20 December 2019

Could the Queanbeyan to Bombala rail trail become Monaro's latest world-class attraction?

| Elka Wood
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A section of the track between Queanbeyan-Bombala

A section of the track between Cooma-Bombala. Photo: Supplied.

Ever driven through the beautiful Monaro and wished you could slow down and enjoy the scenery?

For years, the prospect of cycling or walking the 213 km of un-used railway line from Queanbeyan to Bombala has been entertained, but it was only recently that the Snowy Monaro Regional Council completed a feasibility study into the proposal, bringing it one step closer to reality.

The council has extended the time that the Monaro Rail Trail Draft Feasibility Report will be on public exhibition, so you can have your say until 22 January.

Completing the trail has a $48 million price tag for an unpaved trail made from compacted gravel, with an additional $10-15 million to pave the trail with asphalt.

The feasibility study acknowledges the massive outlay for the community but looks to other established trails such as the Otago Central Rail-Trail in New Zealand as examples of how local tourism can benefit from national and international visitors seeking off-the-track tourism.

Trail towns will be financial beneficiaries

There’s the potential for a huge boost to the tourism market for towns on the trail. Photo: Friends of Monaro Rail Trail Facebook.

It is forecast that the Michelago to Bombala section could inject $19 million into the local economy each year, and the Queanbeyan to Bombala section could be worth a $24 million a year in additional expenditure.

The report says that a large portion of the cost would be in restoring old bridges.

“There are approximately 1900 lineal metres of existing bridges, with several long structures, including the 390-metre long bridge over the Numeralla River. The cost to transform these bridges to make them safe and suitable for cyclists, walkers and other users add considerably to the overall cost of the trail – but these bridges are the quintessential features that make rail-trails as popular as they are.”

A bridge near Bredo

A bridge near Bredo along the trail is one of many. Photo: Friends of Monaro Rail Trail Facebook.

In order to move ahead with the project, the council would have to establish that the trail could not be restored as an active railway line.

“It is evident that should it be proven feasible that a train could be re-established on the corridor between Queanbeyan and Bombala, a trail could not share the same corridor as that train service,” the report says.

However, it’s unlikely that a modern train would follow the same path as the historic line, considering it was set down for a much-slower steam train and constructed with manual labour.

Many other possible roadblocks to the project going ahead have been considered in the study, including emergency access, the threat of fire, loss of privacy for landowners, the cost of fencing the trail, weeds and biosecurity and “interactions between nervous livestock and trail users with dogs”.

It’s anticipated that the proposed trail would be used by recreational cyclists, walkers/hikers, horse riders (where permitted), joggers, trail runners, people in wheelchairs, people in mobility scooters (gophers), parents with prams, school groups, clubs and families.

Overall, the feasibility study concluded that aside from the enormous challenge of funding the project, there are no insurmountable obstacles to the Monaro Rail Trail going ahead.

The consultants point out that the large cycling base in Canberra/Queanbeyan, including new Queanbeyan suburbs of South Jerrabomberra and Tralee, will use the trail as a commuter trail, as well as a long-distance recreation trail.

“When compared with other rail-trails assessed in NSW and Queensland, each individual section of the proposed Monaro Rail Trail rates highly. This is mainly due to the presence of a town (with services) at both ends, wonderful scenery along the way and proximity to potential users/markets,” the report concludes.

For more information, head to Snowy Monaro Regional Council and follow Friends of Monaro Rail Train on Facebook.

Original Article published by Elka Wood on About Regional.

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Capital Retro2:06 pm 29 Dec 19

“Did you know that there is a ride, walk rail trail in Gippsland…..”

Oh goody, let’s all move to Victoria then.

It would make a great cycling and walking trail. However this has been discussed for many years. Twenty or more years; maybe more? Still nothing has happened. It’s that needing an act of Parliament that is likely the main problem. Many farmers are against it too, because they think they now ‘own’ the rail corridor. In fact a meeting about this MANY years ago had many farmers against it. Some very weird reasons were given as excuses too why this should not go ahead. This is one of those weird reasons, which was related to me by someone who was at the meeting. If a family was cycling through, it would not be suitable for children to see the bull mounted onto a cow.
A group of us visited an old railway station when we were confronted by a farmer who claimed we were trespassing, as he now owned the rail structure. I said to him, “Well that is interesting, I didn’t know the necessary act of Parliament had been passed to allow you to own this. When did this happen?” Of course it hadn’t been passed.
Unreasonable land owners will be a problem.

Capital Retro9:12 am 27 Dec 19

“They could easily build underpasses or cycle bridges.”

When you say “they” you really mean “us” and have you any idea how much it would cost to build them?

Capital Retro6:47 am 27 Dec 19

“world class attraction? LOL”

It would be unique in the summer with flies and snakes.

rationalobserver10:28 am 26 Dec 19

It would be a “biosecurity” nightmare, and we all know how “biosecurity” is currently being used as a big stick in ways that it was never imagined when the laws were enacted.

Says someone who apparently has not worked in the Primary Industries.

rationalobserver12:41 pm 27 Dec 19

Quite the contrary, and I understand the importance of it in some circumstances, but if you are honest you will agree that it has taken on a life of it’s own and has spawned a whole tribe of public servants whose job it is to think up new and innovative ways of intruding into people lives to solve non existing problems. I can see the protocols for crossing from one property to the next using the rail trail as an example of that.

It would be fantastic if this rail trail were to be built, but I wonder if it will end up like the proposed Bungendore to Captain’s Flat rail trail. Doesn’t look like that one will ever happen, unfortunately, even with partial funding allocated. Such a wasted opportunity.

All it would take is for a NSW tourism minister to visit the Victorian highlands and see the rail trails in action, and the Bombala route would be started the next day. Even the Gippsland trails are great.

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