Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank Deputy Griffin for his contribution and regular discussions on this issue. I am hopeful, once the legal challenges against this 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, TII. 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. 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. The Deputy will be glad to know that TII has started the process of determining a national cycle network that will be published late next year, which 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.
Through the programme for Government and the commitments therein, as well as the national development plan, we now have the money to see these ambitious plans realised over the coming decade. It is important that we continue to press ahead with delivering high quality infrastructure that enables people to choose to cycle and walk to work, school and shops, and that can be used for leisure and tourism. This week in Glasgow, we will hopefully see the nations of the world commit to doing things better and to provide opportunities for our people to act and think differently. I hope and expect that any funding requests submitted by Kerry County Council to deliver this stunning greenway will meet the criteria set out in the public spending code and that the TII will determine it appropriate to fund these. I look forward to cycling on the greenway in the coming years, as I have done in that neck of the woods for many decades.
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. I worked in cycling tourism for many years and brought many people into Kerry on holidays. In Germany or America, when a person is selling the merits of an area, people want to see an integrated network as part of an overall network. I refer to the networks we have in Kerry and west Cork, including the roads in the Iveragh peninsula and Ballaghbeama, in the centre of the peninsula. We do not need a greenway on some of those roads. The volume of traffic is low and local people expect to see cyclists because it is a popular area and they are curious to them. It is not the case that we must always have greenways. 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. It provides safe options that mirror the main road and can connect to the other greenways that we will create as part of a network. It can open up beyond Valentia, Portmagee and over the incredible road to Ballinskelligs, on which we do not need a greenway because traffic is relatively slow and the volume is low there. This section will be part of the overall network, some of which will be greenway and some not. We need to design an integrated route network for the sake of Kerry people and tourists.