Rail Trail advocates put the pressure on the pollies

THE best the Northern Rivers has to offer has been showcased in NSW Parliament where Rail Trail advocates have put the pressure on politicians to back a project, which the crowd heard had changed the face of country Victoria.

Plush green landscapes, Mt Warning, markets, villages and beaches were featured in a promotional video that gave decision-makers an idea of how the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor could open a new avenue for the tourism industry, should it be made over as a biking, hiking and horse-riding trail.

The concept is being marketed as way to draw tourists beyond Byron Bay and inject an estimated $40 million into the inland towns and 12 villages along the 136km stretch of unused track.

Lismore Councillor Glenys Ritchie travelled to Sydney for the Rail Trails launch where she told the crowd the plan would not only boost country cafes and motels but also give cyclists a safer, off-road option.

Victorian mayors who had embraced the concept in their regions boasted about the business opportunities it had created but warned the planning process was unlikely to be pleasant - disputes with farmers over fencing and the high number planning permits usually required were flagged as possible obstacles.

But Cr Ritchie remained optimistic.

She explained that unlike previous feasibility studies carried out on the corridor, the Rail Trails report was expected back as early as next month and though no official announcements had been made, she had heard "only good things" in parliament ranks.

While the trail could bring a much-needed boost for tourism, Cr Ritchie recognised the trail did not solve the region's transport crisis and dashed any lingering hope of bringing back the Casino to Murwillumbah rail link.

She conceded transport solutions has so far been flagged by the State Government as "long term" goals but said that as the restoration of the rail link- a project which would have cost an estimated $900million - was not an option and dismal bus services were not coping with the local need, she and Lismore MP Thomas George recognised it was time "for a bit more pressure".

Transport Minister Gladys Bererejiklian confirmed she had got the message that better bus services were a priority.

While she wouldn't be drawn on a timeframe she said she looked forward to next week's release of the Regional Transport Plan.


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