Re-use it or lose it: Rail trail group welcomes feasibility study announcement

The Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc (NRRT) today welcomed the Minister for the North Coast, MP Don Page’s announcement of Arup Pty Ltd as the successful tender who will conduct the feasibility study of developing a rail trail in the Northern Rivers.

Chairman of the NRRT, Pat Grier, says that converting the 132km disused railway between Casino and Murwillumbah into a multi-use walking and cycling track will benefit communities throughout the Northern Rivers.

“We thank Mr Page for driving the push to have a thorough and transparent study of the rail trail concept and we are confident that the study’s findings will support our vision of increasing tourism and active transport.

“Creating a world-class rail trail right here will spread economic growth throughout the whole Northern Rivers region, motivating visitors to get out and explore towns beyond the tourist hotspot of Byron Bay.” Mr Grier said.

As existing stations are converted into cafes, shops and amenities, business and job opportunities could be created for locals in towns on the track such as Stokers Siding, Eltham and Bexhill.

“Not a lot of people know about the rail trail concept, so we also thank Mr Page for speaking about it in Parliament to highlight the potential benefits of such a project for the whole community, who will be consulted in the scoping study.” Mr Grier said.

Members of the NRRT toured the rail corridor with Rail Trails Australia Vice President, Steven Kaye, on the weekend to gauge the strength of the project.

“Steven has a vast knowledge of what kinds of attributes are required for a successful rail trail and he agrees that we’ve got the lot; a rail corridor that connects a string of beautiful towns plus the thriving tourism industry in Byron Bay.” Mr Grier said.

Rail Trails around Australia and the world are becoming a popular way of ‘railbanking’; preserving disused railways for future rail use by maintaining the rail corridor for an interim use, such as a public trail.

“It’s really a case of re-use it or lose it – the recent transport feasibility study found that trains and light rail are currently not viable in this region, so a rail trail would be a wonderful use of the corridor until some kind of rail transport returns.

“The Northern Rivers rail trail will not only be designed for tourists, the whole community will be able to use it to walk or cycle to school, work and the beach.” Mr Grier said.