The great debate over whether the rail corridor should be transformed into a rail trail for walkers and cyclists is gathering steam among our southern neighbours. Despite the proposed 210km New England Rail Trail extending from Armidale through Tenterfield to the Queensland border, however, custodians of the historic Tenterfield Railway Station have yet been asked for their input.
For the record they’re against strongly against the proposal, fearing a trail of pedestrians and cyclists will severely impact the operations of the Tenterfield Railway Museum. The prospect of more ‘walk in’ tourism is no inducement, with the museum enjoying strong growth in visitation and wary of losing this momentum should the rail corridor be repurposed.
The Tenterfield Railway Station Preservation Society was formed in 1991 following the closure of the station. Due to the group’s efforts the Railway Museum has become a major tourism attraction, arguably one of the best of its type in the state.
“I can appreciated that a rail trail could act as a major tourist attraction in other areas,” society spokesperson Ian Unsworth said.
“As a tourism destination we feel the museum, however, will not lose out by not supporting a rail trail in this area.”
The railway museum attracts around 6500 visitors a year, with numbers increasing 5-10 per cent annually. Sadly locals make up few of that number, despite access being free (for the time being) to encourage Tenterfield residents to enjoy the resource on their doorstep.
“It’s part of the heritage tourism concept of Tenterfield,” Dr Unsworth said.
“We’d rather not see that impacted by a rail trail.”
Other rail trail concerns held by the society are the high cost of converting the railway corridor to a rail trail (estimated at $80,000 to $110,000 per kilometre), and the poor state of many bridges along the route.