For the record

The Limerick Leader article about a proposed Limerick river bus has some statements that do not accord with my understanding.

The venture will see the river bus depart Guinness Pier – across from Athlunkard Boat Club at O’Dwyer Bridge – every two hours, bound for the power station […].

As far as I know, the pier in question was the Ranks jetty and was not used by Messrs Guinness. The Eclipse Flower, and other vessels owned by Ranks and their predecessors, sailed up the Shannon from there rather than attempt the stretch from Baal’s Bridge to Custom House Quay.

The boat will follow the route taken by barges of old – both passenger and commercial – some of which historically transported Guinness to the city up until the mid-1960s.

“It is a tried and tested route,” said Mr Flynn, stressing the viability and safety of the route, which passes Long Pavement – the edges of which have been repaired and grassed over – and finishes at the hydro-electric plant.

“Every passenger and commercial barge that came to Limerick for 50 years used that stretch of water. It is very safe. It was navigated by all the barges,” he said.

The route to Limerick through Ardnacrusha came into use only after the construction of the power station in the 1920s and was used for a little over thirty years. To the best of my knowledge, there were no passenger services in those years: passenger carrying stopped in the first half of the nineteenth century, when traffic was still using the old Limerick Navigation. There have been some trip-boats in recent years, but they did not (and do not) use “barges of old”. Some old barges, now converted and with more powerful engines, have safely navigated that stretch, but they do it when conditions are right.

During the final phases of Ardnacrusha’s construction, both old and new navigations were closed; the Grand Canal Company (GCC), the main commercial carrying company, ran to Killaloe and had its cargoes carried onward by rail to Limerick. When the new route through Ardnacrusha was opened, the GCC thought it was so dangerous that it refused to use it for about a year. It resumed operations only when a boom was put across the river above Baal’s Bridge and posts were provided upstream of O’Dwyer Bridge to which barges could tie while waiting for suitable states of the tide.

I accept that the proposed river bus will not be going downstream as far as Baal’s Bridge, but it will still be navigating on a stretch of water where Waterways Ireland advises that boats should not navigate when more than one turbine is running at Ardnacrusha. The ESB can run up to four turbines, each of which is said to add a knot to the current, and it can switch them on immediately, with no warning to any boat using the river.

Other pages on this site make it clear that I share the promoters’ enthusiasm for Ardnacrusha and the canal and river thence to Limerick. I do not say that the difficulties of that stretch cannot be overcome, but I do not think that they should be dismissed.


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