There’s progress on the idea of creating a recreational cycling and walking trail on the disused railway lines that crisscross the Monaro between Queanbeyan and Bombala.
Snowy Monaro Regional Council is investigating the feasibility of the project with a series of community consultation sessions to take place later this month.
Those excited by the 208-km idea point to the many interesting rail features along the way including heritage listed bridges, sidings, sheds, and old train stations, as well as the region’s pastoral story that unfolds during the journey.
However, there has been a level of opposition to the idea particularly from some landowners directly impacted by the proposed route. Those farmers point to biosecurity concerns, as well as privacy and stock movement issues.
Council has engaged Transplan Pty Ltd and Mike Halliburton Associates to prepare the Monaro Rail Trail Feasibility Study, with $75,000 put aside to complete the project.
The study is an important step in determining whether a trail for cyclists and hikers along the currently disused railway corridor has merit.
The upcoming ‘Open Houses’ with the consultants are an opportunity for members of the community to drop in and discuss the project.
“Engagement with the community is an important part of our work and we are undertaking a comprehensive process of communicating with individuals, community groups, adjoining landowners and other key stakeholders,” says Mike Maher of Transplan.
“This consultation is in addition to conversations that the Friends of Monaro Rail Trail have already had with a number of adjoining landholders and business proprietors over the last few years.
“There will be no formal presentations at these sessions. People are encouraged to drop in at a time which suits them to have a conversation with us and Council staff about the project.”
The sessions will provide information about the project via display and one-on-one conversations as well as providing an opportunity for community members to ask questions.
Monaro Rail Trail ‘Open House’ sessions:
- Tuesday, July 23 – 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm, Bombala Community Centre;
- Wednesday, July 24 – 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm, Nimmitabel Community Centre;
- Thursday, July 25 – 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm, Cooma Library;
- Friday, July 26 – 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm, Bredbo Community Hall;
- Saturday, July 27 9.00 am to 12.00 noon, Michelago General Store.
The Open House sessions are designed to show the community what the rail trail might look like when it is built.
Snowy Monaro Mayor John Rooney says, “at this stage, the Council has yet to formally determine whether it will proceed with the proposed trail.”
“At the same time as the Rail Trail Feasibility Study is being undertaken, other consultants have been engaged by the State Government to determine whether it is practical and viable to return trains to this corridor and to extend the railway to Eden.
“The results of that study will have a major bearing on the feasibility of a trail on the disused railway corridor.”
The rail corridor is owned by the State Government, not Council.
When Region Media spoke with Mayor Rooney earlier this year about both options he said, “this is a pretty exciting time with the State Government looking at the feasibility of reopening that rail line.”
“We need to consider if that went ahead how the two different uses of the rail corridor could coexist. Ideally, you’d want to see both – freight and passenger train services and a rail trail.
“Obviously, the existing rail line would need to be straightened out to allow heavy freight trains to travel at speeds of 80 to 100 km/hr.
“Opening the possibility of our curvey, steam train line being set aside as a rail trail.”
The Monaro Rail Trail Committee estimates the project may result in an increased tourist spend of $3,735,185 per annum in the third year after the trail is completed.
The pre-feasibility study commissioned by the Committee put the cost at close to $38 million but stressed the need for more detailed costings.