be fair walkers/hikers and most cyclists don't mind a bit of steepness, the challenge is good....and of course once small towns and community's get the ball rolling, providing facilities for cyclists hikers local info to points of interest scenic spots ect, then u give tourists in general a reason to stop in yr town (to get off the motorway) and spend ...
Personally I think every disused rail line,/ Coastal path , mountain road should be made as suitable for tourisim as possible... If done on a budget by local communities who have an interest then it'd be the best return on investment ever...