ONCE the long-awaited South Kerry greenway eventually gets up and running the revenue it will generate, in a short space of time, will far outweigh any State investment required in the project and much of the upfront costs of over €20 million will come back to the Exchequer during the construction phase, Kerry TD Brendan Griffin has told the Dáil.
He said now that the latest hurdle has been cleared through the most recent decision of the High Court to rule in favour of the project, he wished to highlight the requirement for funding for what will be an iconic and world-class attraction.
“I am very hopeful we will have the ultimate green light in the very near future and complete the planning process for the initial and substantive phases of the greenway,” Deputy Griffin said.
He said Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan, knows it will require substantial up-front investment and it is estimated that in excess of €20 million will be required through Transport Infrastructure Ireland.
“I am hopeful we will have the ultimate green light in a matter of days. At that stage, we must be ready to go as soon as possible in order to get this moving,” the Kerry Fine Gael TD stated.
He pointed out that South Kerry has experienced major decline over decades, particularly in the past 20 years when it suffered economically and socially.
“It has really struggled. If the arrival of the Farranfore-Valentia railway in 1893 to south Kerry was ultimately a symbol of hope, the subsequent removal of the rail line in 1960 was a symbol of despair. The return of the greenway could be another symbol of hope and real economic prosperity,” Deputy Griffin said.
Minister Ryan, in response, said he is hopeful that once the legal challenges against the project end and solutions are found for the sections excluded from the planning permission granted by An Bord Pleanála, an updated application for funding will be submitted by Kerry County Council to Transport Infrastructure Ireland.
“A significant portion of the original funding allocated to Kerry County Council for the project remains unclaimed and sufficient funds remain to enable it to submit an excellent request,” he said.
€3.46 million was allocated in April 2014 and a further €415,000 was issued in the same year for the section in Reenard.
Praising the input from the local authority, Minister Ryan added: “I know the staff in Kerry County Council have been consulted, on many occasions, by staff in other local authorities to learn from their experience. I expect any future submission will, again, be of the highest quality.”
He confirmed that Transport Infrastructure Ireland has started the process of determining a national cycle network that will include a number of other greenways and routes in Kerry, linking it with surrounding counties.
“We know of the ambition Kerry has in this regard and the progress it is making with the South Kerry greenway and the greenway from Fenit, which travels through Tralee, on to Listowel and continues to Limerick city,” he said.
He said the point raised about this section of greenway connecting into other sections, including a Killarney to Tralee route that connects into the Listowel link, into Tarbert and on to Limerick, is important.
“Anyone who knows anything about cycling knows that the Ring of Kerry main road – one can hardly call it a main road because it is not that wide of a road – particularly the section from Killorglin to Glenbeigh, is not comfortable.
“I brought thousands of people there who cycled on this route over the years and it is not a comfortable place to be. The speed of the traffic is in the region of 80 km to 100 km per hour. There is no real road margin. There are tight bridges and bends on occasion.
“We cannot get rid of all those features because part of the charm of the Ring of Kerry is that it is such a scenic area. That is why this route makes so much sense,” Minister Ryan