ALL aboard - Cork's long-awaited tourist train is finally set to hit city streets in the coming weeks.
Members of Cork City Council last night signed off on the initiative which will boost the city's tourism offering.
The tourist road train will service a route throughout the city that includes the likes of the historic Red Abbey, Elizabeth Fort and Nano Nagle Place, none of which are currently on regularly served bus routes.
It is expected that the train will hit Cork streets by May.
Similar initiatives have been successful in tourist towns like Cobh and Clonakilty, with city officials optimistic that the move will boost tourist numbers at a number of city attractions.
The train business will be operated by businessman Pat Flynn, with city officials working with Mr Flynn to get the project off the ground.
It involves a series of monthly payments from Mr Flynn to the city for the use of the train, with a final cash payment to be made at the end of a five-year period.
Paul Moynihan, director of corporate and external affairs at Cork City Council, said the train 'answers an obvious gap' in the city's offering.
Including the cost of the train itself, the city will have invested some €100,000 in the project over the next five years.
Officials anticipate that they will see at least half this sum come back in the same period.
Mr Moynihan said, "If it is operating successfully after five years then it can be seen as having embedded well and we will have done our job to kick start something new in the city."
The agreement with Mr Flynn is also dependent on Cork City Council contributing €10,000 to the cost of insurance for the train's first year of operation.
Mr Moynihan said, "There was an unexpected surprise in relation to the charges for insurance at the end of the process, so we have proposed to offer this sum in the form of grant aid."
City officials added that the route will be kept 'under review' after the train is unveiled.
The initiative was broadly welcomed by members of Council.
Fine Gael's John Buttimer said the train fills a gap in the tourism market.
"We are missing some tangible things for people to interact with. In particular, for younger visitors to the city, like children, this will be a great attraction."
Independent Paudie Dineen added that it will be a 'great asset to the city.'