As reported at the time, the eastern 13 km of the trail, comprising all of the original railway within the City of Newcastle, was approved by a Regional Planning Panel on 21 December last year, subject to a Plan of Management being developed with NSW National Parks for the significant sections which intersect or skirt the Hunter Wetlands National Park, Pambalong Nature Reserve and other sensitive sites, some of which are Ramsar-listed. This process is now well underway.
The two councils to the west, Cessnock and Lake Macquarie, have now produced a “Review of Environmental Factors” (REF) for the remaining approximately 17km of trail, which is on public exhibition until 3 July 2022. It is anticipated that development approval for this section can be obtained well before the end of the year.
Unlike many other rail trail projects in NSW, the Richmond Vale railway was a privately owned line built to service coal mines to the west of Newcastle and will not require government legislation to close the line and create the trail. Once development approval is obtained, funding for detailed planning and construction will likely be sought by each council from both state and federal sources.
Whilst the timing of this funding is uncertain, it is hoped that widespread community support for the project, including from all three councils and every state and federal member in the region, will result in rapid progress towards commencement and completion.
The Hunter Valley is a major economic “powerhouse” for NSW, both literally and figuratively. The trail will become a major asset for the region, already home to the extremely popular Fernleigh Track and other shorter rail trails.
You can read a local news item reporting on the tabling of the REF here, and find out more about the project on both the Rail Trails Australia website and on that of the supporters group Richmond Vale Rail Trail Inc., linked here. We urge members to have their say and express their support for this important project.