Newry and Narrow Water

I wrote a few days ago about the proposed bridge across Carlingford Lough at Narrowwater (or Narrow Water). I was reminded of that today on reading a debate, held in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 30 September 2013, about a proposed Newry Southern Relief Road [thanks to].

Apart from an admittedly minor mistake made by a Sinn Féin MLA about the Newry Canal (first summit-level canal, not “oldest inland waterway” in These Islands), the debate was remarkable for its demonstration of cross-party agreement: not so much on the desirability of public works (a desideratum of Irish politicians since the eighteenth century) as on the irrelevance of the Narrowwater bridge. Jim Wells [DUP] said:

There has also been some progress on the Narrow Water bridge project, although we do not know exactly where we stand. First, that bridge is far from certain, and, secondly, even if it were built, it would not relieve much of the traffic that we are dealing with. It would certainly not relieve the large number of juggernauts coming through from Warrenpoint harbour.

Sean Rogers [SDLP] said:

Narrow Water bridge is merely a tourist bridge, but the relief road would take heavy goods vehicles off the streets of Newry, reduce traffic congestion and attract even more shoppers to the city. Heavy goods vehicles would also have a direct route to Warrenpoint port, increasing trade in the port area.

And the other contributors to the debate did not mention it, which suggests to me that it is seen as irrelevant to the traffic problems of Warrenpoint and of Newry.

The Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy [UUP], gave a lengthy response to the debate, including this point:

A more detailed technical investigation of the specific options for crossing the Newry canal was also recommended, given the sensitive nature of this important heritage feature. It is expected to require at least the provision of a bascule, or lifting bridge, to allow the passage of tall ships on the canal. The width of the Victoria lock already limits the size of ship that can enter the canal and it is expected that any bridge would maintain a navigation channel that matches the width of the sea lock. My Department will continue to consult with NIEA on how the impact of the proposal on the canal might be mitigated and an appropriate design developed.

And it seems that one of the areas being considered for the road is Fathom, which is where the Victoria Lock is. It is a short distance north (and upstream) of the border.

It must surely be unlikely that there will be two crossings of Carlingford or the Newry River [and canal] within a few miles of each other. But if one option, the Newry Southern Relief Road, helps to relieve Newry and Warrenpoint traffic and the other, the Narrowwater bridge, doesn’t do so, then the first option would seem to be the rational choice.

Although I wouldn’t bother providing for “tall ships”.



10 responses to “Newry and Narrow Water

  1. Don’t you like ‘tall ships’ then? :/

    I would like them to hurry up and re-open the Newry Canal as a tourist attraction. Unlike the other hare-brained schemes (e.g. re-opening the Lagan Navigation when a third of it is under the concrete of the M1), the Newry Canal is basically all intact and just needs a few locks repointing, new gates fitted and some stout fellows with shovels to get the muck out of it.

  2. Ploddy Gustaf persuaded members of the bourgeoisie to pay him to be allowed to carry out dangerous work on his ships. His example is still followed but I don’t see why the taxpayer should incur any unnecessary costs in facilitating this peculiar industry.

    The Newry Canal is already a tourist attraction: I have seen excellent leaflets prepared by the local authorities about its walking and cycling routes and even horse-riding (another outdated activity, but some folk seem to like it) can be perpetrated in its vicinity. It does not, though, need boats, but I see that these chaps would welcome your assistance, no later than tomorrow, in shifting the muck.


  3. I know they would, be these days my ‘local’ is, who are just £26 grand short of their latest lock reconstruction budget ;)

    I am talking about *international* tourism, not someone from Lurgan going for a ride on their bike on a Sunday afternoon.

  4. But we southroners have our own canals, as indeed have folk on the Mainland. And I have heard it whispered that there are even canals on the far side of the channel: canals larger even than the Newry, and with places just as historic as Scarva. bjg

  5. International canal boat holidaymakers like circular routes and ones they can do in 7, 10 or 14 days…. which gets us back to that interesting and as yet unanswered question: Lough Neagh is often handwavingly described as a “hub” for the Irish inland waterway network, yet we appear to have no clue how narrowboat cargos were actually transported across it back in the day. Were the Newry Canal to be reopened (a far cheaper prospect than the Ulster or Lagan canals), you then in principle have a link to a the existing Lower Bann navigation and have doubled the length of cruising route available to tourists. On paper, this is a highly desirable Big Selling Point. In practice though…?

    I must say that, in general, you seem to take rather a dim view of ‘tourism’, yet you seem to want the people on the island of Ireland to all be engaged in some kind of useful employment and paying ‘taxes’. Surely tourism is one of Ireland’s greatest potentional assets? What other activities in the economy do you see growing instead? Gold-mining? Ship-building? Reviving the flax-mills and linen industry? Making the EU butter mountain bigger? Tourism would seem to me to be a very good bet, but it needs investment in infrastructure. And that is unlikely to mean building a TravelLodge on the Giants Causeway.

  6. Lough Neagh was a hub for the northern waterways but there was never a single “Irish inland waterway network”.

    The Ulster Canal was completed twenty years after the first steamer arrived on Lough Neagh; steamers could tow (Lagan or Newry) lighters but some of them sailed across. I imagine (I haven’t studied the matter) that cargoes were transhipped to narrower Ulster Canal vessels at the Blackwater or thereabouts.

    On circular routes, you’re making the fungibility mistake. A vessel suitable for the canals is not suitable for the coastal passage from Coleraine to Newry (and probably vice versa) and the skills required for the coastal passage are much greater than those required for a canal. You simply could not let an average canal hirer out to sea: a hire firm would look for certificates and experience. Folk who want to go boating in the North Atlantic can hire sailing yachts instead.

    As that point may illustrate, I’m opposed to ill-considered proposals, based on no serious economic, cost-benefit or marketing analysis, that are likely to involve large investments and low returns. See my comments on Ulster Canal proposals for a more detailed critique.


  7. I didn’t mean a circular route of going inland Newry to Coleraine and then round the coast! Even an optimist like myself can see that would be quite unsane :) Linear routes in England can be quite popular is they are long and scenic enough to provide interest, even though you have to cruise past everywhere twice (e.g. Mon&Brec, Llangollen, Kennet & Avon… indeed these are some of the *most* popular).
    You have yourself documented in graphic detail how circular route is not possible around the Royal, Shannan & Grand through Dublin unless one has scuba gear and a 127 year train almanac.

  8. Pingback: No Newry is bad news | Irish waterways history

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