By SAM POTTS
For the first time ever the NSW Government has committed funding for the creation of Rail Trails – converting disused rail lines into pathways for walkers and cyclists – and the body that’s pushing to bring them to the state sees potential in the Mid-Western Region.
The concept started in the USA in the 1950s and ‘60s using the long stretches of “dead” railway lines, before being picked up by countries including neighbouring Canada and New Zealand.
Rail Trails are present in other Australian states, particularly Victoria.
The group championing them in this state is Rail Trails for NSW and their media spokesman, Tim Coen, said he has made a point of riding along them on his bike when in Victoria and said there is a lot to enjoy.
“You don’t have to worry about cars, they’re quiet, you can hear the rustling of leaves and see some wildlife, it’s nothing like riding on a bike path next to a road,” he said.
He added that the Kandos to Gulgong trail “has a lot of potential” as an economic asset to the region and would use infrastructure which is “sitting there doing nothing”.
“It’s got good prospects because of the proximity to Sydney and there is already a tourism industry in the area based on weekend trips,” he said.
“And Rail Trails have been found to be more successful where they build on an existing tourist infrastructure and Mudgee/Gulgong has that.
“Plus there are events such as the annual Bike Muster in Mudgee.
“There are economic benefits in terms of building then maintenance, but more importantly it brings in people.
“If you’ve got a café in town or a petrol station you’ll feel the benefit, it spills over.”
Mr Coen said legislation in NSW regarding the removal and sale of rail lines may be an obstacle to a project such as this but also has its benefits as well and that while it may seem like a big project it doesn’t have to be done all at once.
“Most of the lines are intact and there are not funny, quirky things that have been a nuisance in Victoria and elsewhere such as selling off the gravel on the rail line or sections of it, which needed to be negotiated around,” he said.
“When these are built they don’t have to be built all in one go, they can be built in sections over time, for instance you may start with Mudgee to Gulgong first and expand it out to Kandos later on.”
Now Rail Trails for NSW are seeking interested locals to come forward.
A workshop in compiling a submission to Government and to equip people who want to put a Rail Trail in their area, will be held on Monday, August 25.
The NSW Government recently included funding for Rail Trails, $110 million, in the recent state budget and Mr Coen said that now is the time to get the ball rolling.
“The Government have said that they’ve got the money set aside for Rail Trails development and they need submissions,” he said.
Anyone interested in attending the meeting can contact John Moore on 0403 160 750 or email@example.com.