The Department of Transport has announced €64.5m in funding for 15 greenway projects currently under construction across the country.

It is welcome news for cash-strapped local authorities fearing funding for these projects could come under pressure due to the impact of Covid-19 on their incomes.

Among the projects to receive 100% State funding will be Midleton to Youghal Greenway in Co Cork (€10m), and the Great Southern Greenway in Limerick (€2.5m) linking Rathkeale to Listowel in Co Kerry.

The funding will also support the refurbishment of the Longford Canal (€172,000), as well as the extension of the Grand Canal Greeway from Daingean to Edenderry (€3.1m).

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said it is the highest single year amount ever allocated to greenways and "shows the commitment of this Government to providing a step-change in the way in which we fund walking and cycling".

The recent programme for government has seen a switch in emphasis from the development of greenway projects solely for tourism reasons to a greater focus on everyday cycling and walking.

As well as projects in Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, Kildare, Offaly, Wexford and Wicklow currently under construction, a further €4.5m has been allocated to help 26 projects identified in 21 counties to get to the  "shovel ready" stage.

It is estimated there will be 240km of greenway in the country by 2022, with the potential for a further 800km over the next decade across 26 projects in 21 counties.

However, in a week which saw the South Kerry Greenway finally get planning permission after six years, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has warned that consultation with landowners is vital if greenway developments are to succeed.

In Co Cork, the announcement of 100% funding secures the timeframe for the opening of the county's first Greenway and has been welcomed.

Cork County Council's Senior Executive Officer for Rural Development Seán O'Callaghan said the funding is "a real game changer".

"It is a sign of the recognition of the department of the viability of the project and good news for the county and for Cork County Council," he said.

The greenway will run along a 23km section of the now defunct Midleton to Youghal railway line with the overall project costing €20m.

Cork County Council estimated that 250,000 people will use the route annually.

Site clearance work and the lifting of the old track is nearly finished, with construction due to begin in January and a completion date of December 2022.

There will be gates and traffic calming measures as the greenway crosses the main road to Mogeely village
Mogeely is one of two villages along the route, including Killeagh, that are looking forward to reaping economic benefit from the greenway

In its heyday, the Cork to Youghal railway line brought thousands of tourists to the east Cork town. 

Passenger trains ceased in 1963, with a freight train service operating until the mid-1980s.

The former railway station in Youghal

Given the well-documented success of the Great Western Way in Mayo and Deise Greenway in Waterford on their local economies, the town is looking forward to the return of visitors in numbers.

Ger Flanagan, of the Youghal Business Alliance, said it will mean a huge economic boost to the area.

"There was a small minority that were talking about bringing back the railway from a nostalgia point of view but from an economic benefit the greenway is probably 100 times more of benefit to us than the railway would ever have been," he said.