TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: Will Jeffery would like to see rail tracks become walking tracks.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: Will Jeffery would like to see rail tracks become walking tracks. David Nielsen

Hot on the trail of a rail solution

PEOPLE who fear proposed legislation to lift protection from rail corridors would lead to a sell-off and development of Crown land have been dismissed as 'paranoid scaremongers' by the Rail2Trails group.

Spokesman Will Jeffery said the State Government's plans would allow unused land along decommissioned rail lines on the North Coast to be turned into $100 million a year tourist attractions.

Converting rail corridors such as that between Casino and Murwillumbah into 'rail-trails' for walking, cycling, horse riding and festivals would provide a huge and lucrative drawcard to the region, Mr Jeffery said.

“All we would need is for 20 per cent of international visitors and 10pc of Australian visitors to spend $150 while using the trail for recreation.”

Mr Jeffery said the Minister had given his word that the use of the land would be for local communities to decide, and that such safeguards could be written into the legislation.

But rail enthusiast Warwick Mead said the proposed legislation was 'scary'.

“It is a huge step backwards. Rail-trails would be great, but only if there is no other way for the line to be used.

“The Government's treatment of the local rail line is demolition by neglect. Part of the track should be restored for tourist purposes and the Government should be planning a new railway to serve Byron Bay and the whole coast. It's incredibly short-sighted to abandon it like this.”

One concern about rail-trails is they would stop short of towns and the valuable land in town centres sold off for development, he said.

Several groups plan to make sections of the track available for tourist rides, and the Government's surprise announcement meant they had to hurry.

On Saturday Countrylink is staging a promotion of the XPT train with rides between Casino and Kyogle, Mr Mead said, the type of use he would like to see, which will attract families from across the region.



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