23 September 2019

Monaro Rail Trail - What might it look like? Meetings July 23-27

| Ian Campbell
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Bombala Railway Station. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Bombala Railway Station. Photo: Ian Campbell.

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.

Nimmitabel Railway Station. PhotoL Ian Campbell.

Nimmitabel Railway Station. Photo: Ian Campbell.

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.

Bombala Railway Station. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Bombala Railway Station. Photo: Ian Campbell.

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.

Nimmitabel Railway Station. PhotoL Ian Campbell.

Nimmitabel Railway Station. Photo: Ian Campbell.

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Steve Osborne8:44 pm 07 Jul 19

This seems to be quite divisive – while the State Government and the SMRC Mayor flirt with the idea of the rebuilding of the rail line. The comments so far are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and I would doubt a conga line of consultants would bring the community together on this one. Me, I love the idea of a rail trail, having ridden them in many countries including Australia. They definitely get used (notwithstanding comments above) and you do meet heaps of other people either out for a day or as part of a major trip.
Of course the consultants who are briefed to report on the feasibility of a rail corridor between Eden and Canberra will produce (and have already) compelling cases for that to happen. Likely that the consultants doing the feasibility for a rail trail would do likewise.
What it will take is political will, one way or then other. While infrastructure is the buzz word with both State and Federal Governments, neither would appear got have the will to actually do something so expensive as a rail line. How long have they been talking about the fast train, for example.
While Governments are fixated on surpluses, huge projects will remain as Feasibility Studies, gathering dust somewhere. A Council such as SMRC can decide what is best for the whole shire and then get on with it, and good luck with that!

I’d love to ride down that way. Especially considering how dangerous the road is. A rail trail would be a great idea.

Martin Krause11:03 pm 06 Jul 19

Great idea. Works in Victoria,New Zealand, Canada, USA and probably elsewhere in the world. Biosecurity issues have been addressed in the Tumut Tumbarumba feasibility studies. It’s a no brainer linking a major city with Alpine cycling paradise

Mark McIntosh5:58 pm 06 Jul 19

Two points that I noticed.
1. 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.
Yep that old chestnut and if you bring a bunch of farmers up from Vic along the rail trails to debunk it, they will come back with, “But my property is different”. Nope, no it isn’t. And the rail line is still owned by State Rail Authority.
2. “this is a pretty exciting time with the State Government looking at the feasibility of reopening that rail line.” You keep up the wishful thinking, champ. I highly doubt that the NSW Gov will refinance a rail line down that area.

I love the estimated economic impact, accurate to seven significant figures 🙂

Paul Cockram12:26 pm 04 Jul 19

If you think ahead about regional development and an electric future then it needs to upgraded as a working rail line.

I have visited Bombala Station many times and admire the work of the friends of the Bombala Railway over a large number of years. I have even brought in groups of 12 to visit the station, stay in your motel and have a meal at the club. We have certainly spent money in town as tourists.
Driving through the Victorian high country, you happen across many rail trails. I have NEVER seen anyone on any of these trails ever! That includes the trails to Bright and Mansfield.
I was also the co-organiser of the very last steam train to Bombala in June 1985. We brought in 150 people into your town for dinner. We filled most of the accommodation in town and even had to bus people to and from Nimmitabel and Cooma. It was minus 8 the next morning so I challenge any bike rider to be out there other than a few months each year.
Your article states there are a lot of interesting points on the line. Fix the line to Cooma and I’m sure the railmotor group there would jump at the chance of running comfortable heritage trains to Bombala.

So don’t waste the money on consultants basically for a few cyclists who will never spend the same amount of tourist money as a heritage trainload would.

Peter Watters1:34 pm 03 Jul 19

Given the following facts:
* there is an active rail heritage group operating at Bombala
* there is an active men’s shed group restoring Nimmitabel station and precinct
* there is an active rail heritage group at Cooma working towards running railmotors in the near future
* the State Government is considering re-opening the line and extending it to Eden

…I am surprised that a rail trail group and the Monaro Council would ignore the existing use of the line and infrastructure and try to take it over and convert it to a bike track!

And given the very harsh nature of winters and summers out on the Monaro plain and the long distances between towns, does the rail trail group and Monaro Council seriously believe that a lot of families will venture out on such vast distances with no shelter or amenities between towns??

The resulting upkeep of such a long trail will impose ongoing costs to Council and result in Council Rates being increased.

And rail trails usually result in the removal of heritage rails, sleepers, signalling equipment and there is often vandalism to heritage buildings. Removal of tracks in the rail yards at the stations removes all heritage context and would be disastrous for tourism to those stations.

This pioneer line should be preserved for future generations.

Yes please; a fantastic initiative for the region and an exciting way to cross the plains by bike! Long overdue for the area.

Helen McHugh12:12 pm 03 Jul 19

In principle a great idea, but I do sympathise with land-holders and farmers. Many “Sunday cyclists” and hikers are very arrogant in their use of agricultural land. There is often an assumption that they can camp anywhere, and leave gates open, throw rubbish, let their dogs run unchecked and pay little or no heed to the notion of bio-security. On the other hand, if people are made aware of these issues, it may be that there will be more understanding of farmers’ concerns.

I am NOT a farmer, but live in Candelo, where many of my friends and acquaintances are. They are well aware of the need to diversify in terms of using natural areas for economic reasons, but their living depends on other people being responsible when they visit those places.

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