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In June the Riverina Regional Development Board adopted the recommendations of a feasibility study into a plan to convert two unused railway lines into rail trails; the 130km Wagga Wagga to Tumbarumba branch line and the 32km Tumut to Batlow branch line.

Click here for more details of the rail trail including map.

There is widespread community support for the plan though some adjacent landholders are opposed to the trail. The board's executive officer Peter Dale says those landholder’s concerns have been addressed and in interviews said "The information coming back to us is that a lot of the landholders who initially might have been opposed, now that they're fully appraised of what's intended, have accepted that there's a greater community good to be achieved through the development of these rail trails and that they indeed may benefit, certainly their communities overall will benefit,"

Railtrails Australia attended some of the public consultation meetings held as part of the feasibility study and based on these and the feasibility study report (available on the Riverina Regional Development Board website) agrees with the above. Experience from other states has shown that, where concerns have been properly addressed, once the rail trail is opened issues are minor and infrequent

It is understood that the relevant NSW government departments are in support of the rail trail proposal, as is the Australian Rail Track Corporation that manages the old lines on behalf of the government.

The four councils involved are also very much in support. The Tumbarumba Council has just finished a sealed bike path up to the Tumbarumba station area, perhaps in preparation! The Wagga Wagga Council and the RAAF are also keen to get the trail constructed from Wagga Wagga to Forest Hill RAAF Base and onto Ladysmith..

In the next few months it is hoped that the Minister for Lands, Tony Kelly, will announce the construction of the 19km first stage of the trail from Wagga Wagga to Ladysmith, which may have a sealed surface.

The rail trail committee is also seeking funding to prepare a detailed technical report for the rest of the proposal and to provide individual consultation with affected landholders.

As well as being a fantastic rail trail in its own right the Riverina Highlands Rail Trail will also undoubtedly become a model for other proposed rail trails in NSW so it is hoped it will proceed smoothly and as quickly as poosible. The large media coverage of the proposal in the region due to the concerned landholders is certainly raising the awareness in the NSW public about rail trails, which is a good thing as it is also bringing out widespread general community support.

However more support especially from outside the area will only help. Please write to the minsters below expressing your support and desire to see the trails proceed as soon as possible. If you have time copy your letters to Railtrails Australia at PO Box 302 East Melbourne 8002 or the email address below

John Watkins MP Minister for Transport

Tony Kelly MP Minister for Lands

The postal address for both ministers is

Level 34, Governor Macquarie Tower 1 Farrer Place Sydney 2000