The 100-metre tunnel is an iconic feature of the old railway line stretching from Rathkeale to Tralee
PLANS are now being drawn up to incorporate the Barnagh Tunnel into the Great Southern Greenway.
The 100-metre tunnel is an iconic feature of the old railway line stretching from Rathkeale to Tralee but was cut off from the Great Southern Greenway following road re-alignment some years ago.
Now, as part of a significant investment into upgrading the greenway, Limerick City and County Council plans to reconnect the main trail to the tunnel by means of an underpass under the N21 at Barnagh.
It will also add a further 1.4km to the 40km greenway and allow walkers and cyclists to branch off onto this “spur” along a scenic stretch of the line, through the tunnel to the Barnagh viewing and picnic spot.
Outlining the plans to councillors at a meeting of the Newcastle West Municipal District last week, Brian Kennedy, the senior executive officer with the council with special responsibility for the Great Southern Greenway, said that consultants had been appointed to design and prepare the project for Part 8 planning.
The main element in the project will be the underpass, which will be 24 metres long, three metres wide and almost three metres high and will have a slight gradient. It will also entail upgrading over a kilometre of trail passing by the Barnagh railway station.
The project hasn’t been costed, Mr Kennedy said, but he estimated it would cost in the region of €500,000. The council has applied for a grant to fund the project which is in addition to the €1.3m already ringfenced for the upgrading of the greenway.
Mr Kennedy said he hoped that work could begin early next year. “We would like to have this done by this time next year,” he told the councillors.
However, he added, he would be talking to local people about the project which will have to go through the planning process. This will involve going on public display and allowing time for submissions from the public or other bodies before being voted on by councillors.
The project was warmly welcomed by all the councillors.
Cllr Jerome Scanlan suggested the council look at acquiring the old railway station building, currently privately owned.
“It is in a strategic position,” he said and could work as a drop-in centre, cafe and a museum explaining the history of the railway and how it was built.
Liam O’Mahony, chairman of the Great Southern Trail Group which originally initiated the greenway project, welcomed the incorporation of the Barnagh Tunnel.
“It is long overdue that the tunnel would be recognised as probably the principal feature of the Great Southern Greenway,” he said.
“The tunnel along the Waterford Greenway is getting rave reviews,” he continued.
But, he said, to really capitalise on the Barnagh Tunnel, there needed to be request bus stops at Barnagh, at the viewing point going west and at the underpass travelling east.
“Rathkeale, Newcastle West, Templeglantine and Abbeyfeale all have bus stops but there is a big gap of up to eight miles between Newcastle West and Templeglantine,” he said.
If bus companies were prepared to offer weekend or day tickets for families and walkers, then Barnagh could become a stand-alone attraction, Mr O’Mahony said.
Limerick City and County Council is also preparing to extend the Great Southern Greenway from Rathkeale to Ballingrane. The long-term plan then is to link Ballingrane to Patrickswell and into Limerick City.