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New England Rail Trail Business Case

Client: New England Rail Trail Inc.
Year: 2020

The Great Northern Rail line between Armidale and Glen Innes covers a distance of 103kms and has now been closed to trains for 31 years.

The economic viability of returning passenger and freight services to this section of track, and beyond to Tenterfield has been examined, and was shown to be unfeasible. Even with quite optimistic assumptions about passenger numbers and freight tonnages, returning a train service produced a benefit-cost ratio of just 0.5, indicating that the discounted costs outweighed the discounted benefits by 2 to 1.

This proposal would see the 103km rail corridor between Armidale and Glen Innes remain in public hands but be converted to a rail trail to boost local tourism. Armidale Regional (ARC) and Glen Innes Severn (GISC) Councils would assume responsibility for the rail trail including annual maintenance.

The anticipated capital cost of the project is $19.8M, with annual maintenance costs of around $154,700 to be largely offset by trail user donations and community volunteer input..
NSW has 3,139kms of non-operational country rail lines which are maintained by the John Holland Group at a cost of about $1.65M per year or $525 per km (Parliament of NSW 2015, Transport for NSW 2018).

At present the rail corridor between Armidale and Glen Innes represents a unutilised asset, which is costing the NSW government about $54,140 per year. If converted to a rail trail, Armidale Regional and Glen Innes Severn Councils would take over responsibility for corridor maintenance. Grazing by adjoining landholders and contributions from community groups is expected to contribute to reduced maintenance costs.

Cycling is now the fourth most popular physical activity for adult Australians and is attracting people to the region who would not normally have visited.

It has been calculated that the New England Rail Trail will attract 15,000 new day visits and 14,000 new overnight stays to the region annually, as well as being used by around 37,000 local residents. This will generate more than $5.8M of additional visitor expenditure each year.
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The additional expenditure will lead to the creation of 26 new full-time equivalent jobs once flow-on effects are included (REMPLAN 2019).

Key beneficiaries will be:

  • The economies of the Glen Innes, Guyra and Armidale region through increased tourist expenditure and increased economic diversity;
  • The economies of several smaller communities along the rail route including Dumaresq, Black Mountain, Ben Lomond, Llangothlin and Glencoe;
  • Local residents having new job opportunities;
  • The New England-North West region with a new attraction generating increased visitation and longer stays;
  • The state of NSW via reduced tourism expenditure leakage – less visitors travelling interstate or overseas to use rail trails;
  • The NSW Government through the elimination of the responsibility to maintain the 103km rail corridor;
  • Local residents having an additional recreational facility;
  • NSW as a whole with additional opportunity to attract visitation from outside the State.

When the health benefits are included in the benefit-cost analysis, and assuming only 25% of visitors to the trail are from outside NSW, the project produces a BCR of 6.04.

View the New England Rail Trail Business Case:
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