A shot of velo rail or rail bike in France. The rail bikes have two drivers and several seats in the back. Photo: Dignelesbains tourisme.

Exciting velo rail project revealed for Lough Boora park

Visitors to Lough Boora Discovery Park could soon be using a novel mode of transport – a velo rail – to enjoy the beauty and nature of the bogland amenity.

Bord na Móna has revealed exciting plans to use some of the existing rail line for ten to 15 velo rail cars along a five kilometre route through Lough Boora, which is already home to a sculpture park, fairy trail, numerous walking and cycling routes and angling facilities.

Popular in France and Germany, velo rail in Lough Boora would use the existing rail tracks that previously operated by Bord na Móna for peat production and transportation for the new tourism venture.

While the designs differ, they are generally described as being like giant pedal-powered bicycles which hold a family or a group who would pedal through the bogland. Essentially, they consist of a platform mounted on four wheels and on each side is a saddle and pedals for the two drivers and in the middle is the seat for the passengers.

Fans of the novel form of transport say the clicking of the wheels on the track sounds similar to a real train. Some types see users pedal for a while and then momentum brings them further along before they start pedalling again.

A planning notice indicates that the semi-state company will shortly lodge a planning application to repurpose and refurbish circa 5km of pre-existing narrow gauge railway line for the use of 10 to 15 Velo Rail cars. In addition to the construction of a terminus structure, there would be pedestrian and service vehicle access paths and all associated site works.

An Appropriate Assessment and Natural Impact Statement have been prepared as part of the planning application which must be submitted within a fortnight of the publication of the planning notice.

Cllr John Leahy, who only lives a few kilometres away, said the new plans for a velo rail development in Lough Boora Discovery Park could “maximise visitor numbers” and keep more people in the area longer by providing an additional way of enjoying the bogland amenity in comfort.

He said the idea was first mooted about five years ago and came out of many community surveys conducted in the area. “The Velo Rails are an easy mode of transport to get around,” he commented, adding that he would expect the route to take you through the boglands and over to Turraun before coming close to Kilcormac.

With numbers struggling to return since the pandemic, Cllr Leahy said plans like this are “badly needed” to bring all age groups to the park and to get repeat visitors, places like Lough Boora have to be constantly evolving and offering new attractions.

As Chairperson of Kilcormac Development Association, Cllr John Leahy is passionate about the role the town can play in telling the story of the boglands and Bord na Móna in conjunction with Lough Boora.

He's looking forward to construction starting within months on a new tourism office facility, close to their current community centre, along with a new bicycle hub, which would use a 3km country road route to connect in with Lough Boora, and he would love, in time, if the velo rail came that far.

The group is also hopeful that they will be able to get funding for a type of outdoor machinery museum along the route from Kilcormac, which would see pieces of industrial heritage placed along the route where visitors could hit a monitor and hear the stories and social history connected with Bord na Móna because Cllr Leahy said there is a “massive story to be told” about the area's history which is not there for current Lough Boora visitors.

At the time of writing, Bord na Móna had yet to comment on the velo rail plans.

Relatively new to Ireland, there are plans for another velo rail venture in Kiltimagh in Mayo.