Limerick City and County Council clears up misinformation about awarding of Bike Hire and Shuttle Bus contract

In a major boost to the local tourism industry, Limerick City and County Council has announced that the €8 million redevelopment of the Limerick Greenway is on target for completion by 1st July in time for the summer tourism season.
The massive re-develop-ment of the route, which follows the old Limerick-Tralee railway line from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale and on to the Kerry border, will be an important asset as Limerick seeks to attract more tourists and visitors in the years to come.
In tandem with this announcement however, the Council has also expressed serious concern about the level of misinformation on its measures to attract new bike hire and shuttle bus service to meet the anticipated demand for visitors.
A significant amount of work has been completed to date by the Council on the Limerick Greenway.
The entire length of the Limerick Greenway is being fully reconstructed and re-surfaced with 3-metre wide macadam surface; bringing the route to the highest national standards. Crucially it means the entire length of the Limerick Greenway is accessible to all.
The Barnagh Tunnel has been restored and is definitely one of the highlights of the Limerick Greenway, while conservation work is taking place on the old station houses in Ardagh and Barnagh – providing crucial rest stops along the route, and also reconnecting with the history of the route.
New seating and other amenities along the route are planned. Planning approval is in place for new and enhanced car parking facilities and for cattle underpasses and these works will occur in 2022.
For this summer, a new car park will be opened at Ardagh Station House and a temporary car park will be provided in Newcastle West.
A suite of promotional material and marketing assets for the upgraded greenway are being developed, which will be available for summer 2021 and can be leveraged by businesses as they develop their offerings for potential visitors to the Limerick Greenway. A significant national advertising campaign will get underway in July to attract visitors.
Limerick City and County Council is also partnering with West Limerick Resources on a Greenway Destination Development Programme. This will be a capacity-building programme to support communities and businesses situated along the route of the greenway in Limerick to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the investment in the Limerick Greenway.
Limerick will become the newest greenway to become fully operational and as part of our development process the insights and knowledge of those involved in the Waterford and Mayo Greenways have shaped our plans.
From research and discussions with other Greenways, it was evident that a large number of patrons and, in particular, families, only wish to cycle all or part of a greenway ‘one-way’ and then return to their start point by Shuttle bus.
This requires at least one operator of scale to have bike hire and shuttle bus pick up points at multiple locations along the route.
Currently the Limerick Greenway has a very limited bike hire service and no shuttle bus service.
Without a comprehensive bike hire/ shuttle bus service, the Limerick Greenway cannot attract tourists/ day trippers (without bikes) to experience the greenway and businesses along the route will not fully harness the economic benefits arising from the investment to date.
The Council has taken a proactive approach in relation to bike hire/ shuttle bus service in order to ensure the Limerick Greenway reaches its potential as quickly as possible.
Therefore, in order to:
(a)    attract an operator of scale to provide bike hire and shuttle bus service and
(b)   provide a fair mechanism to determine requests from bike hire companies to operate from Council owned property on the greenway
the Council initiated an open and publicly advertised Expression of Interest (EOI) process for interested parties.
As part of the terms and conditions of the EOI process, applicants were afforded the opportunity to request from the Council a working capital loan to assist in the set up and provision of this service.
Having regard to the impact of Covid-19 on tourism and hospitality businesses it was considered prudent to provide this option as part of the process to attract an operator of scale to establish on the Limerick Greenway.
Following the assessment of applications under the EOI process, EI Travel Group/ Lazy Bike Tours were deemed the successful applicant. Lazy Bike Tours/Bike Hire is an existing operator based in Dublin and is part of EI Travel Group. EI Travel Group is an existing large-scale coach/transfer company with a fleet of vehicles operating throughout Ireland.  The group also owns and operates other tourism brands/products such as Irish Day Tours, City Sightseeing Dublin (open-top bus tours) and the Irish Whiskey Museum.
