The Monaro Rail Trail aims to connect Queanbeyan to Bombala, through the Snowy Monaro.(Supplied)
Plans for a 214-kilometre rail trail through NSW's south-east will be drawn up after local councils agree to work together on the project.
- • The Monaro Rail Trail proposes to create a 214 kilometre cycling and walking track through the Snowy Monaro
- • The trail will use the disused railway corridor from Queanbeyan to Bombala
- • A detailed plan of the trail is being developed in order to apply for grant funding to build it
The Monaro Rail Trail project aims to transform disused rail corridors from Queanbeyan to Bombala into a path for cyclists, walkers, charity rides and disability scooters.
The group behind the idea, Monaro Rail Trail Inc, last week signed a memorandum of understanding with the Snowy Monaro and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Councils, allowing the three parties to proceed with developing detailed plans for the trail.
It's considered the first formal agreement for the project.
"It's really formalising the arrangements we've had basically over the last 18 months," the group's president Ken Lister said.
Planning for the proposed trail has been divided into three main sections: Tralee to Michelago, 11.5 kilometres south of Nimmitabel Railway Station to MacLaughlan Meatworks, and Bombala to Jincumbilly.
It will run through towns like Bredbo, Chakola, Bunyan and Cooma.
Two consultants have been sent out to inspect the old railway lines to create a trail development plan, which will then be used to formally apply for grant funding through the NSW and federal governments for the build.
"The outcome of that, with cost estimates and route details, will be incorporated into a business plan."
'Huge potential' for tourism
Rail Trails are becoming an increasingly popular concept for regional and rural communities with abandoned railway lines due to their potential to become a tourism drawcard for country towns.
Rail Trails Australia currently lists 12 established rail trails in NSW, including the 21-kilometre Tumbarumba to Rosewood trail in the Riverina.
Four other trails in NSW are partially opened, while 18 others are looking to be developed, including those in the New England and Northern Rivers regions.
According to Rail Trails Australia president Damian McCrohan, the Monaro Rail Trail will provide an economic boost to the region.
"There's a huge potential with this rail trail," he said.
"Cyclists can't move as fast as driving through, so they like to stop. They need to recharge."
Project will help economic development
If the Monaro Rail Trail is successful in submitting its plans and gathering funding, it will be considered one of the longest rail trails, at one of the highest altitudes, in Australia.
The group behind the project estimates that $50 million will be needed to build the entire trail.
There's a lot of work ahead, but supporting businesses in towns still recovering from the Black Summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic has become a major motivation for the Monaro Rail Trail group to see the project through.
"There's a great need for economic development, particularly in the Bombala area," Mr Lister said.
"There are good people down there struggling with drought, bushfires, COVID, and this would be probably one of the biggest economic booms to be able to keep the Bombala community going."