Image for The Viability Report has yet to be formally released ...

September 2017 saw the arrival of Launceston and North East Railway’s first train, Railcar DP14, into the north-east where it will undergo extensive refurbishment and non-destructive testing of the wheels and axles – a must for accreditation.  40 metres of rail line was built by volunteers on a property at Karoola upon which the Railcar now sits.

The $50,000 state government funded viability study has been completed, as has the Launceston and North East Railway business case, which will easily stand scrutiny.  After nearly a month in the government’s hands, the Viability Report has yet to be formally released. 

Perhaps its findings are inconsistent with what the government wanted?

Whereas the veracity of the tourist and heritage rail proposal has been subject to close scrutiny the cycle trail proposal has not.  So let’s give it some.  Reflecting on the plans for a Rail (Cycle) Trail, the idea was conceived about mid 2013 during Tony Abbott’s prime ministership and, of course, “Polly Pedal”, a great initiative for people to ‘get on their bike’. 

But that era has passed, as has the impetus. 

Looking back then, 65 cyclists per day to Scottsdale was indeed a questionable estimate but now it’s close to ridiculous.  65 cyclists per day is 455 per week.  Considering it would take leisure riders about three days to reach Scottsdale, that would mean 1365 cyclists occupying the track on any given week.  That is a figure difficult to grasp, particularly as there are about eight cyclists per week making it from Launceston to Scottsdale now.

How do these figures compare with the current use of the trail from Scottsdale to Billycock Hill?  They don’t.  What has boomed in lieu is mountain bike riding which, during the weekends and events, fully occupies Derby and other venues. 

This is the growth cycling sport and these riders would hardly be challenged by a trail with a maximum gradient of 2.5% and a minimum radius of turn of 81 metres.

The Northern Tasmania Development report of February 2014 leading to a grant of $1.47 Million from the National Stronger Regions Fund, quotes $20,000 for safety fencing.  The necessary pedestrian safety fencing for the 90 metre Karoola Bridge alone is $460/metre plus fitting. 

Going over the construction notes for the railway itself, there are many cuttings, one has a shear drop of 40 metres between Karoola and Lalla; there are two drops of 18 and 24 metres at Denison Gorge where the trail itself would be reduced to less than two metres, and there are numerous sections where the drop exceeds 9 metres.

You see, the proponents didn’t walk the track, did they?

Dorset Council’s estimate of “$12,000 to $15,000” for annual repair, maintenance and weed control of the trail is not reflected in the mainland experience.  Recently, the volunteer team managing the Great Southern Rail Trail have announced that the cost to maintain the rail trail’s 77 kilometres is around $120,000 per year, plus additional capital works of around $30,000 annually. 

They are attempting to hand it over to the council as they have run out of money.  A quote from Launceston and North East Railway’s Ralph Berry: “The maintenance alone will bankrupt the Dorset council because once the rails and sleepers are gone the embankments will collapse along the edges requiring continuous attention from work gangs.”  Further, a quote received from the company that sprays the Tasrail network, Coastal Weed Spraying (using the existing rail structure), is $32,600 for one of two annual sprays required on the north-east line. 

Thus far, from Karoola to Wyena there are 113 landowners bordering the railway line.  Of these, 109 vehemently oppose the cycle trail.  So tell me again about the public engagement strategy showing support for the cycle trail?

Somebody is not doing their homework. 

If the trail proposal goes ahead, the Dorset ratepayers will have their hands in their pockets for the maintenance costs of the entire length of the line through to Coldwater Creek, that is 91 Kms for time in immemorial.  And the Rail (cycle) Trail won’t start until 13 Km from Launceston. 

How does that work?  Time to speak up!