Eoghan Dalton Reports
An extension of the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway into the city has been ruled out for the foreseeable future. The railway, which travels from Kilmeaden and brings passengers along the banks of the River Suir, is a popular attraction but the local authority maintains any large-scale development would be cost prohibitive.
Cllr John O’Leary (FF) is in favour of an extension and he cited the benefits an extension might hold for local communities as well as visitors from further afield.
Pointing to the €2.5m funding announced recently for an extension of the Greenway into the city, he told this month’s council plenary meeting that it could be an “opportunity for an extension of the Suir Valley Railway now into the city and to carry out some kind of a feasibility study”. “It would be a unique service to Mount Congreve, Carriganore, WIT and the native woodland gardens,” the Kilmeaden-based councillor added.
However the council’s Director of Planning Michael Quinn poured cold water on the proposal for now: “The simple fact is it would actually be cost prohibitive to do it.”
He said there are two major issues for any plan to bring the old locomotive into the city. The first of these is the land-take, whereby developments take place on natural land which may typically be a space for forests and agriculture.“We’ve managed to work to a reasonable degree with the road and the space that’s there with a certain limited amount of land-take,” he continued, explaining that further developments around the Greenway route would “require a substantially greater land-take and would impact significantly on a couple of the businesses that are there”. The other concern was the topography of the area which would again pile on the costs for an extension of the rail line.
“So at this point in time it certainly is not feasible to bring Suir Valley Railway into the city,” Mr Quinn said.
Cllr O’Leary told the chamber that the railway, which qualifies as a charity due to being a heritage project, has carried in excess of 380,000 passengers since it began operating in 2003 and manages to attract 30,000 visitors annually.“It would be a unique and massive attraction for international visitors as well,” he said.
Aside from any tourism benefits, it would also allow a community service for people traveling to and from the city, said Cllr O’Leary. He added that he was anxious for better connectivity for rural parts of Waterford.
The railway’s restored locomotive pulls two partially open carriages travelling at 15km per hour and can accommodate up to 90 passengers. The journey time is 40 minutes, Sunday to Friday, and 50 minutes on Saturday. It opens from April to September 30 for the summer season.