Supporting Local News

Future still far from clear on greenway plan

The company which withdrew from developing the greenway between Athlone to Galway may tender again to get involved once a new contract is readvertised.

Loughrea area councillors roundly criticised RPS Consulting Engineers for ending the contract by mutual agreement with Westmeath County Council, claiming the project was no longer financially viable after agreeing to a fixed priced tender sum in 2019 to provide engineering, planning and environmental services on the cycleway.

The move will indefinitely delay the project, which had been due to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála in early 2025. The setback followed the rejection by An Bord Pleanála of a 5.9km section of the Boyne Greenway between Drogheda and Morningtown because Meath County Council had failed to show it would not adversely affect a designated Special Area of Conservation.

Councillor Martina Kinane (FF) said she believed that decision had huge implications for the Galway section of the proposed greenway as it encroached on an SAC and a Special Protection Area, along the Cuildooish Boreen, the Finghall Complex SAC in Ballindereen, Kilcaimin Bay, Middle Third Maree, Creganna and Oranhill.

In a presentation to the Loughrea Municipal District, senior executive engineer Annemarie Johnston said the lead local authority Westmeath County Council was currently engaged with RPS in assessing how much work had been done before a new tender could be prepared.

Cllr Shane Curley (FF) said the termination of the contract made the public sector ‘a laughing stock’, and he demanded to know how much had been paid to RPS to date.

Cllr PJ Murphy (FG) said while the route chosen was “the one of least resistance”, he also did not believe the coastal section in Maree would get permission.

“Are we now left with an unworkable chosen route?” he asked.

Cllr Ivan Canning said councillors and local authority staff had no credibility now when dealing with the public over the issue after so much work had been done on the ground.

“I’d hope Galway County Council and Westmeath County Council never give them work again. They had a few great staff, they did their best, but I’m very disappointed in RPS.”

Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG) asked, if it was a matter of finances, why was the contract not renegotiated with Transport Infrastructure Ireland to take inflation into account.

Ms Johnson said the RPS fee to date had yet to be finalised after the handover. They had almost completed the first three phases of a seven-stage process, she stated. A contract to carry out ground investigation survey was ready to go to tender. “Their team was very dedicated. They are entitled to re-tender if it’s a new tender,” she said.

Senior area engineer Rachel Lowe said a lot of contracts had been impacted by the pandemic and inflation. Ending a public works contract by mutual agreement was a standard clause. “RPS does a lot of work for Galway County Council and the standard of their work is top class,” she said.

A proposal was put by Cllr Kinane calling for the new consultants to revisit the sections that encroach on SACs and SPAs between Ballindereen and Oranhill and instead align it along the existing cycle path on the N67 between Kinvara and Ballindereen and a proposed segregated path between Kilcolgan and Oranmore. It was unanimously agreed.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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