Draft legislation to expedite the conversion of disused rail corridors to rail trails, potentially making thousands of kilometres of abandoned railway lines available, is scheduled to be considered by the NSW Upper House on 9th August.
Rail Trails Australia has welcomed the draft legislation and is appealing for people to voice their support to key members of the Upper House, including the Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council, Penelope Sharpe, and the sponsor of the proposed legislation, the Minister for Regional Transport, Sam Farraway.
The National Party MP introduced the draft legislation to the Upper House in June, saying the current Transport Administration Act 1988 “in its current form is a significant obstacle to opening up disused railway lines to other uses that benefit the local community and the economy, such as rail trails”.
The amendments would authorise the temporary repurposing of all or part of a non-operational railway corridor in non-metropolitan areas, and allow the removal of tracks and other works from that corridor.
A statement tabled by the Regional Transport Minister said the amendments would streamline the conversion of disused rail lines to other uses by reducing red tape and financial pressures on councils.
“This in turn helps communities in regional NSW realise the benefits of rail trails sooner – including the economic and social benefits that come with rail trails or improved community access along government-owned corridors,” it says.
Without the changes, separate authorisation from an Act of Parliament is required for each rail trail proposal.
“The process to achieve this authorisation takes time and can place undue financial pressure on councils who have received funding for rail trails,” it states.
Under the amendments, councils would still need to provide a sustainable business model for the rail trail, evidence of community engagement and support for the project, and compliance with biosecurity requirements.
“The Bill also makes it clear that any proposed rail trail will remain in State Government ownership – only leased out to a council with a lease term up to 30 years – and also includes a break clause to allow the Minister to terminate an authorised lease should the corridor be required for transport and road-related purposes.”
Rail Trails Australia said the rail trail industry is at a crucial point in NSW, which has approximately 2,000km of abandoned railway lines but only 146km of rail trails.
“We need your help now to show the NSW parliament that rail trails have wide community support,” it says.
Funding for New Rail Trail in Brisbane
Meanwhile, Queensland continues to power ahead with its rail trail network, with the Queensland Government announcing its $3.5 million contribution towards a $7 million trail between Logan Village and Bethania, in Brisbane’s southern outskirts.
Logan City Council is matching the State Government funding towards the 10.5km trail, which will link with the Logan Village to Yarrabilba Rail Trail, an all-weather sealed trail established last year on a former spur line off the Bethania Beaudesert line.
Logan City councillor and lifestyle chair Laurie Koranski said the Logan Village to Yarrabilba Rail Trail has been well supported since it opened.
She said the council would now begin consultation with the community on the project.