WORLD CLASS: $32 million rail trail proposed
AN ESTIMATED $32million would deliver a world-class rail trail on the Northern Rivers that would rival any other in the world, Lismore City Council has heard.
Preliminary costings for the rail trail between Casino and Eltham were released by Northern Rivers Rail Trail at a Lismore City Council briefing last Tuesday night.
A member of the rail trail group, Norm Case, said the estimate was for the best possible rail trail, one that would draw tourists for its heritage value.
He said by presenting a professional business case that projected strong tourist potential, it says to the state and federal governments: "This is worth funding".
Mr Case said the State Government had announced funds from the sale of the Snowy River Hydro Scheme would go to regional projects, so it was the opportune time to present a business case for the rail trail.
The estimate was broken down into sections - $15million for Casino to Lismore, and $17million for Lismore to Eltham.
Included in the estimates, Mr Case said, was a significant amount of money to repair the heritage listed bridge crossing Leycester Creek and restoration of the North Casino Train Station.
But Cr Greg Bennett and Trains On Our Tracks don't agree it would be money well spent, with Cr Bennett calling it a "waste of taxpayers money" on his Facebook page.
TOOT also took to social media on the issue: "$15 million could ... easily re-open the line from Casino-Lismore given the line is already in good condition with no major work required to get trains rolling again".
Mr Case said there were 60 bridges on the rail line between Casino and Eltham that were "severely decayed" - with the estimate covering restoration of all bridges to a state that would support walking and cycling.
He said the rail line would need to be moved to the side to give the best experience of riding on the rail trail, but in some cases, it could be retained for historic purposes, or the trail re-routed to save money.
TOOT said, according to engineers, simply putting the rail trail beside the tracks could be far cheaper than paying for their removal and the creation of the gravel path in their place.
"Tweed engineer Tom Rayner estimates the rails-with-trails option for the Tweed section could cost as little as $50,000 per km, compared to over $500,000 per km for an on-track rail trail. It is very possible that the Casino-Eltham rail trail could be done for many millions cheaper if it is placed beside the existing rail line," the group said.
Mr Case said the costings were preliminary and they would confer with Lismore City and Richmond Valley Councils and specialists to fine-tune the costings for a business case study.
He said the work conducted so far had either been voluntary, or paid for by crowdfunding.
Mr Case said the Northern Rivers Rail Trail group's strong aim was to preserve the rail corridor in public ownership, and thought the rail trail was the best way to achieve this.