I read Siri Gamage's opinion piece in The Armidale Express (March 18, 2022) with interest.
I have been a train enthusiast all my life, however, I must take issue with many of the points raised by Mr Gamage.
Firstly, the northern rail line through Armidale ceased being the 'main line' between Sydney and Brisbane in 1930, not the late 1980s as stated by Mr Gamage.
In 1930 the NSW and Queensland governments agreed to extend the North Coast line from Kyogle to South Brisbane using the one gauge.
This meant that passengers no longer needed to change trains at Wallangarra to complete their interstate journey.
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Thereafter the line through Armidale become a feeder line and the Great Northern Railway was no longer 'Great'.
At the time of closing, the service provided from Sydney to Tenterfield was just one train daily in each direction. Hardly an iconic public transport service.
There is still a connecting daily coach service between Armidale and Tenterfield allowing passengers to join the Explorer service to Sydney.
Secondly, the federal government is constructing the Inland Rail to provide a direct link between Melbourne and Brisbane. At present, construction is proceeding between Narrabri and Moree.
The contract for the refurbishment of this 170km section is $650 million. I cannot see any government funding a third interstate connection in northern NSW. The cost would be unjustifiable.
Thirdly, there is confusion about the ownership of the transport corridor. It is clear that the land will always remain Crown Land.
An Act of Parliament is required to formally close the rail line; however, the land will remain in public ownership and the rail trail will be managed by the relevant local council (see Transport Administration Amendment (Closures of Railway Lines in Northern Rivers) Act 2020 No 28 [NSW].
At any time in the future, the land can easily be returned to transport ownership (see Second Reading Speech by Paul Toole, Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, 16 September 2020).
Of course, the rail trail must meet certain criteria to justify its construction.
Currently, the only fully functioning rail trail in NSW is between Rosewood and Tumbarumba in the Snowy Valleys Council area, covering a distance of 21km. It opened in April 2020.
In 2021 official counters recorded 17,000 journeys along the trail, which equates to around 1430 journeys a month.
This is a fantastic result in a year where COVID-19 and weather events have had a great effect during the year (see www.tumbarumbatorosewoodrailtrail.com/2022/01/04/rail-trail-update-as-we-welcome-2022/).
Plans are now underway to extend the trail in three more stages to Wagga Wagga for a total distance of 129km.
I am amazed that Mr Gamage claims the route between Armidale and Glen Innes is "devoid of much natural beauty".
Ben Lomond is the highest railway station ever constructed in Australia in an area of much scenic beauty. I am sure this would be an attraction for cyclists the world over.
Armidale must continue to look for ways to attract tourists. The rail trail will surely help in this regard.
A positive attitude is required, or this city will continue to stagnate.
I write with trepidation at the misuse of taxpayer funds granted to this rail trail project.
To start with this project costs have already blown out. Cost of steel is going up every month and who knows where fuel prices are going to go with problems around the world they appear to be rising weekly.
I was also led to believe that bushfire recovery funds were meant to be for community recovery programs. Nineteen plus million for push bike riders, but nothing for communities. Please don't say if this rail trail goes ahead that the community will benefit.
Please be assured, with our petition signed and sent to both councils involved, we the Ben Lomond village community do not want this project.
Why can"t both councils not see that this peaceful little village just want to be left alone.
The tourists we receive now love how neat and tidy and peaceful this unique village is. No matter what you say, this project will end up costing the ratepayers dearly.
It was said with new councillors at the ARC they might just listen to the communities but sadly I don't think this is happening .
The ARC have said that the sentiment around the room, was one of acceptance of the NERT Project held at the Ben Lomond meeting, where the split for and against the rail trail was 50/50.
I called that meeting, and I am confident it was more like 80/20 against the rail trail.
Why is it that we have a petition signed by 40-plus Ben Lomond residents who do not want this rail trail?
That equals about 95 per cent of our village population.
So Glen Innes Shire Council, you have also received this petition, and as yet have not consulted with this community, as you wish to cross over the shire boundary lines to come into Ben Lomond.
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