29 June 2022

Upper Lachlan backflips on Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail

| Clare McCabe
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Man standing at Crookwell Railway Station

Crookwell Heritage Railway secretary Peter Simpson said the group floated the idea of a bike path running parallel to the rail. Photo: File.

Plans for a multi-million dollar rail trail between Goulburn and Crookwell stalled last week after the Upper Lachlan Shire withdrew its support from the project.

Originally slated to progress from near the Graywood siding towards the Crookwell terminus, the decision means the Upper Lachlan Shire would not contribute financially to the building or ongoing maintenance of the rail trail in their LGA.

“We’re letting the dust settle from this setback and gathering our thoughts,” Goulburn Crookwell Rail Trail (GCRT) group chair and Goulburn Mulwaree councillor Bob Kirk said.

The former Crookwell Shire Council conceived the rail trail concept in the early 2000s and it has had the support of successive councils until now.

At a recent meeting Upper Lachlan Shire councillors passed a motion instead that “Upper Lachlan Shire Council provides non-monetary support and advocacy to Goulburn Mulwaree Council for the establishment of a rail trail within the Goulburn Mulwaree local government area”.

The motion was moved by Cr Nathan McDonald and passed by mayor Pam Kensit, deputy mayor Mandy McDonald and Crs Susan Reynolds and John Searl.

Cr Kensit indicated that the council was struggling to meet the demands of current infrastructure and assets without the additional estimated costs associated with the planning and maintenance of the rail trail.

“We have to, as a council, safeguard our ratepayers,” she said.

READ ALSO: Investigation underway after heritage railway removed at Crookwell

Goulburn Mulwaree has reaffirmed support of the project and allocated $15,000 towards new planning documents, including the final costs and construction plans. In 2020, the projected project costs were $14 million but are now estimated closer to $20 million.

The project will rely heavily on grant funding but Cr Kirk, who had been pursuing the concept over the past six years, said the project could not progress without the Upper Lachlan Shire’s support.

We can’t do this without the Upper Lachlan Council being willing to be a joint partner in investigation and looking to establish this, what I believe, the best prospect here for tourism and economic driver for this region…” he said.

“In order to progress it would require that decision of council at Upper Lachlan to be changed and to provide support to enable further investigation to establish such a facility.”

The Upper Lachlan’s decision not to proceed has surprised the project’s advocates and elated its detractors, with one affected landholder saying she was shaking with relief watching the meeting’s webcast.

Despite this, rail trail supporter Matt Ford said the Goulburn Mulwaree Council would have to “seriously consider a rail trail in their local government area that goes from Goulburn siding by siding out towards the border to Crookwell”.

“From Goulburn you have Norwood, the Forest and Graywood Siding,” he explained.

Analysis of projects across NSW showed that staged approaches in a single local government area received more support from the federal and state governments.

“This will take a bit of heat out of it, there is plenty of precedent for stages so far and none yet for what the GCRT Committee Inc is attempting, in what are very complex circumstances,” Mr Ford said.

READ ALSO Not the end of the line for Historic Crookwell railway station

Crookwell terminus caretakers, the Crookwell Heritage Railway (CHR) group, welcomed the decision.

“We as the CHR are not directly involved but are pleased to know that the potential threat to the railway between Crookwell and McAlister has abated,” CHR secretary Peter Simpson said.

“We had stated that a bike path could potentially run parallel but the hard-nosed advocates claimed that would make the bike path too expensive to build – again ignoring the existence or value of a heritage rail activity.

“This decision by the council facilitates the heritage rail operations from Crookwell to be developed.”

Some business owners have condemned the decision, saying it lacks foresight.

The planning committee for the rail trail will convene on Friday (1 July) to discuss its next steps.

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Lydia Kindred7:42 pm 09 Jul 22

The rail trail will cost too much money and then has to be maintained. Why can’t they have both? In Tweed Shire the contractors who won the tender said it would be cheaper to build the bike trail off the rail formation and, we know the majority of locals and visitors would rather have the tracks saved and this would allow for the return of rail services on our line. With climate change, rail travel is the way of the future to get vehicles off the roads and cut down on emissions.

