The Legislative Council held public hearings in its North East Rail Trail inquiry in Launceston and Scottsdale in February, but this week's proroguing of parliament means the dates of further hearings are now unknown.
The Legislative Council will have to reinstate the inquiry following parliament’s return on 19 March and set new hearing dates, although there’s a chance they may decide not to hold further hearings.
A total of 63 submissions have been received by the inquiry, with roughly half for and half against the proposed extension of the North East Rail Trail.
Most of the submissions against the rail trail were from train enthusiasts, residents who border the corridor and a couple of heritage rail groups. The only business that came out in favour of a railway over a rail trail was Bridestowe Estate which operates the popular lavender farm. Many individuals made submissions for and against the trail.
The main arguments against the rail trail were that it was only for very fit people, it will be too difficult for most people to ride the full 66 km trail, touring cyclists don’t spend money on accommodation and food, many more tourists would ride a train than ride a bike, and that the rail trail was a biosecurity and crime risk.
In favour of the government’s “compromise position”, which allocates some 24 km for heritage rail operations and 40 km to extend the existing rail trail, were the Lilydale Progress Association, Dorset Council, the Tasmanian Government, Tourism Northern Tasmania, Rail Trails Australia, North East Rail Trail Inc.
These submissions pointed out the proven success of multi-day rail trails interstate and overseas in delivering sustainable benefits to a wide variety of local business, the health benefits for locals who walk and ride the trail, the low cost of establishing and maintaining a rail trail, and that it would cement North East Tasmania as a cycling tourism destination.
Bicycle Network made a submission in favour of the rail trail and while we accept the government’s compromise position as the way forward, we believe an off-road cycling trail all the way into Launceston is the ideal outcome.
The organisations which delivered evidence in February included the Launceston and North East Railway, Bridestowe Estate, Cycling Tasmania, Tamar Bicycle Users Group, the Dorset Council and North East Residents and Farmers Group.
The submissions and transcripts of the February hearings are available on the parliament’s website.