Council is liaising with State Government and the other three local governments along the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor to investigate the creation of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.
Initial investigations have shown the corridor, its scenic surrounds and the attractions it would link have the attributes to be a very popular rail trail, to replicate the success of similar projects throughout the world, such as the:
Rail trails throughout Australia and overseas have proven to be popular tourist attractions, often bringing economic benefits to rural towns and villages that are otherwise in decline.
Numerous examples around the world show rail trails attract millions of dollars in tourist spending and create new jobs to service trail users.
The NSW Government has released a Rail Trail Feasibility Study which found that the rail trail was "likely to be viable", based on the anticipated user numbers and the expected cost to create the trail.
Council is working collaboratively with the other three councils on the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor and community groups to put together a proposal for the State Government, which is responsible for the rail corridor.
The rail corridor is currently disused, poorly maintained and provides no benefit to the community, leaving it vulnerable to being permanently closed and sold off.
Rail services on the Casino to Murwillumbah branch line ceased in April 2004. Since then, a number of reports have been prepared regarding the future use of the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Line and have been unable to demonstrate the viability of reinstating rail services.
Establishing a rail trail on the corridor would mean the asset is utilised, maintained and once again a community asset, protecting the corridor from closure and ensuring portions of the land are not sold.
The corridor is overgrown with weeds and the valuable rail heritage, such as railway stations and bridges, continues to deteriorate unchecked. The creation of a rail trail would ensure weeds are controlled, bush may be regenerated and heritage-listed items and other infrastructure is maintained.
Tweed Valley Rail Trail
A application for funding for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail in 2015, through the Restart NSW Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund - Rail Trails, was unsuccessful. However, feedback to the application indicated that a staged approach starting with a Tweed Valley Rail Trail located entirely within Tweed Shire would be better placed to receive support and funding.
Council is now giving priority to developing a 24km section from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek, incorporating the villages of Stokers Siding, Burringbar, Mooball and Crabbes Creek, and has submitted the $13 million project as Council's top priority for Regional Development Australia - Northern Rivers funding.
It is widely recognised that Council's do not have the resources to maintain a rail trail. The rail trail is not
proposed to be a Council asset. It is intended that a rail trail central governance body (i.e. a trust) would be established and would manage maintenance using non-Council funding sources
A group has been set up by local community members to support the establishment of a Rail Trail on the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor, Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc.