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The concept of a Trail following the Rail was brought to the attention of Blue Mountains City Council in 1998 through the presentation of a petition, which included over 1000 signatures. The objective was to open one of several tracks, which follow the railway line, to public use as an off-road biking and hiking trail between Wentworth Falls and Mt Victoria. Several issues arose with this proposal. These issues included Sydney Water Catchment area, several non-integrated and stratified government departments, questions of ownership of the land adjacent to the railway line, safety - including the surface of the track, fencing, and gradients, environmental impact, as well as the the cost of building as well as maintaining another BMCC asset such as this track.
At the time, public access to the track between Medlow Bath and Blackheath already existed. However, the track between Katoomba and Medlow Bath went through Sydney water catchment land, but was still used illegally by commuting mountain bikers. This illegal use was necessary, as the Great Western Highway had extremely large amounts of heavy traffic on a very narrow road. The track to the west of Blackheath essentially followed an existing suburban street until it became railway land. Although car access had been developed and granted to rock climbers, early in the 1990's, by the late 1990's, there was a reluctance to grant similar access to cyclist and worse still a fence was erected half way along this strip to prevent any through traffic, hereby only allowing access from the west for climbers and their cars. A similar situation existed between Leura and Katoomba, where illegal bike commuting access was occurring along the southern side of the railway line. In this instance, this was occurring because the road trip between the 2 towns involve very steep hills, whereas along the railway line the gradient was extremely modest.
A public information campaign was launched through the Blue Mountains Gazette, as well as approaches to BUG's (bicycle user groups) in the Blue Mountains and Bathurst, schools, TAFE, outdoor communities, NPWS, as well as various Chamber of Commerce (esp Wentworth Falls and Lew Hird in particular), Blue Mountains Tourism as well as Blackheath and Mt Victoria community action groups. The former headed by Liz Bastian. Interestingly, both labor, liberal and some independent councillors and politicians mooted for the project. Surprisingly, the people who were least helpful were Bicycle NSW and the Greens!!!!
Correspondence was entered into with NSW state and Federal governments across many departments, including local sitting members, departments of transport, environment, health and tourism. Several meetings were held with many members of staff and people from the local community at BMCC, which were co-ordinated by Glen Sherlock. I personally invested a lot of my time investigating every plausible reason for constructing such a trail, by looking at comparative projects interstate and overseas, as well as investigating the nature of 'trusts' to take 'ownership' and maintain an on-going commitment to the maintenance and development of the asset.
Through continuous lobbying, the NSW labor government conceded the need for safe cycling across the Blue Mountains by agreeing to build wide cycling tracks along the highway during it's upgrading. The completion, in 2012, of the cycling track between Wentworth Falls and Bodington Hill is an example of this, and represents a vital link to the well frequented Andersons and Oaks fire trails between the upper, mid and lower Blue Mountains towns of Wentworth Falls, Woodford and Glenbrook respectively.
The effect : 1998-2013
BMCC received funding from the State Government , Dept Planning as part of the Greenspace Program to undertake the feasibility study which was completed in 2010. They again applied for funding from the same program in 2011 to undertake a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) for the trail which was completed in March 2012 and a Signage and facilities Plan was due for completion in June 2012. Both the REF and Signage Plan were requirements from the Dept Planning.
It was the intent of BMCC that during the next round of grants in September 2012 from the Greenspace Program that they apply for funds to begin construction.
BMCC also made application to the various State/Federal stimulus fund rounds without success until 2013.
After 15 years of campaigning, in 2013, Federal Labor Government make a funding announcement to develop the trail as far as Lithgow.
The Federal Labor Government today announced it would contribute $500,000 towards the construction of a new walking and cycling track in the Blue Mountains.
This funding is for the second section of the Great Blue Mountains Trail which will add 13.2 kilometres of new walking and cycling track linking the towns of Katoomba, Medlow Bath & Blackheath.
https://www.facebook.com/UpperBlueMount ... BesideRail
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One of the great things about the proposal is that rail paths do not usually have great undulations or twisting sections, can be great alternatives to busy roads. Often run through some lovely country too
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