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Pressure builds on NSW to release locked land for rail trail development

Alia Parker's picture
Abandoned railway line between Wagga Wagga and Tumbarumba could be used for rail trail. Cycle Traveller

The NSW government will come under increasing pressure to release abandoned railway lines for public use as a result of a new campaign launched by a coalition of not-for-profit lobby groups.

While NSW has many disused tracts of railway, none are officially 'closed'. Rather, disused lines are classed as 'suspended', meaning the corridors are not available to be converted for public use, causing NSW to trail far behind other parts of the country when it comes to attracting cycle tourism. This bottleneck occurs because NSW requires an act of parliament to formally class a line as closed.

“Whilst there are over 800km of functional rail trails in Victoria for example, there are no public rail corridors available as rail trails in NSW,” says Rail Trails Australia, which is spearheading the campaign. “Increasingly, this situation is seen as inappropriate and a wasteful loss of state resource, especially given the 'tourism gateway' status of Sydney and NSW.”

At present, only a few short rail trails exist in NSW, predominantly in Newcastle and the Blue Mountains, although the mountain trails are only suitable for walking. The 16km Fernleigh Track near Newcastle has proven to be immensely popular, however, it is not long enough to be a major tourist attraction.

Rail trails such as the 116km Murray to the Mountains, the 94km East Gippsland Rail Trail, and the 134km Goulburn River High Country Trail – the longest rail trail in the country – have become hugely popular and marketable tourist destinations in Victoria, especially those linked with gourmet food and wine tours.

Cycle tourism contributed $362 million to the Victorian economy and $2.4 billion nationally in 2010, according to estimates from Victoria's Cycle Tourism Action Plan 2011-2015. Rail Trails Australia says there is enormous potential for recreational paths in NSW.

“The international boom of cycle-tourism is lost to NSW – a situation that needs to be rectified,” Rail Trails Australia says.

The group has teamed up with Go! Alliance and Bicycle Institute of NSW to lobby the NSW government to permit the development of truly abandoned railway lines.

A 130km disused section of railway from Wagga Wagga to Tumbarumba at the foot of the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW could mark the turning point.

“The line is broken in a number of places and there are no plans to return rail services along this corridor,” says Rail Trails Australia. “A feasibility study confirms the viability of reuse of this state land as a community resource linear park; a rail trail.”

It said one consideration for the project is to start with a pilot trail between Wagga Wagga and Ladysmith. The proposal has received support from local communities.

Image: Section of the disused railway between Wagga Wagga and Tumbarumba, NSW.

Comments

What a scam!!! Cycle tourism contributed $362 million to the Victorian economy and $2.4 billion nationally in 2010????? CRAP! From what? cyclist don't pay for anything they have no money that's why they ride a push bike!! This whole article is a lie! and perused by a small minority group for no other political purpose that to destroy Australia's infrastructure,LEAVE OUR LINES WHERE THEY LAY! and stop destroying our heritage our history and our country

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