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NEW South Wales is missing out on the growing cycling tourism market because it is hamstrung by old legislation stopping rail trail developments.
That's the message a new group of rail trail enthusiasts is taking to Macquarie St, and it appears politicians from all sides are listening.
Tim Coen is spokesman for the newly formed Rail Trails for NSW group and said cyclists are travelling to Victoria and New Zealand because there are no rail trails in NSW.
The group is planning an official launch outside Parliament House and Minister for the North Coast, Don Page will be among the guest speakers.
They are also hopeful of getting Premier Barry O'Farrell to attend along with the ALP's spokesman for regional affairs, Mick Veitch, as well as representatives from The Greens and Fred Nile's Christian Democrats.
"We are selling more bikes than cars in Australia now. People are looking for good, safe roads in beautiful places," Mr Coen said.
He said since Victoria built its first rail trail in 1994, there were now 18 in that state and rail trails in every other state other than NSW. A study commissioned by the Alpine Council in Victoria estimated that cycle tourism was worth $250 per cyclist per day.
In NSW a rail line cannot be de-commissioned without an act of parliament for each line. In other states they can generally be closed at the discretion of the minister.
Mr Coen said that was one of the reasons NSW was lagging behind and they were hoping to get the legislation changed to speed up the process for possible rail trails such as the Casino to Murwillumbah line.
He also said they wanted to make sure that the corridors were kept in public hands.
Minister backs Northern Rivers Rail Trail
MINISTER for the North Coast Don Page said he was "very supportive" of the rail trail proposal and the Casino to Murwillumbah line would attract tourists from all over the world.
"You could argue it passes through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world," he said.
Mr Page said the feasibility study into the North Coast rail trail proposal should be on his desk sometime in April.
It will include costs, benefits, possible sources of funding and advice on whether it could be developed in stages.
Mr Page said he believed funding for the project should be secured up front to make it a "truly regional facility". It could then be developed in stages. He also said one of the requirements of the study was that the corridor remain in public ownership, should there be a possibility of returning train services in the future.
This article first appeared on www.northernstar.com.au
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