After a decade of impassioned debate, the controversial rail trail project between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek is set to finally go ahead.
- Tweed Shire Council has voted to accept an $11.9m tender for the rail trail project.
- The tender involves dismantling the existing tracks
- Councillors were informed at the eleventh hour that funding was contingent on the tracks being removed
Tweed Shire Council last night voted to accept an $11.9 million tender for the project, which will see part of a disused railway line removed to make way for a bike track.
The planned project, part of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, has sparked fierce support and opposition since it was first mooted more than 10 years ago, with many lobbying for the return of the train service that ceased in 2004.
Change of plans
Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry said the council was only informed yesterday that the funding was conditional on the tracks being dismantled.
“We were advised yesterday by staff that Infrastructure NSW had informed them that, if we wanted to do an off-formation rail trail (a trail running beside the train tracks), that would be considered a variation to funding, and they would not be approving a variation,” Cr Cherry said.
The section covers 24 kilometres from Murwillumbah train station via the villages of Stokers Siding, Burringbar and Mooball, including 18 bridges and two tunnels.
The New South Wales government has contributed $7.8 million to the project, with a further $6.8 million from the federal government.
It is part of a larger proposal for a rail trail running the full 130-kilometre length of the disused Casino to Murwillumbah branch line.
In December, Richmond Valley Council adopted a draft master plan for a section of rail trail running from Casino to Bentley, which has been funded to the tune of $7.5 million.
Community group considers legal action
Tom Rayner, from the We Can Ride Together community group, said they were disappointed by the decision to dismantle the tracks, and had not ruled out taking legal action against the council.
However Tweed Shire councillor Reece Byrne, who voted in favour of the rail trail tender, was singing the project’s praises.
“It’s the most positive way forward for jobs, tourism and opportunity for our shire for the next couple of decades,” Cr Byrne said.
The head of Destination North Coast, Cameron Arnold, said the rail trail would be a game changer for the region.
“The rail line used to be a connector between our towns and our villages and the rail trail will absolutely re-establish that connection.”