Mountain biking has helped transform Tasmania’s North-East. So, it’s hardly surprising it looms large in the latest Destination Action Plan for the region.
The plan, a project of Tourism Northern Tasmania, the Dorset Council, and the State Government, identifies the drivers of tourism growth.
It’s therefore good to see that one of the collective strengths of the region is identified as a rail trail, as well as mountain biking.
In the Vision for the Future outlined in the plan, rail trail features again. As it does in the section headlined Our Opportunities.
However, the future of the North-East Rail Trail – a project backed by Tourism Northern Tasmania, the State Government, the Dorset Council and the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania – is under a cloud.
The 31-kilometre section between Scottsdale and Billycock Hill is already open, thanks to the sterling work by the local community, led by the Scottsdale Rotary Club and the Dorset Council.
But the next section, which will eventually link Scottsdale and Launceston, has been delayed after a campaign by landowners bordering the rail corridor and supporters of a heritage rail service on the line.
The State Government commissioned an independent study into the viability of the rail line and that is now on the desk of the Infrastructure Minister, Rene Hidding.
When that report is released, both sides will be able to argue their case – rail line or rail trail.
However, there might be a third option: rail from Launceston to Lilydale, then rail trail from Lilydale to Scottsdale.
The heritage rail enthusiasts say they can run a service without government support and with volunteers. They have also consistently said the line is in good condition and can quickly be brought up to standard for a passenger service.
Launceston and North-East Railway, which was formed to operate a service, has bought a rail car, which is being restored by volunteers.