At its meeting last week, Tweed Shire Council resolved to accept the offer of $6.5 million in federal grant funding to construct the 24-kilometre long Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek section of the rail trail project.
But a council spokesperson said ‘a number of safeguards’ had been put in place ‘to ensure the rail corridor remains’.
The council will also explore whether it is economically viable to build the trail beside the existing track and whether additional opportunities such as driverless electric carts could be used to make the trail more palatable to staunch train enthusiasts, who have campaigned for more than a decade for the return of rail services.
Tweed Mayor Katie Milne said she ‘was very pleased that we will be getting an opportunity to go to the market to also see if the trail could be built next to the track’.
‘There would obviously be a greater range of opportunities for transport and tourism if we could utilise both the track and an adjacent trail,’ she said.
The council also resolved to seek an annual contribution from the state government to fund operations and maintenance of the regional tourism facility and is proposing a Trust be established to oversee governance and management of the trail, which could eventually extend all the way to Casino.
The resolution also included the following wording about safeguards:
‘To ensure that appropriate legislation is in place that would:
- Maintain the corridor in public ownership in perpetuity for exclusive use as a rail Ttrail, for the return of rail or public transport
- Allow under lease or license to the Trust uses complementary to the success of the rail trail (for example rail carriages used on parts of the disused line that would add character and services to the rail trail – such as a coffee cart, art and craft, bike hire, accommodation, etc) – and that income derived from these be quarantined for maintenance of the rail trail, corridor and associated infrastructure (former stations).
- Require an Act of Parliament as opposed to ministerial approval for the sale of any part of the corridor.
With the federal grant funds adding to the $6.5 million already committed by the NSW Government last August, the Tweed Valley Rail Trail project is now fully funded.