EI Travel sought a working capital loan as allowed for under the criteria and this was subject to a separate approval procedure at the May meeting of Limerick City and County Council.
Following the announcement, there has been a large amount of comment, mainly on social media, and most of it incorrect.
It is extremely important therefore that Limerick City and County Council addresses the mis-information and not let these ill-informed comments ruin the huge potential that the Limerick Greenway has to transform tourism in Limerick.
There is currently no business that runs a bike hire and shuttle bus service on the Limerick Greenway.
The existing or past demand for bike hire/shuttle bus services is not an accurate guide for the demand that will emerge once the newly developed Limerick Greenway fully opens to the public.
EI Travel/ Lazy Bike Tours has been awarded a licence to operate a bike hire and shuttle bus service from three Greenway carparks at Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale. These carparks remain open to all members of the public using the greenway regardless of who they are hiring a bike from or whether they have their own bike.
EI Travel/ Lazy Bike Tours does not have exclusive rights to bike hire and shuttlebus service on the Limerick Greenway. No company has now or will in the future have exclusive rights to provide a bike hire/ shuttle bus service.
The conclusion of this process does not mean other operators, either incumbent or potential, cannot continue/ enter to offer their service on the Limerick Greenway.
All existing and new bike hire operators can be advertised on Council-owned websites and free of charge and are encouraged to do so.
All operators will benefit from the wider marketing and promotion of the Limerick Greenway which will not promote any individual bike hire business.
Business plans in the EOI process were judged on their merit and awarded points accordingly. Detailed feedback was given when requested and all efforts were made to explain the marking to the applicants.
The owner of successful applicant EI Travel Group/ Lazy Bike Tours is not related to Minister for Transport, Mr Eamon Ryan, TD, despite incorrect commentary to this effect on social media.
The evaluation and awarding process was fair, open and transparent. Limerick City and County Council must have open competition for all regardless of where their existing business is based. Limerick firms are afforded the same opportunity in other parts of Ireland.
The provision of the Working Capital Loan to support the business was open to all the applicants to apply for as part of the process and was brought before a full meeting of Limerick City and County Council for approval as required under legislation.
The €300,000 working capital loan approved in principle by the Council is not a grant. It is a loan and is fully repayable to Limerick City and County Council with appropriate security provided by the applicant. The Council has previously used these powers to support initiatives in Limerick city.
Limerick City and County Council will at all times welcome and promote the set-up of new companies in Limerick and the creation of local jobs by these companies.
Everybody who has a social media account has a responsibility and platform to promote Limerick and the local authority believes they should do so in a fair and responsible manner.
All of this commentary is detracting from what should be a very positive development for Limerick.
Limerick City and County Council has taken a proactive approach to attracting new bike hire/ shuttle bus operators to Limerick as there is a clear deficit locally. The existing successful greenways in Ireland are characterised by a mix of small and large operators who collaborate together to provide a top class service and Limerick City and County Council is confident that this will be the same for the Limerick Greenway.
Limerick City and County Council’s overall aim is to have a Limerick Greenway that is inviting and welcoming to visitors and is successful for developing tourism and the economy of Limerick.
The Council has ambitious plans to extend the Limerick Greenway to Limerick city via Adare and Patrickswell and feasibility work on this will commence shortly. Other greenway routes are also being examined.
As the focus for the 2021 tourism season will be on staycations and an ‘outdoor summer’, the Limerick Greenway has an early opportunity to establish its position strongly in this tourism market. It is incumbent now on all those who claim to have the best interests of Limerick at heart to get behind this 40km Limerick Greenway and exploit its potential to the fullest.
Since late 2015 Limerick City and County Council has sole responsibility for the management and development of the Limerick Greenway.
The development of the Limerick Greenway is being funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development (Rural Regeneration and Development Fund), Department of Transport, Limerick City and County Council and Fáilte Ireland.
For the latest and most up-to-date information visit the official Limerick Greenway Facebook page and