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A Legislative Council inquiry into the future of the North-East rail corridor has supported the establishment of both a heritage railway and a rail trail.
The committee recommended the establishment of a rail trail for cyclists between Scottsdale to Lilydale Falls and a heritage railway between Launceston and Lilydale.
Upon negotiation with TasRail, the heritage railway could be extended to the section of rail line between Launceston and Turners Marsh, the committee found.
Launceston Independent MLC and inquiry chair Rosemary Armitage said the committee hoped the rail and bike proponents could work collaboratively and complement each other.
"If you were a tourist you could get on the train in Launceston, get to Lilydale, have a lovely time in Lilydale then start riding and get to Scottsdale," Ms Armitage said.
Map of the government's proposed allocation of the North-East rail corridor. Picture: supplied
"It could really be a great tourism venture for our state.
"We have two very passionate groups. We put some recommendations there to allow them both to test out their viability."
Ms Armitage said any areas of the corridor that are not used should be retained where possible and where it was safe to do so to leave it open for future possibilities.
"If the train proves very successful there may be an opportunity to use some of that track," Ms Armitage said.
The report recommended Launceston and Lilydale as the departure and destination points because of their existing facilities that could cater for railway passengers.
"Turners Marsh and Coldwater Creek are not ideal departure and destination points for a heritage railway due to lack of facilities, access and services," it said.
"Extending the railway beyond Lilydale to Scottsdale would be challenging and expensive to develop due to the length of the line, bridge repairs, ancillary costs and requirement to install level crossings, all to the required standards of the National Rail Safety Regulator."
The inquiry found both the heritage tourist railway and the rail trail have the potential to generate economic benefits for Tasmania.
"A co-located rail trail and heritage railway is not achievable for the entire length of the corridor," the report said.
"Rail trails provide a safe and accessible environment for all levels of cyclists and other users.
"Concerns raised by some adjacent landholders were not supported in other jurisdictions where rail trails have been established."
Huon Independent MLC and inquiry deputy chair Robert Armstrong said the committee found a long heritage rail route was not needed to be successful.
"The one in Yarra Valley was only 4 kilometres and the one from Launceston to Lilydale is not as long as what the rail people wanted, but we think it would be more feasible for them with less rail to maintain," Mr Armstrong said.
McIntyre Independent MLC Tania Rattray said this report, with opportunity for both sides to deliver their views on how they see it going forward, has been a helpful process.
"It certainly has been a challenging situation," Ms Rattray said.
Dorset mayor Greg Howard said it was disappointing the inquiry had taken the best part ten months to come up with a similar proposal to that put forward by the state government mid-last year.
"I'm sure the members of the Legislative Council have learned heaps about rail trails and heritage rail but as far as I am concerned, and the Dorset Council is concerned, we haven't learned a thing," Cr Howard said.
Bicycle Network Tasmania public affairs manager Alison Hetherington said, now the inquiry has concluded, the state government should quickly introduce the legislation needed to transfer the corridor management from TasRail to Dorset Council.
"The federal government then needs to step up and renew its funding commitment to the project," Ms Hetherington said.
This article first appeared on www.theadvocate.com.au
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