Rail trail motion deferred again

28th Apr 2020
Janelle Stewart

On April 22, Armidale Regional Council deferred a decision to rescind a resolution of support for the New England Rail Trail which was passed at their February meeting.
The deferral comes after a decision by Glen Innes Severn Council last month to support an Act in the NSW parliament which would see the Main North rail line from Armidale to Wallangarra on the Queensland border into a trail for bicycles.
The motion unanimously supported the closure of the rail corridor and the development for the Rail Trail to commence planning. They agreed to allocate an amount of $25,000 in the 2020/2021 Operational Plan for the determination of the construction cost of the Ben Lomond to Glen Innes section of the proposed rail trail.
Save the Great Northern Rail Group President Rob Lenehan has welcomed the deferral but would have preferred the motion had been adopted.
Mr Lenehan said that Armidale Regional Council should reconsider its support of the rail trail proposal. In February 2020 the Armidale Council had agreed to allocate funds for design and to look at a management structure for the project.
“The previous motion of rail trail support was arguably improperly passed at Council’s meeting on 26 February 2020, without due consideration of prudent information,” Mr Lenehan said. “The Regional Development Australia Northern Inland rail trail report prepared for New England Rail Trail was not available to councillors and is still not available.”
“The rail trail proposal is controversial and largely unwanted within New England. Armidale Regional Council should completely withdraw from this unnecessary distraction,” he said. “The future for the railway lies in reopening it for trains, not ripping it up for a bike track.”
He said that while the Save the Great Northern Rail Group is not opposed to a re-opened rail corridor also incorporating a bike trail, it has argued against permanently ending the Main North line at Armidale.
The push to develop rails trails in NSW is now stepping up. On April 3rd the first rail trail in NSW, a 22-kilometre stretch from Tumbarumba to Rosewood, had its official virtual opening.
This opening has been welcomed by rail trail proponents, including in New England where the rail corridor between Armidale and Glen Innes has been closed to trains for over 30 years.
A rail trail feasibility study was endorsed by Armidale Regional Council at its October 2018 meeting and the New England Rail Trail Plan was finalised in October 2019 for the Armidale to Glen Innes section. The Rail Trail Plan outlines the technical feasibility and costs of converting the 103km Armidale to Glen Innes section into a rail trail to boost economic activity in the region.