Funding for Rail Trail put on hold by state government

FUNDING for a Northern Rivers Rail Trail has been put on hold by the NSW Government in favour of more investment in regional airports.

DERAILED: Secretary Geoff Meers and members of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association met with the NSW Government on Monday to discuss why their application failed to progress to the next stage.
DERAILED: Secretary Geoff Meers and members of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association met with the NSW Government on Monday to discuss why their application failed to progress to the next stage. Nolan Verheij-Full

After promising up to $50 million for pilot rail trail projects in March, the Minister for Regional Development John Barilaro will consider spending just $5 million on a 20km project in the south of the state.

Mr Barilaro said the Tumbarumba to Rosewood trail proposal had been the "strongest".

The government received no less than six proposals for the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor, but they were conflicting.

"There was a wide range ... for projects along the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line but some differing views as to the best model and a range of views and options for investment," Mr Barilaro said.

In contrast with the pre-election hopes, it now appears there is little interest from the government to proceed with any funding for the Northern Rivers proposal until the Tumbarumba to Rosewood trail is approved and operational.

That would give the government an opportunity to see whether the expectations of the trail's success match reality.

Instead, the government has boosted funding for regional airports from the $110 million Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund (partly earmarked for rail rails) to $95 million, leaving just $10 million unspent.

Northern Rivers Rail Trail secretary Geoff Meers conceded the dream of a rail trail appeared to be on hold with "no indication" from the government that there were any funds available in the short-term for the project.

NRRT met with senior staff from Infrastructure NSW and the Department of Trade and Investment on Monday.

Mr Meers said the group had positive feedback from their proposal but suggested the North Coast plan may have been "too complex" for the kind of pilot project envisioned by the government.

The NRRT is considering submitting a pared-down EOI for a smaller stretch more equivalent to the successful proposal, with no conflicting EOIs over it.

But he said the true value of the Northern Rivers trail could be delivered only by building the whole stretch.

"Particularly in terms of generating jobs and spreading the tourism dollar away from the coast, it's only when you build the whole thing that you get meet those two objectives."



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