Rail trail perfect for tourist industry 'on its knees'
THE Chair of Destination North Coast, Cameron Arnold, has urged rusted on train supporters to stop "misleading" the community over the Casino to Murwillumbah rail trail and for the public to get onboard a project the region desperately needs post-pandemic.
Mr Arnold believes State Parliament is only weeks away from voting on legislative changes required to establish the Northern Rivers rail trail.
"I am probably 95 per cent confident the proposed legislation will get the support of parliament," he said.
"The tourism industry and visitor economy are desperate for jobs and recovery and this project is a perfect one to develop now for post COVID 19."
Mr Arnold said the rail trail proposal had been really misguided and "very political" based on old promises by the Nationals and mixed signals from the Greens.
"Supporters of the return of trains to the Northern Rivers are misleading the community and need to get real with the situation with a slogan 'Keep Trains on our Tracks' confirming this misinformation," he said.
"Apart from the privately-operated Byron Solar Train which runs for 3km, there are NO trains to keep on this section of rail."
Mr Arnold also addressed claims the rail corridor would be sold off to developers if this legisation was passed by parliament.
"What we need to keep is the rail corridor in public hands and this can only be done if the corridor is being used, otherwise it will be sold," he said.
"The reality is that under the current legislation it is being sold off.
"In fact, we have seen at least three parcels of land within the corridor sold in the past 12 months, not to mention the number of bridges that have been fully removed, reducing further any likelihood of the reinstatement of trains.
"The only way we can fully protect the rail corridor is to change the legislation and use the corridor, and the best option for its use is as a rail trail."
Like the Tumbarumba rail trail, the legislation would lock the corridor into public ownership and the only use for the corridor would be for a rail trail.
"It is now time to stop hanging onto an old paradigm and get behind this significant regional project. Not only will this be a tourism drawcard at a time when the industry is on its knees and the impacts from COVID-19 will reverberate for many years to come," Mr Arnold said.
Pro train group TOOT has been urging its supporters to write to members of State Parliament in the lead-up to a vote on rail corridor legislation.
"The community must be extremely vigilant now and into the future. To allow the permanent destruction of our rail infrastructure for a questionable bike track would be one of the worst outcomes in this region's history," a recent post on its Facebook site says.