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In an extraordinary meeting Upper Lachlan Council has withdrawn its support for the Goulburn to Crookwell rail trail.

Upper Lachlan derails golden opportunity at Goulburn Crookwell Rail Trail

‘We’re confused and disappointed by this,’ said Peter McLean, CEO of Bicycle NSW. ‘It will deprive local businesses of a proven opportunity with many positive benefits to regional tourism, connecting local transport corridors, health and recreation.’ The 56km long rail trail, more than 10 years in the making, would have injected millions of dollars into Crookwell, but for now, Upper Lachlan Council will see these economic development opportunities go elsewhere. 

Among the reasons provided were funding concerns in relation to finance and maintenance. Other councils haven’t faced this problem with rail trails being entirely grant funded. Keep in mind the potential tourist pipeline connecting Crookwell- Goulburn- Sydney. The other rationale was bizarrely, agricultural- ranging from the threat of sheep dip to bicycle-born pest infestation. BNSW has seen a handful of farmers claim entitlement to disused public railway assets and lean on councils against rail trails. The majority of landholders however have relished the opportunity to diversify their businesses into eco-tourism, farm stays and unique local produce offerings which  lure visitors from around the world. 

This has come at a critical time,’ according to Councilor Bob Kirk, ‘I can't think of any other project that creates $3 million to $4m in revenue year on year for our region. You can't close the door on that,’ he said. The State Government has just released its NDSW Rail Trail Framework which strongly backs Bob’s business case for a rail trail in a historic regional tourism corridor like Crookwell- An opportunity that Victoria has enjoyed for 20 years. Whilst this is sad news for Crookwell and Goulburn, these opportunities will no doubt be realised by other regional towns hungry for change and long term economic development projects.

Big chance of putting Crookwell on the tourist map and, for now, Upper Lachlan Council have thrown it away.

(Photo courtesy of NSW Rail Trail Framework 2022)

Meanwhile the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Stage 1 is underway in Tweed Shire and the business case for Stage 2 in the Northern Rivers includes, ‘economic stimulus, business development, active transport, visitation and community connection’ Cameron Arnold, Northern Rivers Rail Trail. The Northern Rivers Rail Trail will be 132 km long and pass through some of the most scenic regions in NSW including Murwillumbah, Byron Bay, Lismore and Casino.

‘Rail trails have been established across the globe and have proven to be significant economic drivers for villages and towns that have been impacted after the closure of rail services. Examples of their success in the Southern Hemisphere are in abundance across New Zealand and Victoria.’ The Launceston-Billycock Hill rail trail in Tasmania reaps $6.8 million annually and will create 40 new jobs with an estimated increase of $11.2 million annually after 15 years.

‘NSW’s pilot project in Tumbarumba of 20km of the disused rail corridor has been a resounding success,’ Cameron Arnold

(Photo courtesy of NSW Rail Trail Framework 2022)

‘NSW’s pilot project in Tumbarumba of 20km of the disused rail corridor has been a resounding success,’ Cameron Arnold.

This is not just about wallets on wheels. For Tumbarumba, which endured the 2020 Black Summer Bushfires, rail trails build community resilience, social cohesion and break down social isolation- The same social benefits are expected for Northern Rivers communities in the wake of the 2022 catastrophic floods.  In addition though, Rail Trails can also be designed to provide alternative emergency access when roads become blocked and impassable, something we have seen all too often in natural disasters recently.     

What can you do?

NSW is the one state where the existence of rail trails is not legislated. A simple way to ensure that NSW gets some rail trails approved is to write to your state MP to support the Transport Administration Amendment Bill 2022.

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