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After a decade of impassioned debate, the council has finally given the green light to a $11.9 million rail trail project between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek.
Tweed Shire Council last night voted to accept an $11.9 million tender for the project, which will see part of a disused railway line removed to make way for a bike track.
The planned project, part of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, has sparked fierce support and opposition since it was first mooted more than 10 years ago, with many lobbying for the return of the train service that ceased in 2004.
Change of plansTweed Mayor Chris Cherry said the council was only informed yesterday that the funding was conditional on the tracks being dismantled.
"We were advised yesterday by staff that Infrastructure NSW had informed them that, if we wanted to do an off-formation rail trail (a trail running beside the train tracks), that would be considered a variation to funding, and they would not be approving a variation," Cr Cherry said.
"That is an issue that has been brought up at the last minute so, yes, that certainly influenced our decision," she said.
The section covers 24 kilometres from Murwillumbah train station via the villages of Stokers Siding, Burringbar and Mooball, including 18 bridges and two tunnels.
The rail trail project has attracted impassioned support and opposition since it was first mooted more than 10 years ago.(Supplied: Tom Rayner
)The New South Wales government has contributed $7.8 million to the project, with a further $6.8 million from the federal government.
It is part of a larger proposal for a rail trail running the full 130-kilometre length of the disused Casino to Murwillumbah branch line.
In December, Richmond Valley Council adopted a draft master plan for a section of rail trail running from Casino to Bentley, which has been funded to the tune of $7.5 million.
Community group considers legal actionTom Rayner, from the We Can Ride Together community group, said they were disappointed by the decision to dismantle the tracks, and had not ruled out taking legal action against the council.
"We offered a win-win solution, where the rail trail could be built beside the tracks, which would respond to the great community concern for saving the tracks," Mr Rayner said.
Richmond Valley Council has given the green light to a rail trail along the section of track running from Casino to Bentley.(Supplied: Northern Rivers Rail Trail
)However Tweed Shire councillor Reece Byrne, who voted in favour of the rail trail tender, was singing the project's praises.
"It's the most positive way forward for jobs, tourism and opportunity for our shire for the next couple of decades," Cr Byrne said.
The head of Destination North Coast, Cameron Arnold, said the rail trail would be a game changer for the region.
"It's about dispersing our visitors and taking them out to our villages and hinterland, it will be astonishing," Mr Arnold said.
"The rail line used to be a connector between our towns and our villages and the rail trail will absolutely re-establish that connection."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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