The brakes have been applied to the latest phase of a major cross-Border cycle path due to rising construction costs.
Just under €5m had already been secured for the Ulster Canal Greenway between the villages of Smithborough in Co Monaghan and Middletown in Co Armagh.
However, the Sunday Independent has learned that work on the project has been unable to start because the estimated costs have risen significantly in recent times.
A new funding application has now been lodged with the European Union in a bid to secure the additional money needed to build the greenway.
The cost of construction materials has soared in recent months due to supply issues linked to the impact of the pandemic.
The Ulster Canal Greenway is a proposed network, almost 190km in length, of a cycle and walking path following the line of the disused Ulster Canal and railway lines to connect areas in the mid-Ulster region.
There is also a separate project to bring parts of the Ulster Canal back into operation.
The first phase of the greenway project involved the construction of a 4km route through Monaghan town which opened in 2013.
It had been originally planned that the second phase, which involves the section between Smithborough and Middletown, would have been opened by this year.
However, those plans were scuppered by the pandemic and now by rising construction costs.
The greenway project is being led by Waterways Ireland, one of six North/South implementation bodies established under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Waterways Ireland is responsible for the management, maintenance, development and promotion of over 1,000km of inland navigable waterways throughout Ireland.
Other organisations involved in the consortium behind the project are Monaghan County Council, Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon County Council, and the East Border Region Ltd.
In 2017, the consortium secured €4.95m from the INTERREG VA Territorial Co-operation Programme.
One of the main aims of the programme is to promote sustainable transport in the regions along the Border.
A spokesperson for Waterways Ireland confirmed that discussions were under way in a bid to secure more funding for the latest phase of the greenway.
“Waterways Ireland is in discussions with SEUPB (Special European Union Programmes Body) regarding incremental funding for one selected route — the stretch from Smithborough, Co Monaghan to Middletown, Co Armagh.
“These discussions concern the original funding award under INTERREG VA in 2017 and a reprofiled cost of the project.
“Discussions between the project group and SEUPB are continuing, and the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are aware of this evolving matter.
“Waterways Ireland will provide an updated statement on the project when these discussions are finalised.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure in Northern Ireland said they were aware of “both inflationary increases and increases in construction costs” which have resulted in an additional funding request for the greenway project.
“This is currently under consideration by the SEUPB,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, plans to bring the Ulster Canal back to life remain on track.
The canal route runs through counties Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Monaghan. The last boat sailed on the waterway in 1931.
Earlier this year, the Irish Government announced funding of €12m to reopen the canal between Clones and Clonfad in Co Monaghan.
Two new bridges will be built and a third heritage bridge will be restored, along with a 40-berth marina.