RIDING HIGH: The Otago Central rail trail is one example of a global success story, attracting 750,000 visitors a year.
RIDING HIGH: The Otago Central rail trail is one example of a global success story, attracting 750,000 visitors a year. Trail Journeys

Rail trail ‘would do wonders’

MANY tourism operators, chambers of commerce presidents, academics, and local business people agree that a North Coast rail trail would do wonders for our region.

Not only would it provide a huge boost in tourism numbers by creating a "destination" attraction, it would also give valuable amenity to locals and link the hinterland to the coast in a unique way.

Southern Cross University tourism lecturer Dr Arianne Reis said the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line had "wonderful potential".

"It has all the desirable features which a good tourism product would need to be successful, great scenery and it's a multi-day trail so tourists can stay overnight," Dr Reis said.

"People can break up their rail trail experience into different sections. They can have their lunch break in one town and stay overnight in another."

Dr Reis pointed to the world-famous Otago Central rail trail in New Zealand's South Island, which transformed a rural community in decline to a global tourist destination.

The Otago trail has seen tour guide and cycle hire businesses, cafes, restaurants and accommodation and large-scale events spring up around it.

"It changed the economic viability of that community. Now it's a very vibrant tourism destination," she said.

"It's something that not only can bring tourism dollars in but boost the confidence of the community."

Paul Waters from Byron United said a rail trail was aligned to the health and wellbeing values of the region.

Rachel Sipple from Just Ride Cycles in Lismore said a rail trail would boost cycling and cycle tourism - a booming industry - in the region.

"If you're removing the car and traffic factor, cycling becomes a lot more inviting for everyone," Ms Sipple said.

"If you live in Clunes or Bexhill you could legitimately cycle into Lismore for work."

"In NZ, kids do it, families do it - they might not do a whole lot, just a section. When you're cycling, you see so much more than in a car."

CASINO TO MURWILLUMBAH RAIL LINE

Distance: 130km

Officially closed in 2004

Re-instatement of rail services deemed unviable after feasibility study showed it would cost $900 million.

Has 164 bridges and 9 tunnels.

Prolonged wet weather has caused several landslips and heavy overgrowth of vegetation



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