About time common-sense prevailed , imagine tearing up valuable public transport infrastructure to humour the desires of a very very small minority and burdening local councils and consequently ratepayers with the bill . Rail trails ought to share the very generous rail corridor or not at all ,they are quite simply a modern day trojan horse to acquire free scrap and big money contracts of construction draining public money and a clandestine movement to sell off public land .

Allan Schramm6:58 pm 01 Jul 22

Great idea, give the cyclists somewhere to ride safely. Our roads aren’t suitable.
Typical of government not to support a sensible idea.
Funding could probably be achieved by getting rid of some councillor’s and fixing red tape.

Council clearly lacks vision

Good news. I’m sure landholders along the rail line are happy with the decision. Who would want hundreds of Lycra clad yuppies riding through the paddocks

As long as they’re happy to wear the rates increases…

Prefer the Lycra beside the rail line than on the roads. Dunno how many I’ve had to dodge.

Ridiculous waste of money when the roads are falling apart in the region.

Kathryn Baines12:25 pm 29 Jun 22

Both the rail trail and the heritage rail projects hold great potential for Crookwell.
But Crookwell is not ready for either the timings just not right for many complex, unique and different reasons.
Congratulations to the incoming councillors for not bowing to pressure to make a decision on this and for having the honesty and integrity to admit that they are struggling to maintain the current infrastructure and assets to a standard expected by their ratepayers as are most councils everywhere are at the moment.
Crookwell and it’s people are amazing and will continue to grow and move forward at a pace and in a way that it feels comfortable with if and when it’s ready.
After all that’s what makes it so appealing to so many!

The local community has lost out on a golden opportunity to revitalise its economy by inviting ‘wallets on wheels’ like myself into the region.
Ask the good people of Tumbarumba, Myrtleford, Mansfield, Yea and anywhere else there is an established rail trail in our country.
Ask the communities in New Zealand and all over Europe where cycling tourism reaps billions of € in revenue each year.
Yet, for some unfathomable reason, there is a ridiculous fear over repurposing a disused land corridor into a guaranteed revenue stream whilst not destroying the local environment.
Sorry Upper Lachlan, but thousands of wallets on wheels like myself will continue to drive past your area on our way to Tumbarumba and elsewhere.
We may stop in for fuel and coffee. Then again, we may not.

Wendy Murphy12:27 pm 29 Jun 22

The ‘disused land corridor’ runs through working agricultural privately owned properties. The owners of these properties expressed very valid concerns to the Upper Lachlan Shire Council and as it should, the council listened to its ratepayers. One careless rider without any malicious intention could pose major biosecurity issues potentially affecting many livelihoods. I know there are a lot of maybes in that sentence but the risk is real. Thankfully there are places where ‘wallets on wheels’ (fabulous description btw) can enjoy their pastime. These corridors do not need to exist everywhere. There was always going to be an unhappy group of people over this decision. I am personally pleased the landholders are secure.

It’s worthwhile pointing out that when this corridor was a working rail line the State of NSW stumped up the maintenance costs, they did not expect the LGA that the easement ran through to pay to upkeep the live rail infrastructure.

As obvious as this sounds, the State is now expecting local Shires, LGA’s, to accept the responsibility for: rail trail maintenance; as well as the updating of feaseability studies, construction plans and business cases, which in the case of the Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail, have become monotonous in regularity.

The concept of a joint plan has so far stumbled at evey hurdle & you do not have to be a rocket scientist to think GM Shire should attemp a Stage in GM.

At this point in time the ULS Mayor took the lead with the right decision. If as the study says TRRT has shown growth to the State economy as well as the local area, things may change but as over 60% of the rail corridor is in Upper Lachlan Shire, the majority of maintenace responsibility falls with ULSC. I’m confident they are not exagerating when they say the ULS does not have money growing on trees.

When combined with the inability to come up with a mutually agreeable plan with CHR, complaints that landholder consultation has been slow and the case of a kilometer of missing foundation under investigation, this decision should come as no surprise.

Wallets on wheels …. you make me laugh . I owned land on a rail trail and helped build it , was nothing but a huge abandoned strip that grew blackberries and thistles and was almost completely forgotten by most . Rode my horse on it many times , no change of seeing anyone and was far better looked after by cockys . Wallets on wheels , more like stinges in cars

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