Roughan & O'Donovan-AECOM was appointed by Westmeath County Council to plan and design this dedicated coast-to-coast cycleway stretching 276km across the country and linking Dublin to Galway in 2012.
The project aims to bring revenue and jobs into economically disadvantaged, rural areas of the country in much the same way that Ireland’s first long-distance touring route, the Wild Atlantic Way, has done for the West.
A total of ten agencies came together, under the management and coordination of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), to deliver the project. These included Waterways Ireland, CIE/Iarnród Éireann, Fáilte Ireland and six local authorities, namely, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Roscommon, Galway County and Galway City.
In September 2022, a significant milestone in the project was reached with the lifting into position of new 104m long, pedestrian and cycleway bridge across the River Shannon in Athlone town centre. The bridge is a vital link in Ireland’s first ever dedicated inter-city route for cyclists and walkers.
ROD adopted a holistic approach to the planning of the project, assembling a multidisciplinary design team comprising engineers, ecologists, archaeologists and landscape architects.
With the depth and breadth of expertise within the team, we could identify how best to showcase the natural and cultural heritage environment along the route to appeal to the cycling and walking tourist and day-tripper.
In delivering the project, the team drew upon international best practice in cycling infrastructure to overturn the conventional wisdom that the ‘shortest route is best’ and champion the ‘slow and interesting’ route instead.
The cycleway takes, therefore, an indirect route across the midlands, along a historic railway and canal teeming with wildlife and away from traffic and noise.
- 91km of towpath along the Royal Canal Network
- 45km of disused railway line from Mullingar to Athlone
- 140km of new build cycleway from Athlone to Galway
- New bridges across the rivers Shannon and Suck
- Regular service facilities
Sustainability and best use of materials were important focus areas during the design process. This was to limit the amount of machinery required to access a long and narrow route corridor with widely spaced access points.
Thin foundation and pavement construction was adopted, with machine pavers laying the sub-base to achieve a high-quality ride for cyclists. Previous experience identified this as the key to a smooth surface without, potentially, a macadam top course. In fact, macadam was only used on select sections of the route according to the location context and intensity of use.
In 2019, 756,000 people, including 540,000 pedestrians and 216,000 cyclists, used the greenway between Athlone and Kilcock. These figures suggest the greenway has the potential to become an exemplar for similar projects in an eventual full national cycle network.