Eoghan Dalton Reports
A study on extending the Waterford & Suir Valley Railway into the city would be a “waste” of Council staff’s time, according to the chief executive of Waterford City and County Council.
The operators have been calling for funding so that the heritage rail line, which travels from Kilmeaden along the banks of the River Suir, can continue on into the city via Bilberry.
However, Michael Walsh dismissed the idea last week in Dungarvan when he told Councillors that he wouldn’t “waste my staff’s time putting resources into analysis of it”.
The Council chief was adamant that it would cost millions to create the additional width required to run a rail line alongside the Greenway extension by Bilberry towards the city.
“The analysis is very simple from my point of view,” he added.“It’s not viable. The Suir Valley Railway don’t accept that? Well, I’m sorry but the answer is no.”
The current plans for the Greenway extension will see a corridor created which will contain two lanes and a segregated cycling and walking route as part of the Greenway.
Mr Walsh said the local authority has already gone “over and above” its duty with the delivery of the Greenway with the spending aligned with the railway at around €2.5m. “But that resource is simply not available again,” he continued. “And we have no source of funding that I’m aware of that we can seek the additional monies that would give the additional width that would allow a rail-line to be constructed in there either.”
Kilmeaden-based Cllr John O’Leary (FF) said more thought should be put towards an extension: “My information is that there are people prepared to put private investment into that as well. I would ask the Council to look at it in a very meaningful way.”
The topography around Bilberry was also highlighted as a barrier to an extension and would result in an increased cost.
Despite his dismissals Mr Walsh did note that a “new traffic model for the city” will be pursued in years to come. He singled out Gracedieu as being one location where “political choices” would have to be made if the Council intends on placing an emphasis on sustainable development and transport, including a bus priority lane with rail-line and a greenway.
“With where we’re going ten, 20 years down the road, and if we really want to emphasise sustainable travel cycling, walking, then that corridor, the Bilberry corridor, is a particular opportunity that I think we need to take advantage of,” he said.
The railway qualifies as a charity due to being a heritage project and has carried in excess of 380,000 passengers since it began operating in 2003, managing to attract 30,000 visitors annually.Its restored locomotive pulls two partially open carriages travelling at 15km per hour and can accommodate up to 90 passengers. Suir Valley Railway could be reached for comment in time for publication.