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As noted in an earlier news item, in September 2009 the NSW Transport Minister, Mr David Campbell, introduced legislation into Parliament to enable the construction of rail trails in NSW on disused government railway lines.

The minister has shown his genuine support for rail trails by amending the legislation to address sections that caused significant community concern. The amendments will mean:

  • the actual corridor land itself will not be able to be sold (only old tracks and sleepers etc on the corridors), and
  • nothing will be able to be done to an old line unless train services have ceased for over 15 years ago.

This legislation is a vital step in allowing NSW communities to enjoy the benefits of rail trails like those in all the other states and overseas. And there are some wonderful rail trails proposed that when developed will be able to be enjoyed by all Australians. Refer List here.

Once again, now is the time for all rail trail supporters to contact the government, opposition parties and the media, and express your support for the development of rail trails on disused rail corridors NOW.

Contact:

The corridors, which local groups have been working on for many years to have rail trails developed, have been disused for at least several decades. Using a corridor as a rail trails ensures that what is left of them now is preserved (some have already been cut by development). The legislation specifically allows for a rail service to be restored should the need arise.

The following documents were provided by the Transport Minister's office.

 


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

 


TRANSPORT ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT (RAIL TRAILS) BILL 2009 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (Q1 - 7 of 14)

    1. What has prompted the Bill?

    There are currently over 3,000 kilometres of disused rail lines in NSW and we’ve been approached by people with ideas for using them in more positive ways. These ideas include converting them to rail trails for walking, cycling or horse-riding and, in some cases, purchasing the old sleepers and scrap metal that would need to be replaced anyway if the line was to come back into use.

    This currently idle asset offers enormous potential benefit for communities in rural and regional NSW. This Bill introduces changes that will, once again, allow for their use by the public, and where the case for this is established, for their sale.

    2. What is meant by “disused rail line E The legislation only relates to disused rail lines. These are railway lines on which regular passenger or freight rail services have not operated for at least 15 years. The Bill provides that if satisfied that regular passenger or freight rail services have not operated on a line for at least 15 years or more, the Minister could declare the line to be a disused railway line which, a consultation process, would make it available for rail trails or other community purposes and / or for the infrastructure to be sold. 3. Why are the changes to the Act necessary?

    The model being considered for development of rail trails is similar to that in Victoria. It involves transferring disused rail corridors to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation within the Lands and Property Management Authority which would then work with local groups to develop the trails. At the moment, the Act doesn’t allow for the ready transfer of these corridors or for their sale because disposal of rail corridor land or removal of railway tracks or other infrastructure legally can’t occur unless the line is closed, which requires an Act of Parliament.

    4. What changes does the Bill introduce?

    The Bill introduces provisions that: 1. following a consultation process, allow the Minister for Transport to enter into an arrangement with the Minister for Lands for the management of a disused railway line as Crown land, without necessitating closure of the railway line concerned; 2. allow the Minister for Transport to terminate such arrangements if satisfied the disused railway line is required for transport purposes and to direct the railway line be transferred back to the rail authority; 3. following a consultation process allow the Minister for Transport to authorise the removal of railway tracks or other infrastructure from a disused railway line so the infrastructure and other scrap can be sold or disposed of without necessitating a closure of the railway line concerned; 4. retain the existing requirement that only an Act of Parliament can authorise the closure of a railway line or the sale of the land on which the line is situated (whether declared disused or not).

    5. What is a rail trail?

    A rail trail is a pathway, cycleway or multi-use access-way located within or closely parallel to a railway corridor. Rail trails are in place world-wide. Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have all converted disused lines for rail trails and there are currently eight proposals for rail trails in NSW. They appear popular and NSW remains one of the few jurisdictions not to have progressed such initiatives.

    6. Will proposals other than rail trails be possible?

    Based on the interest shown to date, we expect most proposals for development of a corridor would be for rail trails, but proposals for other community purposes would be considered. In such cases, the proposal proponents should approach the Lands and Property Management Authority, which would then undertake consultation on the proposal. On the basis there was broad community support for the proposal, Lands and Property Management could then request transfer of the corridor for its development.

    7. What’s the process for getting access to a corridor for use as a rail trail or for some other community purpose?

    • Community groups would approach the Land and Property Management Authority on a proposal for community use of the corridor. The Authority would then facilitate community consultation on the proposal to establish if it was feasible. Its consultation would include nearby landholders to identify their issues and address legitimate concerns.

