The development of a €19m greenway in Co Cork will not hinder the reopening of a disused railway if it becomes economically viable to do so.
Cork county councillors have voted unanimously to turn the former Midleton-Youghal railway line into a leisure facility for cyclists and walkers.
However, they have stipulated that the 23km greenway be built in such a way that it could be quickly converted to handle a new railway connection between the two towns if that becomes economically viable in the years ahead.
The adoption of a report by council officials to proceed with the project was proposed by Youghal-based Cllr Mary Linehan-Foley and unanimously agreed by her colleagues.
Funding for the project will come from the local authority and through government grants.
Cllr Linehan-Foley said the railway line had been derelict for more than 30 years and turning it into a greenway would provide a massive boost for tourism and local families.
Cllr Susan McCarthy said that discussions had been held with Irish Rail officials over some period of time and they have given their blessing to it because at present it is not economically viable to reopen the railway line, unlike the section between Cork and Midleton which was reopened in July 2009.
However, she pointed out that the greenway would be designed in such a fashion that if the rail link became viable in the years ahead it could be rebuilt on the corridor relatively quickly.
Parts of the corridor are very narrow, so it is unlikely that the greenway and railway could run side by side. However it hasn't been totally ruled out that it greenway could run off it at narrow pinch points.
Cllr McCarthy added that the railway corridor was fortunately intact and that adjoining landowners had been consulted and fully supported the introduction of the greenway.
Sean O'Callaghan, the council's senior executive officer in charge of the East Cork region, said at this stage in the project no detailed design has been undertaken.
“We are very conscious of the rate of construction inflation. The initial costing provides for a maximum 4m-wide greenway and also includes provision for ducting for use by utility/broadband providers," he said.
"This initial costing including VAT is €19.1m and Cork County Council have committed to fund 25% of the project costs."
West Cork-based Cllr Christopher O'Sullivan said he fully supported the introduction of greenways on disused railway lines.
He said that they should also be set up in his region on the former Clonakilty to Courtmacsherry and Baltimore to Skibbereen lines.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the county council is also proceeding with plans to turn the former lighthouse in Youghal into a tourist attraction.