The NSW Nationals in the state government’s historic Rail Trails Bill has passed through Parliament, empowering regional communities to convert disused rail corridors into walking and riding tracks.
The Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill 2022 alters the Transport Administration Act 1988 to provide a streamlined process that may enable regional rail trails where and when the community wants them.
The bill unlocks opportunities for communities and fixes outdated and onerous legislation that required a change to the Act for each rail trail.
It will allow regional councils to transform these spaces into treasured public places, meaning projects that are consistent with the Rail Trail Framework and have broad community support will now be able to proceed, giving locals and visitors a way to explore the beauty regional NSW has to offer, free of charge.
Nationals Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway said an improved process to authorise the use of non-operational rail lines for rail trails and related tourism uses will benefit rural communities and economies, without compromising on biosecurity or ongoing viability.
“The government’s approach makes the process for rail trail development more rigorous and transparent; this is not a green light for all disused rail corridors to become a rail trail,” Mr Farraway said.
“State-funded pilot projects have proved popular and beneficial — the first completed rail trail between Tumbarumba and Rosewood saw spend in the local economy increase 20 per cent following its opening in mid-2020.
“The $4.9 million project has had over 15,000 visits so far and welcome economic stimulus from this has flowed to Snowy Valley businesses.
“We’ve also invested $7.8 million in the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which is expected to create an extra 200 jobs and attract 82,000 visitors each year in and around the Tweed communities of Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek.”
All rail trails would be created under a lease agreement of up to 30 years with the local council. The agreement allows the Minister to terminate the lease should the corridor be required for a future transport use.