A new public amenity that will boost tourism and enhance quality of life in East Cork is expected to break ground in the coming weeks. Construction of the Midleton to Youghal Greenway is expected to begin this September, following an allocation of €8million to Cork County Council. The major investment will see completion of the outdoor recreation infrastructure by 2021.
The route follows a 23km section of disused rail link between Midleton and Youghal which will be an attractive amenity for visitors interested in nature, culture and social history. The scheme is a concerted effort to enhance quality of life through the Authority’s inter-urban network linking rural towns and villages with urban centres. It will benefit not only towns along the way such as Dungourney, Mogeely and Killeagh but also the greater East Cork region, encouraging tourists to stay longer.
In September 2017, formal approval for the plan went for public consultation and was given the green light in January of this year. Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said “on the week where we welcomed Ireland’s first Full Ironman to Cork with Youghal playing centre stage, it is fantastic to receive confirmation of MY Greenway, which is going to be another superb addition for the people of East Cork.” “It is now my wish” he said “that this type of development would be considered for other areas in Cork County.”
The MY Way Greenway forms part of an official Eurovelo bicycle route crossing the country that will see East Cork form part of a national route, connecting Larne, County Antrim in the North East with the North West and the Southern coasts via Kerry, Cork and Waterford, ending in Rosslare Co Wexford. The development of the Midleton – Youghal Greenway began in 2013 with the aim of providing opportunities for recreation, public health, economic development and environmental stewardship.
Chief Executive of Cork County, Tim Lucey said “MY Greenway will become a national and international attraction, and will be an iconic asset to the region in terms of attracting tourists and also supporting the local economy.”
East Cork Municipality Chairwoman, Independent Cllr Mary Linehan Foley said the Greenway is a resource into which we need to tap. “In nearby Dungarvan a 46km stretch of disused Waterford to Mallow rail line extending through the Suir Valley has brought the area back to life since it opened in March 2017” commented the Youghal based Cllr. The Waterford Greenway attracted 250,000 tourists between March and December 2017 with each visitor spending an average of €28.50 – or €109.50 if they stayed the night, according to the Irish Hotels Federation. “The disused section of Midleton to Youghal rail line is a blatant resource we need to tap into. The initiative has great potential to bring more jobs to rural communities along the route, while protecting the integrity of the line should the railway return in the future” said Cllr Linehan Foley.
Cork East Fine Gael TD and Minister for Justice & Equality, David Stanton welcomed the news saying; “I am delighted that these monies will be made available so that this exciting recreational project can be progressed. The greenway, once completed, will provide a 23km long cycle and walkway which will run along the old disused railway track from Midleton to Youghal through Mogeely and Killeagh”, said Minister Stanton. “As Part 8 planning permission was approved in January 2019, I understand that with €8 million in funding now being made available, work can begin on the project in the autumn. I would like to congratulate everybody involved in the development of the project but particularly the officials in Cork County Council, who have worked incredibly hard to reach this point. Cork County Council is also contributing considerable finances to the project and we are all looking forward to progressing this exciting amenity as soon as possible.
Youghal railway station was opened in 1860 with regular passenger services withdrawn in February 1963. The line was closed to all goods traffic in August 1982. The last train to depart the seaside station was in 1987, by the Irish Railway Record Society. A year later in 1988 the line was abandoned. Later, in 1992, 7 miles of track between Midleton and Youghal was removed, to reuse in Sligo.
There have been a number of calls locally to have the line reopened.
In 2009 the Cork – Midleton line reopened after a 15 year battle, and has seen significant growth in Midleton passenger numbers since then.
However, in 2016 Irish Rail sought permission from Government to permanently abandon 10 sections of closed rail line because of high costs in maintaining them, and for which no Government funding was received.
The Company claimed they were spending in excess of €3million maintaining routes that are unlikely to reopen.