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On the 23rd of September 2009 the NSW Transport Minister, Mr David Campbell, introduced legislation into Parliament that will enable the construction of rail trails in NSW on disused government railway lines.

At the moment this is prohibited so 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.

However the legislation is facing opposition, critically in the upper house. Now is the time for all rail trail supporters to write to the government, opposition parties and the media, and express your support for the development of rail trails on disused rail trails NOW.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=Thank%20you%20for%20supporting%20Rail%20Trails%20in%20NSW">Write to Minister Campbell and thank him for having the courage and foresight to introduce this timely and necessary change.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=Please%20support%20Rail%20Trail%20development%20in%20NSW">Write to the Greens' Ms Lee Rhiannon MLC

The Greens support an expansion of cycling infrastructure and retention of rail corridors.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=Please%20support%20Rail%20Trail%20development%20in%20NSW"> Write to the leader of the Nationals in the upper house Mr Duncan Gay MLC

We understand the Victorian Nationals have been long-term supporters of Rail Trails and bicycle infrastructure in regional communities and would hope that the NSW Nationals can do the same.

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 questions and answers were provided by the Transport Minister's office. A link to the proposed legislation follows.

 

 


    Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill 2009 Questions and Answers

    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 either the old scrap or parts of the rail corridor land itself.

    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. Why are the changes to the Act necessary?

    The model being considered for development of rail trails is similar to that in Victoria and involves transferring the corridors to the Lands Administration Ministerial Corporation within the Lands and Property Management Authority who 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.

    3. What changes does the Bill introduce?

    The Bill introduces provisions that: 1. 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 he/she is satisfied the disused railway line is required for transport purposes and to direct the railway line be transferred back to the rail authority; 3. to allow the Minister for Transport to authorise, on a case by case basis and following public consultation, the closure of a disused railway line. This would then facilitate the sale of the corridor; and 4. allow the sale or removal of railway tracks or other infrastructure on any railway line to be sold or disposed of without necessitating a closure of the railway line concerned.

    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. Lands would then facilitate community consultation on the proposal to establish if it was feasible. Their 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. • 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.


    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 corridors where there is virtually nil likelihood of services being reintroduced. Such corridors would have been disused for many years. Of the eight proposals for rail trails in NSW, most have been disused for well over fifteen years.

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

    Prior to approaching the Minister for Transport to transfer a 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 satisfy itself 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?

    Any rail corridor transferred to the Lands and Property Management Authority will remain in public hands. It 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 new 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. Won’t closure and sale of rail corridors be opposed by most in the community?

    Part of considering proposals for closure and sale would be gauging the views of the community. The Bill requires that we call for submissions from locals through an ad in the local paper and on the NSWTI website, providing at least 30 days to respond. The Minister will need to have regard to the submissions in making his/her decision.

    15. How will lines for closure and sale be identified?

    In some cases, people may come forward expressing an interest in purchasing a disused corridor or part thereof. In others, the Rail Infrastructure Corporation or another transport agency may nominate a line for closure. We are not however proposing an active program of divestment of the corridors - the provision giving the Minister the power to authorise closure of a line is principally to streamline the process in the event of a justifiable case for closure and sale.

The proposed legislation can be viewed HERE (PDF)