Rail trails as tourism drawcard

THE hundreds of kilometres of abandoned railway tracks across the Monaro have the potential to be a major tourism drawcard to the region.

There are moves to transform abandoned railway corridors across NSW, including those from Queanbeyan to Cooma and Cooma to Bombala, into rail trails.

Rails trails are shared paths along abandoned railway corridors, where the tracks have been removed and replaced with road base, gravel or sealed surface. There are more than 100 scattered across Australia and have encouraged growth in rural communities as well as produced health benefits in those areas.

The range of trails in NSW is limited to short ones in the Blue Mountains and Newcastle area.

This is because an act of parliament is required for lines to be officially closed, allowing the land to be used for other purposes.

The group Rail Trails for NSW are campaigning to the state government to allow rail trail development on disused government rail corridors and is holding an official launch at NSW Parliament House in Sydney on March 26. Cooma-Monaro Shire Council mayor Dean Lynch said rail trails were an interesting concept that could benefit tourism in the area.

"Potentially you could have a food and wine trail along the river and at the smaller villages," he said.

"[But] it has a very long way to go."

The concept has been supported by the Cooma Monaro Tourism Advisory Committee and the council.

Council will provide a letter of support to Rail Trails for NSW for their launch.

Rail Trails have been very successful in Victoria. It is estimated about 40,000 people visit north east Victoria's rail trails each year. A La Trobe University study found Easter visitors spent on average $244 a day; and the level of the economic contribution to the region in terms of the 'trickle down' throughout the community the multiplier effect rose to $447 per person per day.

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