The Tasmanian Government has given the green light to an extension of the North East Rail Trail, from Lilydale to Scottsdale.
The new section of trail already has federal government and local council support and is ready to roll, with the near $1.5 million in federal government funding set to expire in 18 months.
Approval to remove the rail tracks and start work had been stalled by a bid from rail enthusiasts to stop the tracks being taken up.
The Department of Treasury and Finance has analysed the rail trail project and a proposal put forward by rail enthusiasts and recommended that the rail trail go ahead between Scottsdale and Lilydale/Lalla.
It also recommended that the rail enthusiasts be given access to the tracks between Lilydale and Turners Marsh, and if they can successfully run a service without government funding then they could access tracks between Turners Marsh to Coldwater Creek as a second stage.
If the rail enthusiasts cannot make a go of the operation, then it opens up the possibility of pulling up the track to extend the rail trail down to Coldwater Creek.
Parliamentary approval is the final step before the rail trail work can proceed, with the declaration under the Strategic Infrastructure Corridors (Strategic and Recreational Use) Act 2016 needing to pass both houses.
Rail trail benefits
A 2014 assessment of the rail trail predicted it would attract close to 23,000 people after 5 years, with the majority local users, 24 per cent interstate tourists and 18 per cent oversees visitors.
Locals will get the benefit of having a recreational and transport link they can use to stay healthy as well as the opportunity to start or expand accommodation, hospitality, tourism and bicycle businesses.
As we’ve seen in Derby, a steady stream of cycling tourists who come to “ride Tasmania’s first extended rail trail” will provide a market for local businesses.
Extending the current 26km track from Scottsdale to Billycock Hill by more than 40km transforms the trail into a multi-day experience that will require accommondation and/or shuttle services.
The Treasury report refers to a recent New Zealand examination of the value of its 22 great rides, which found they contribute a whopping $37.4 million to its economy each year as well as substantial social benefits.
The rail trail will be managed by an association that includes Dorset Council, the Lilydale Progress Association, Rotary clubs from Central Launceston and Scottsdale and local businesses. It is predicted it will cost about $25,000 annually for volunteers to maintain the trail, with the money to come from fundraising ventures.