New England Rail Trail is on Armidale Regional Council's agenda for Wednesday's meeting with a recommendation council endorse the establishment of a governance structure to commence the design, scoping and planning of the project.
It is proposed Armidale Regional Council and Glen Innes Shire Council and New England Rail Trail committee make up the governing body, and council seek funding streams from State and Federal governments for the development.
It is proposed that council support the necessary Act of NSW Parliament to close the rail corridor and seek advice from the State Government on the process to have the rail track declassified and made available for development of the trail.
A Rail Trail feasibility study (New England Rail Trail Plan produced by Mike Halliburton Associates and Transplan Pty Ltd) was endorsed by council at its October 2018 meeting. The New England Rail Trail Plan was finalised in September 2019.
It outlined the technical feasibility and costs of converting the 103 kilometre Armidale to Glen Innes section into a rail trail to boost tourism and economic activity in the region.
The New England Rail Trail Business Case revealed the project, if fully funded from government grants, would have a small financial impact on Armidale council relative to existing operational costs.
The trail is expected to attract 29,000 new visitors to the region with an estimated additional spend of $5.77 million. It would generate the impetus for new businesses to develop along the route (food, accommodation, bike hire) as well as boosting spending in existing businesses.
The trail would also help diversity the local economies away from their current heavy dependence upon agriculture, and the debate surrounding this issue may be very interesting.
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