THE region’s rail corridors shouldn’t be handed over to become trails until the suitability of them being restored as train lines was assessed, according to Labor candidate for Albury Ross Jackson.
Mr Jackson, who works in the rail industry, would not fully back a proposed Culcairn- Corowa rail trail, saying he advocated a “softly softly” approach.
“I’m not opposed to rail trails — they’ve done some very good economic things for towns,” he said.
“But we need to future-proof rail corridors before we let them go to other uses,” he said.
“With truck traffic predicted to increase about 50 per cent by 2030, I’d say we need to ensure all transport corridors are available, if we decide to move away from increasing trucks on our roads.
“I support a Corowa-Culcairn trail but first we need to look at the feasibility of it supporting rail.”
The member for Albury, Greg Aplin, this week said there should be studies into the tourism demand and benefits of rail trails.
The NSW government last week promised $50 million to develop rail trails along the Tumbarumba-Rosewood line and the Northern Rivers lines.
Mr Jackson backed the Tumbarumba-Rosewood trail, saying there was “not much hope” of it being used for freight rail.
But he said the Culcairn-Corowa line had some potential and should be examined to determine if the line could be shared.
“Road freight is supposed to double so we do need to look at alternatives,” he said.
“We need dual use of corridors so if the land is ever needed for railway purposes, we have planned for it.”
Such discontinued rural lines as Corowa-Culcairn, Culcairn-Henty and Henty-Rand, are categorised as “service suspended” even though many are severed from main lines and crossings tarred over.
An Act of Parliament is needed to officially close them to become rail trails.
Regional Tourism Minister John Barilaro this week said a trail pilot project would involve Tumbarumba-Rosewood and Northern Rivers to “test the process” of developing recreational rail trail projects.
No funding had been allocated for either.
He said funding for the corridors would only be known after a rigorous assessment of the proposals.
Rail Trails for NSW chairman John Moore said the decision was “demoralising” for groups working on other projects.