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North East Rail Trail opens in Tasmania

Alia Parker's picture
A section of the North East Rail Trail near Scottsdale, Tasmania. Cycle Traveller

A 28km section of rail trail through spectacular countryside north-east of Launceston has officially opened to the public, with extension plans already in the pipeline.

The North East Rail Trail, which runs between Scottsdale and Billycock Hill in Tasmania, opened to a crowd of about 200 people on November 29, 2015.

The compacted crushed gravel trail was spearheaded by the Scottsdale Rotary Club with the support of Dorset Council with the aim of revitalising the Scottsdale community.

It's a project that looks to be paying off, with the Federal Government having committed $1.47 million in May to extend the trail by 70km to Launceston. The end result will be a 98km rail trail in one of Australia's most popular bicycle touring destinations.

Ferns shade the North East Rail Trail, Tasmania.It is estimated that the completed trail would attract more than 23,000 people a year, growing to 35,000 visitors a year within 15 years. This would generate about $3.5 million for the region.

The North East Rail Trail is built along the abandoned Scottsdale railway line, which opened in 1889 and was extended to Herrick in 1919. The Scottsdale line closed in 2005 following the demise of the forestry industry in the region as well as the closure of a number of businesses in Scottsdale. As a result, the conversion of the disused land into a tourist attraction has been welcomed by the community as a means of supporting their economy.

Cycling the trail

The 28km trail starts and finishes at the old railway stations at Scottsdale and Billycock Hill. The first 10km out of Scottsdale winds through scenic farmland, with the remaining section running through forest and a number of impressive railway cuttings.

Some parts of this trail had been open to the public prior to official completion, and while in the past, some sections of the trail were rough, it has now been completely upgraded to well compacted crushed gravel.

The trail is suited to hybrid bicycles, touring bikes and mountain bikes. It is possible to ride a road bike on the surface, but not ideal.

Scottsdale has free camping, a supermarket as well as a bicycle shop – Red Dirt Cycle Company – that does bicycle maintenance and repairs as well as bike hire.

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