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Guide Banner 4 2015

TRANSPORT ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT (RAIL TRAILS) BILL 2009 BRIEFING FOR MPs / MLCs ON GOVERNMENT AMENDMENTS

    ISSUE Amendments to the Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill 2009 to take account of the views expressed recently in various sections of the community and, in particular, to prescribe clear, statutory consultation requirements for dealing with disused rail lines, and to make it clear that disused rail lines cannot be sold.

    BACKGROUND Across rural and regional NSW there are over 3,000 kilometres of rail lines on which rail services have not operated regularly for many years; in some cases up to 30 years. NSW Transport and Infrastructure (NSWTI) has advised that those lines are unlikely to ever again be required for the operation of either passenger or freight rail services.

    There is considerable interest in using those lines for recreational purposes, such as Rail Trails which are recreational tracks used for bike riding, walking, horse riding and so on. Advice from NSWTI is that the preferred approach for NSW is to transfer rail corridors, on a case by case basis, to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation within the Land and Property Management Authority, which would work with community groups to develop those corridors as rail trails.

    CURRENT BILL Currently, the TA Act does not permit the removal of rail tracks and other infrastructure from a railway line or the disposal of the rail corridor (even as a transfer to the Crown or another Government agency) unless specifically authorised by an Act of Parliament. In their current form these restrictions prevent NSW from having rail trails.

    The Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill 2009 (the current Bill) was introduced in the Legislative Assembly on 23 September 2009. The current Bill amends the Transport Administration Act 1988 (TA Act) for the purpose of enabling the transfer of disused railway lines to the Land and Property Management Authority for their development as rail trails. In its present form the Bill provides that the Minister for Transport could: ◁Eon a case by case basis and following public consultation, authorise the closure of a disused railway line; ◁Eon a case by case basis, transfer a disused railway line, without closing it, to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation within the Land and Property Management Authority for its management as Crown land and thus enable its development as a rail trail or other community purpose; ◁Edeclare a railway line or part of a railway line to be a disused railway line, as a precondition of either its transfer to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation or of its closure; and ◁Eauthorise the removal of railway tracks or other works from a railway line, without requiring the line to be closed (thereby enabling the infrastructure to be sold).

    COMMUNITY CONCERNS There has been a great deal of public discussion on the current Bill, most of which relates to elements of the Bill that are either unclear, or involve matters that are largely incidental to the development of rail trails. Firstly, the current Bill does not make clear that the term “disused railway line Eis intended to apply only to lines where rail services have not operated regularly for at least 15 years. Secondly, the Bill does not make clear that the proposed power for the Minister for Transport to authorise the removal of railway tracks and other infrastructure only applies to disused railway lines, not to lines that are still needed for railway operations.

    The Government has also noted views expressed in various sections of the community that the consultation requirements are not sufficiently clear and need to be more rigorous. Finally, it is clear that there is considerable concern about the approach the Government proposed previously to enable at least some of the latent value in disused rail corridors to be realised and put to better purposes for community benefit. While this is clearly a sensible approach, it is an incidental benefit in relation to the rail trails proposal.

    GOVERNMENT AMENDMENTS The Government acknowledges the need for the current Bill to be clarified in relation to these matters, and to that end we have proposed amendments in the following terms:

    1. To provide that the Minister for Transport cannot declare a railway line to be a disused railway line, unless the Minister is satisfied that freight or passenger rail services have not operated regularly on the line for at least 15 years.

    2. To prescribe clear, statutory consultation requirements to apply when disused rail lines are to be transferred to the Crown for development as rail trails. These include:

    ◁Egiving public notice in the relevant local paper and on NSWTI’s website,

    ◁Eallowing the public at least 30 days to make submissions on the proposed transfer, and

    ◁Erequiring the Minister to consider the submissions before authorising a transfer.

    3. To confirm that there is no change to the existing law which requires that only an Act of Parliament can authorise the closure or sale of a railway line (including a disused line).

    4. To permit the Minister for Transport to authorise the removal of infrastructure from a disused rail line (but not from a railway line still in use). The consultation requirements described above will apply equally to proposals to remove tracks and other infrastructure from disused rail lines.

    David Campbell, MP Minister for Transport, Minister for Illawarra

    Contact: Alison Thyer 9228 3555