So, what’s the deal with a cable car & MTB trails?

Whether you are for or against the cable car being built up kunanyi/Mt Wellington, what does it mean for people who like to mountain bike in Hobart’s foothills?

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years you’ll know that a public company, the Mt Wellington Cable Car Company (MWCCC), has been proposing to build a cable car from South Hobart to the pinnacle of kunanyi/Mt Wellington.

The company has been working to put together a development application for the project, and it is now being advertised for the public to comment.

Confusingly, there are social media posts going around saying the cable car will be fantastic for MTB riders but others saying it will be dreadful, so which to believe?

A project this big has a lot of documentation to go through to understand what it will look like and its impact. At this stage there are no definitive answers because the planning application documentation does not include final designs in the detail needed to asses the impact on current and future trails.

Foothill MTB tracks

Hobart has a network of mountain bike tracks in the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington as well as the longer tracks that connect it around to Glenorchy and its tracks. 

The City of Hobart recently released its Riding the Mountain report looking at how to improve the foothills network by adding some 37 km of new tracks to link existing tracks to form a more cohesive network.

It noted that South Hobart was the most popular place to access the track network but there was limited crown land available to provide an improved trail head with parking and washdown but that the City of Hobart would investigate a solution with private landowners. Many riders currently park next to the Cascade Brewery or at other access points along trails. 

The MWCCC Community Benefit Analysis states that the base station car park will provide a hub for mountain bike riders:

“MWCC has anticipated the future increase and potential locations of new and improved MTB trails within the Park. The proposed Base Station is conveniently and centrally located to provide the carparking and trail access in demand by a growing MTB market.”

The car park would have 55 car spaces, 6 mini bus spaces, 3 bus spaces, 5 motorcycle spaces and 10 bicycle parking racks with room for 20 bikes. The MWCC is predicting 398–611 vehicles a day will be using the car park to access the cable car and in peak hours that would be 43 vehicles an hour. It’s not clear how they will manage the conflict between their customers wanting car parking if it’s being taken up by mountain bike riders.

Where is the proposed base station and road?

MWCCC is proposing to build a base station and car park on the Main Fire Trail off the Old Farm Road/Track in South Hobart and two towers near the base station also in Wellington Park.

They are proposing to build a new 2.3 km, 60 km/h road to the base station from the end of McRobies Road where the tip entrance is, joining the Main Fire Trail where the Old Farm Fire Trail joins it. The MWCCC documents state the road will follow the existing fire trail alignment but the concept designs do not show this.

The planning documents contain a suggested alignment of the road which looks like it would follow the McRobies Gully fire trail alignment for a short distance but then travel up the slope along the Tip Top Track alignment, cutting across the Jurassic Shark track as it meets the Main Fire Trail. 

The planning documents state the company is not proposing to build any new recreational trails but “where existing trails are interrupted, they will be reconstructed or made good”.

In regard to the road, the documents state: “New paths are proposed around the proposed development for bicycles and pedestrians. This will improve accessibility and mobility to, from and around the development site.” The documents do not contain any designs for what these paths would look like or how far off the road they’d be.

Two towers will be placed close to the base station in Wellington Park and each will have a footprint of 10 m x 10 m, the first is approximately 180 km west of the base station and the second is another 100 m further west. The planning documents say the towers will not impact on existing tracks but it’s not clear if they would impact the City of Hobart’s proposed Boulder Dash or Cabin Fever Tracks which are designed to create a loop from Junction Cabin to the Main Fire Trail.

No MTBs above The Springs

The City of Hobart commissioned mountain bike track experts to look at building tracks above The Springs but they came back saying the terrain and soil types made it very difficult. The City decided that this information combined with the fragile alpine environment of the Pinnacle meant that MTB tracks were best developed in the foothills where the soil type was better suited and access was easier.

The cable car application is not proposing to build any new trails, including from The Pinnacle, so anyone who rode the cable car up to the top with their bike would come down along the road.

The Economic Analysis for the project provided by the MWCCC is 5 years old and seems to be based on the false assumption that there will be a downhill track built from the Pinnacle. The analysis assumes that the project will attract MTB riders from interstate and overseas who will travel up the cable car then down MTB trails. The analysis is redacted in terms of the numbers of riders who may be attracted to Tasmania to ride the cable car to the top to ride a downhill track from the Pinnacle but places a heavy emphasis on the importance of attracting these tourists.

So, will MTB riders benefit from the development?

The MWCCC is stating that the base station and new access road will provide benefits for mountain bike riders:

“Opportunity for safer access into the park for Mountain Bike Enthusiasts, as well as a more direct access to Mountain Bike trails. The proposed base station will offer mountain biking amenities and will act as a central hub amongst the trails. This is particularly relevant given the City of Hobart’s mountain biking masterplan.”

The MWCCC documents do not detail the impacts on existing or proposed trails as part of the City of Hobart’s masterplan other than to say any disturbance to existing tracks will be rectified.

The MWCCC Community Benefit Analysis states that the development would be a “catalyst for attracting major sporting events, such as mountain bike competitions” but doesn’t provide any detail on why that would be seeing the City of Hobart is planning to upgrade the trails anyway.

But we won't really be able to assess whether a new road and some extra car parks is a net gain until we see the detailed designs of the full extent of work around the access road and how the base station will alter access to current or proposed tracks. 

Comment on the cable car proposal

If you want to make comment on the cable car development application before 22 June, the City of Hobart has a dedicated web page with all of the relevant information: