Despite controversy around the future use of the disused Casino to Murwillumbah railway line, energy is building to have a cycle and pedestrian route built along its corridor.
Tweed Shire council has plans for a pilot 2.3km section from Murwillumbah railway station to the Tweed Regional Gallery.
Recently Rail Trails Australia vice president Steven Kaye visited the line, which he said has ‘incredible potential’ for use by cyclists, walkers and horse riders.
During a tour of the 132km route earlier this month Mr Kaye described it as ‘an unbelievable opportunity’.
It could be a brilliant rail trail,’ he said.
‘You’ve got everything here; you’ve got the beautiful small towns and you’ve got the tourism.’
His visit, joined by representatives of Council and Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT), included inspection of the Murwillumbah pilot project.
In what appears to be a change in tack for the community group Trains on Our Tracks (TOOT), president Karin Kolbe recently gave tacit approval to the project, provided the trail runs beside the existing tracks rather than in place of them.
‘We can use bikes to get to and from stations. Or, we take our bikes on the train. Or, bikes travel beside the tracks on their own path – as they do in California, Italy and even Victoria. This creates a choice to bike one way and rail home,’ she wrote in a letter to the editor last week.
‘Keeping the tracks for rail is the only option that guarantees the land stays in public ownership forever, for long-term social, economic and environmental reasons. No other option does this,’ she added.
Patrick Knight, Tweed Shire Council’s director of engineering and operations, said even the pilot trail would be ‘a wonderful asset for Tweed residents’.
‘It will provide Murwillumbah residents and visitors with a much-needed off road pedestrian and cycle path connecting the town centre to the Art Gallery,’ Mr Knight said.
NRRT Vice President, Steve Martin, said Tweed Regional Gallery would undoubtedly be ‘a jewel in the crown of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail’.
Mr Martin said the vision for a Northern Rivers rail trail included converting existing railway stations into service points such as amenities, bike hire and repairs, cafes and tour operators.
He said Mr Kaye’s visit, support and input was extremely valuable for the project’s momentum.
‘Given Steven’s knowledge of rail trails around Australia, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc is delighted he can also see the incredible opportunity we have to create a world-class tourist attraction that will benefit the whole community in terms of increased jobs and active transport,’ Mr Martin said.