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Passage West Tunnel Could Be Major Rail Trail Attraction

Passage West Tunnel Could Be Major Rail Trail Attraction Writes Leo McMahon

A re-opened railway tunnel in Passage West could become an integral element of the planned Greenway between Cork and Crosshaven and a popular tourist attraction in its own right, according to Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind). Her motion urging the council to take all steps necessary to do this was unanimously adopted at the monthly meeting of Cork County Council’s Carrigaline-Ballincollig Municipal District (MD). ‘The streets of Passage West are narrow and this caused as much of a problem to the extension of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway from its original terminus opposite what is now The Tavern bar through the town, on to Monkstown and beyond. Although when the extension to the railway was first mooted in 1897 there weren’t as many cars as there are today, the streets were not adequately wide to carry a rail track, so the track had to negotiate the ‘centre block’ and from there ran in a tunnel from the town centre right down to Glenbrook,’ said Cllr D’Alton.  ‘The 450 metre long tunnel was the only one of its kind on any narrow gauge track in Ireland.  The extension of the railway to Carrigaline was ready in June 1903 and on June 1st ,1904, the extended Cork to Crosshaven railway was officially opened.

Greenway Route? ‘Now much of the old line between Crosshaven and Blackrock is being converted into a greenway. The streets of Passage West are still narrow and difficult to navigate but the tunnel still stands and could perform as well as part of the greenway as it did for the railway. As part of the recent development on the Beach Road, a structural survey of the tunnel was undertaken which confirmed that it is in excellent condition. ‘It is not unusual to use tunnels on greenways. Ballyvoyle tunnel, on the Deise Greenway, Co Waterford, has been resurfaced, is currently having lighting installed and is already being advertised as one of its principal attractions for walking and cycling,’ said Cllr D’Alton who also referred to the success of tunnels for rail trails in the UK, Australia and the USA which also encourage more walking and cycling commuter use. ‘We have this equivalent resource sitting on our doorstep, so I ask that the council would take all steps necessary to reopen the tunnel in Passage West.’ Recalling previous discussions about same by the former Passage West Council, Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) said it was a tremendous historical facility in the heart of the town and it was unfortunate to see it in its present state. He suggested the county council get an estimated cost to have it re-opened and accessible to the public, with a view perhaps to seeking national funding for greenways. MD officer Mr. Kevin O’Donovan said ownership of the land at either end of the tunnel was critical in seeing how the proposal could be progressed for public benefit. Cllr D’Alton said the tunnel itself was owned by the council because the route of the former railway line was bequeathed to the local authority. Unfortunately it didn’t stake its claim and at some stage, land at each end was privately taken over and blocking up of the tunnel itself at the northern end was permitted when there was a small housing development in the town centre back in 2000. She agreed that both owners would need to be contacted. Unfortunately, said Cllr D’Alton the tunnel didn’t form part of the proposed Glenbrook to Raffeen Greenway, the Part 8 Manager’s Report for which was discussed earlier in the meeting. Cathoirleach Derry Canty (FG) complimented Cllr D’Alton on her motion which was unanimously adopted and it was agreed to make further enquiries.

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