Legislative Council supports rail corridor compromise


• The Government’s proposed allocation of the North-East rail corridor.

By Daisy Baker,
August 07, 2019

THE Legislative Council’s final report into the future of the North-East Rail Corridor has echoed the state government’s compromise solution, supporting the establishment of both a heritage railway and a rail trail.
The committee has recommended the establishment of a heritage railway between Launceston and Lilydale, and a rail trail between Scottsdale and Lilydale Falls.
Legislative Council North East Rail Corridor committee chair Rosemary Armitage said hopefully the report will satisfy proponents of both projects.
“It would be really good if they worked together, because as we’ve seen in other states, they can complement each other,” she said.
Dorset Council mayor Greg Howard said council supports the recommendations.
“This report pretty much mirrors what was proposed by the State Government last year,” he said.
“We supported that compromise solution at the time and we still do.”
He said the next stage from here will be for the government to appoint corridor managers.
It’s proposed Dorset Council manage the corridor between Scottsdale and Lilydale Falls, and Launceston and North East Railway (L&NER) manage from Lilydale Falls to Coldwater Creek.
Launceston and North East Railway chair Wendy McLennan said it is unlikely they will appeal the Legislative Council’s recommendations and findings.
“I’m pleased that we’ve been given access to the main line into Launceston, which will help Launceston businesses,” she said.
“I think we’ve got to sit back now and prove we’re capable of doing it.
“We’ll work with TasRail to get access to the main line and get accreditation.
“Legislative council went to a lot of trouble to hear what we have to say so I think we will just work with what has been recommended.”
The final report recommended that “where possible, the rail trail is co-located within the rail corridor and that rail infrastructure is not removed unless necessary for construction of the rail trail.”
The report further stated that a co-located (side-by-side) rail trail and heritage rail is not achievable for the entire length of the North East Rail Corridor.
“A heritage railway extending beyond Lilydale to Scottsdale would be challenging and expensive to develop due to the length of the line, bridge repairs, additional ancillary costs and the requirements to install level crossings, all to the required standards of the National Rail Safety Regulator.”
However it has been recommended that where possible, any sections of the North East Railway, particularly between Lilydale and Wyena, that are not repurposed for a rail trail are retained so it could be restored in future should the heritage train become viable.
In terms of the government funding on the line for the rail trail project, Mayor Howard said they will not be able to meet the construction completion deadline of March 31, 2020 so the funding is in doubt.
“There has been some confidence from inquiry committee that the funding could be saved but I am doubtful of that,” he said.
“I have spoken to Bridget Archer and the other senators about the possibilities of them setting aside funding, transferring it to another funding stream or say making an allocation to us in the next budget.”
He estimates the construction process would take around 12 months, which they could begin as soon as they receive the necessary proposals.