    • If this consultation established the proposal to be feasible, the Lands and Property Management Authority would apply to the Minister for Transport / NSW Transport and Infrastructure (NSWTI) for transfer of the specific disused railway line.

    • NSWTI and the Rail Infrastructure Corporation would assess the application and provide advice on the request for transfer to the Minister for Transport.

    • If the Minister agrees to the proposal, the Bill requires that public notice of it be given both in local papers and on NSW Transport and Infrastructure’s website. In all cases the public will have at least 30 days to make submissions on the proposal, and the Bill requires the Minister to consider the submissions.

    • Following authorisation by the Minister for Transport, the corridor would be transferred to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation within the Land and Property Management Authority.

    • The Land and Property Management Authority would in many cases pass management of the corridor to a reserve trust manager, such as a council.

 


TRANSPORT ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT (RAIL TRAILS) BILL 2009 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (Q8 - 14 of 14)

    8. How will rail trails operate?

    The approach proposed for NSW involves transferring, on a case by case basis, disused railway lines to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation within the Land and Property Management Authority who would then work with community groups to develop the corridors as rail trails or for other community purposes. This is similar to the very successful rail trails model in Victoria.

    It is anticipated that Lands and Property Management would pass the care, control and management of the corridor to a reserve trust manager, such as a council.

    9. How will the Bill affect the NSW grain line network?

    The arrangements to enable rail trail development will have no impact on the grain line network.

    Rail trails are only being considered for disused rail lines. Under the Bill, these are where passenger and freight services have not been operated regularly on the railway line for a period of at least fifteen years.

    10. What consultation will be undertaken on rail trails/or for use of rail corridors for other community purposes?

    The Bill requires that public notice be given of the proposals; both in local papers and on NSW Transport and Infrastructure’s website. In all cases the public will have at least 30 days to make submissions on the proposal, and the Bill requires the Minister to consider the submissions.

    It is expected that, prior to approaching the Minister for Transport to transfer a disused rail corridor, the Lands and Property Management Authority would facilitate consultation on the proposal for its use. This consultation would involve key stakeholders, including adjoining landholders such as farmers, about the purpose to which the corridor would be put and to address any legitimate concerns.

    The Lands and Property Management Authority would be looking to be satisfed that there was broad community support for the proposal before approaching the Minister for Transport.

    That said, the Minister for Lands may choose to apply for a transfer of a corridor where it is considered the project benefits outweigh any residual neighbouring landowners objections.

    In advising on requests for transfer of corridors, NSW Transport and Infrastructure would inform the Minister for Transport of the consultation undertaken by the Lands and Property Management Authority on the proposal for its use. This advice would be a key consideration in determining if the corridor should be transferred and any terms and conditions that should apply to its management on transfer to the administration of Land and Property Management Authority.

    11. Will the rail corridors used for rail trails or other community purposes remain in public hands?

    All rail corridors will remain in public hands. They would not be able to be sold or disposed of and may revert to transport use as required by the Minister for Transport.

    12. What happens if, after a rail trail has been established, the corridor is needed again for trains or other public transport?

    The Bill allows the Minister for Transport at some future point to require that a corridor revert back for use as a transport corridor, if needed. This would be decided on case by case basis as corridors are transferred to the Lands and Property Management Authority. It would be a condition of the transfer and would need to be reflected in any subsequent lease of other arrangement entered into by the Land and Property Management Authority with the entity responsible for the corridor.

    13. What will happen if train services resume on a disused rail line if the old rail track and other structures have been removed and sold?

    The track and other structures on most disused lines is in a very bad state of repair and so would need to be replaced if train services were to resume. We are much better off clearing the corridors of this remnant infrastructure and raising whatever revenue we can, either to go back to transport agencies or for use in developing the corridors transferred to the administration of the Land and Property Management Authority - this would be decided on a case by case basis.

    14. Does the Bill permit the closure of railway lines and the sale of rail corridors?

    The Government recognises the community’s concern whenever there’s talk of selling public assets. The Government understands and accepts those concerns. The Bill does not change the existing law concerning the closure or sale of railway corridors. In fact, it retains the requirement that only Parliament can authorise the sale of a railway corridor or the land on which it is situated.