A group that campaigns to make use of the provinces disused railway lines has proposed to develop a 33km traffic free greenway between Newry and Armagh taking in both Lissummon Tunnel and the shorter Loughgilly Tunnel. 

Northern Ireland Greenways has the vision of uncovering our hidden past, building for a healthier future, and providing a world-class walking and cycling infrastructure to sell to the world.

The entrance to Lissummon Tunnel.
The entrance to Lissummon Tunnel. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Their plan is to campaign to build a network of traffic-free pathways on the footprint of our abandoned railway network and former canals, and work to link them together.

Lissummon Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in Ireland at one yard short of a mile and is still virtually as pristine as the day it was abandoned in 1957.

 

The group describe the project as "A forgotten engineering treasure hidden in the countryside between Armagh and Newry could be the centrepiece of an amazing new greenway. Exploring the Lissummon Tunnel above the Newry Canal with the Mourne Mountains as a backdrop offers a wonderful selling point on a 33km traffic-free pathway – repurposing an abandoned railway route steeped in a rich history, both tragic and inspirational."

Spectacular scenery close to the entrance of Lissummon Tunnel. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Spectacular scenery close to the entrance of Lissummon Tunnel. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Noting the recent regeneration of the quarter mile long Ballyvoyle Tunnel as part of the new Waterford Greenway the report remarks "The Lissummon Tunnel is a unique place that we should be inviting the world to explore as we continue towards our government’s 25 year goal of building a network of greenways across the country. The countryside as you emerge from the southern entrance is spectacular."

NI Greenways suggest a Department for Infrastructure costing for greenways would put the project total cost at around £5 Million. 

They also suggest that it could be easily linked to the Newry Canal Greenway, ultimately even forming part of a future Great Eastern Greenway all the way to Dublin via the Carlingford Lough Greenway that is under development at present. It also proposes a link from Armagh to Portadown.

 NI Greenways also notes that another little known former tramway connected the railway line at Loughgilly to Glenanne Mill carrying passengers as well as coal to the mill and finished linen products to the world.

The fascinating in-depth report can be read at nigreenways.com