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A soon-to-be-released business case argues that the proposed New England Rail Trail will bring nearly six million dollars in tourist revenue to New England each year.
"This is a massive positive point given the economic struggles that a lot of our towns face both before and during this drought," New England Rail Trail Committee president David Mills said.
Armidale Regional Council and Glen Innes Severn Councils will receive Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI)'s business case in the very near future, Mr Mills said.
Both councils endorsed the development of the rail trail in November last year. Once the councils have have had time to digest the information, Mr Mills said, the document will be on public record.
"The business case highlights positive economic outcomes for the New England Region, its towns, villages, businesses, and local communities," Mr Mills said. "There is also a great deal of documented evidence of social and health benefits."
The rail trail. Map supplied.
The Great Northern Rail line from Armidale to Glen Innes has been disused for more than three decades; the proposed 103 km rail trail along the corridor is expected to bring 15,000 new day-trippers and 14,000 overnight visitors each year.
These visitors, the business case argues, would bring $5.77 million in tourist dollars to the region each year after four years of operation.
An estimated 37,000 local users would also use the trail for walking, hiking, and cycling.
Disused railway stations between Armidale and Glen Innes provide great opportunity to develop trail-related businesses, such as cafes, bike hire, heritage displays, and be a general drawcard for the enthusiast, Mr Mills said.
The business case found these stations are possibly the best restored and maintained along any stretch of disused railway corridor in NSW.
The annual maintenance costs of the New England Rail Trail will be about $95,000, based on data from Indigo Shire Council for their Victorian rail trails, the business case states.
"This is minimal compared to sporting fields, swimming pools, and parks and gardens in our region," Mr Mills said.
Armidale Regional Council spends $5.1 million to maintain sporting grounds, $2.9 million on parks and gardens, and $1.03 million on swimming pools each year. Glen Innes Severn Council spend $579,000 each year on their swimming pool.
If councils were gifted the steel and sleepers, following the precedent set for the Riverina Highlands trail, they could sell them to pay for maintenance costs.
New fencing along the edge of the six metre corridor and fencing closer to the trail would give farmers grazing access to the 'remnant' corridor, the business case also argues.
The business case was crowd-funded; the New England Rail Trail Committee thanked the residents and businesses that supported the business case.
"It has been a tremendous response and show of support from the local community," Mr Mills said. "We're delighted that so many businesses and individuals have donated in these very tough economic times to see such a wonderful opportunity occur."
This article first appeared on www.northerndailyleader.com.au
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