Supporters of a rail trail between Casino and Murwillumbah are proposing a trial section between Lismore and Eltham.
The NSW government has offered up to $50 million for the construction of the rail trail and auxiliary structures, and has called for expressions of interest to be lodged up until 31 March.
A report to be considered by the Lismore City Council next Tuesday outlines the direction Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc is expected to take with it submission.
NRRG Inc formed in May 2013 as a not-for-profit community group.
It includes local philanthropists known as the Sourdough Group, community volunteers, local government councillors and staff, and leaders of the tourist industry.
The Lismore council has already resolved it supports the rail trail. However the council has requested a draft copy of the EOI prior to it being submitted to the NSW Government.
That report is not yet available, but council staff said it was anticipated that the EOI would highlight ‘significant advantages to the region’.
Staff quote a report from engineering consultants, the Arup group, that states the rail trails offer opportunities for short, medium and long rides and walks.
‘Eltham represents a significant destination for visitors and locals alike,’ the Arup report says.
‘The award winning Eltham pub would make an excellent destination for visitors who use Lismore while they explore all that our region has to offer.
‘Developing a short ride and walking trail from Lismore to Eltham as a trial section would not only enhance tourism in the area but would also address a cycling safety issue for the students attending Woodlawn College.
The report to councillors also outlines concerns raised at the council’s December meeting, including contamination, fencing and funding issues.
‘The Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. recognises contamination as a risk and proposes testing during project design/construction,’ the report says.
‘The NRRT Inc. can take some comfort from Tweed Shire Council’s initial investigations in which they advise that the Murwillumbah to Tweed Gallery corridor has not revealed significant levels of contamination and have shown there is little likelihood of harm to users and the environment during construction and operation of the project.
‘Further investigations into potential contaminants associated with past use of the rail corridor would be considered as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
‘If any traces of contaminants were present, the risk would be further reduced by the proposed method of construction for the rail trail, by placing a pavement layer over the existing railway formation.
‘This would provide a barrier between the rail trail and any contaminants.’
As for fencing, the Arup report estimated fencing would cost about $7.7m over the 132Km of rail corridor.
‘The Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. advises that fencing will be a cost to the project and will be addressed during consultation and in the design phase.’
‘The Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. have also been advised that council’s support is in principle and that council does not intend to offer financial support either now or in the future.
‘However the State Government will look favourably on EOI’s that include other sources of funding or can leverage other funding in addition to the government funding.’
Councillors will be asked to support a recommendation to allow the general manager and Mayor Jenny Dowell.