Save the Barrow line


Frequently Asked Questions



Q: What are Waterway's Plans for the Line?
A: Waterways Ireland have indicated that they plan to replace the existing grassy surface with mix of surfaces types including bound hard surface, an unbound mix of stones and crushed limestone (currently in place north of the bridge in Tinnahinch) and concrete. Examples of the proposed surfaces can be seen in the linked video. The planning applications can be viewed online at Carlow, Kildare and Laois Councty Council websites (see our news page for further details).


Q: What is the history of the project?

Waterways have indicated in a press release that the idea grew from the  The Barrow Corridor Recreational, Tourism and Commercial Product Identification Study. However, this study recommends that a feasibility study be carried out into the development of a Canoe Trail. It is not clear how/why a Cycle trail feasibility study carried out instead.


Waterways Ireland advise that the The Barrow Corridor Recreational, Tourism and Commercial Product Identification Study is available on their site at The following links can be used to access the report on the Carlow development site:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12


Leader partnership then commissioned a study into the feasibility of developing the Barrow Line towpath into a cycle track. The report, "River Barrow Cycling Trail, Feasibility and Technical Specification Report, April 2012 is available from Carlow County Development Partnership (

Q: What is the width of the planned hard surface track?
A: The plan proposes a 2.5m track. Anyone who walks the line knows that will take up most of the present walking and cycling space between the two verges with their wildflowers and grasses. A Kildare County Council engineer has indicated that a shared use track of this width will not attract cyclists.

 Q. How much will the cycle track cost?

A: The fesibility study indicates a provisional estimate of 5 million euro. However, 5 million euro was spent on developing the Great Western Greenway, a considerably shorter route. Waterways have indicated to us that no costing information is available but a general rule of thumb which is used for greenways is 100K per km which would mean that the likely cost is approx 11.3 million euro.


Q. What is the planning status?

A: Waterways applied for planning permission in early 2017. Please consult our news page for updates on this process.


Q. Has a cost benefit analysis been carried out on the project?

A. The feasibility study does not include a cost benefit analysis. Waterways  have indicated that they have carried out an analysis but to date they have not shared any figures specifically for the Barrow Blueway project. We have since therefore had to resort to putting in a freedom information request for this information and are awating the outcome.


Q. Have the current usage figures (walkers, cyclists, anglers) been established?

A. The feasibility study does not establish current usage figures. Waterways have installed counters to measure numbers of walkers and cyclists on the route. Figures have been made available to us for a short period in early September 2014. The figures clearly show that cyclists use the Line as is. We submitted an FOI request to obtain the recent figures and these are now available on our news page


Q. What level of support do the proposals enjoy

A.Waterways Ireland’s were forced (under the Freedom of Information Act) to publish the results of their initial survey to establish the appetite for their proposed project. The survey results showed that that 84% of respondents felt that the proposal will have no positive contribution to community life, jobs, local groups or businesses.


Q. What is the economic potential of the proposals

A. There is much evidence that it is precisely the grassy towpath which is the Barrow’s unique selling point and that which attracts visitors to the area.  For example, Resonance Consultants, an international consulting company hired by Failte Ireland to look at marketing the East and South Region of the country, describe a “verdant tapestry” whose “appeal is deduced rather than declared” and a “unique path of grass by a river of sublime peace”.  The authors of “Hiking in Ireland” describe “a peaceful green corridor a world away from distractions of the modern world. The towpath is grassed almost the whole way and the views change constantly”.

It makes absolutely no economic sense to invest millions of euros in a scheme which has the very real potential to alienate the largest market segment: walking is by far the most popular activity among tourists.  

Q.  Will the new surface enable shared use of the towpath

The Barrow towpath is already a shared use path. This can be substantiated by Waterways own usage figures. It can be substantiated by this 2011 five star review on tripadvisor ( that states “With the Barrow just an hour from Dublin, this is a great cycle route and would be perfect for families.”

It can be substantiated by this 2011 four star review from the Irish Trails website ( that describes the way as “Beautiful. Went by MTB from St.Mullins to Carlow a couple of times this summer,… Good paths along route, ground was firm & easy to manage. 50+k from Mullins to Carlow. Lovely scenery”

The current grass surface dictates the pace, a pace which accommodates both walkers and joggers and cyclists.  No one can go so fast that they intimidate or endanger any of the other users. The Barrow Blueway proposal will enable speed on the route and will make it more difficult for walkers and cyclists to co-exist peacefully