Oberon to Tarana Rail Corridor Committee (OTRCC)

                            Strategy Document as at March 2005

1. Background

The Oberon to Tarana Rail Corridor, 24 km in length descending 350m in altitude from 1,113 m on the
Oberon Plateau. Services were suspended on 1 October 1979 around twenty five years ago. During its
operation it was one of the slowest rail trips in Australia with a steep rail grade and many bends to
negotiate on the picturesque journey through the Tarana Valley. There is now broad community
support to keep the corridor intact and to manage it for a range of community benefits. The corridor is
currently land dedicated for railway purposes, but investigations have revealed willingness by the New
South Wales government and the managing body Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to
consider making this available for public use.

A committee (OTRCC) formed under Section 355 Committee of the Local Government Act 1993)
(OTRCC), made up of representatives of community groups with interest in the project, is now in
place. The job of this committee is to; examine the best options for Oberon, gain on behalf of The
Oberon Council (TOC) control of the corridor, conduct a feasibility study, develop an overall plan and
recommend a new committee to commence development of the corridor.

OTRCC is made up of a maximum of two members from each interested community group. At
present, the community groups represented are:
     The Oberon Museum
     Oberon Rail Group
     Bicycle Users Group
     Walking and Trail Group
     Landowners Group
     Tourism Group
     Council
Some groups that would have an interest but are not yet listed and represented are:
     Business Group
     Timber Industry Group

Our Vision is a walking/cycling track alongside an operating historical rail line linking Oberon with

Our strategy is to first develop a Feasibility Plan by gaining the views of all people and groups in
Oberon, enlist the support of the community and then develop a long term plan and vision for the
project. This part of the project has already commenced. The Plan will:-
     Determine lease or conversion mechanisms and thus public liability cover for the corridor
     Examine and cost various options for meeting community demands
     Ensure all stakeholders needs are fully considered
     Provide a sound professionally researched basis for cost benefit analysis and funding
     Stage the project for practical and realistic implementation
     Make safe any risk management requirements for public use
     Examine all environmental impacts and benefits
     Determine the management structure and ongoing management needs
     Develop a long term plan and vision to drive the project to a successful outcome
Our objectives are to examine how and when we can:-
   Preserve and promote the cultural and rail heritage of the area
   Feasibly upgrade the line for heritage rolling stock use
   Provide a safe off road multi-use pathway
   Eliminate unsafe usage of the corridor (trail bikes in particular)
   Provide public facilities and interpretive signage along the corridor
   Manage the corridor for the protection of threatened species and the enhancement of
      biodiversity, control of weeds and the repair of degraded sites
   Construct fencing and gates as necessary to accommodate the needs of rural neighbors
   Promote the resulting ‘Railtrail’ and Heritage Rail concept to the wider community of the
      Sydney basin, Blue Mountains and Bathurst City through our partnership with Blue Mountains
      Tourism and Heritage Rail Operators such as Lithgow State Mine Railway, 3801 Limited and
      the Zig-Zag Railway Co-op Ltd.

2. Benefits

   Railtrails make communities better places to live by; preserving and creating open space, encouraging physical fitness
   and healthy lifestyles, creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation, strengthening local economies, protecting the
   environment and preserving culturally and historically valuable areas.
   Trails create healthy recreation opportunities by providing people of all ages with attractive, safe, accessible and low
   (or no) cost places to bike, walk, hike and jog. In doing so, they make it easier for people to engage in physical
                                                                             ‘Fact sheet – Benefits of Trails and Greenways’

   Improved personal, family and community health
      Lack of exercise and resulting obesity is the new public health crisis. Victorian experience
      shows by providing safe, quiet, scenic opportunities for exercise, Railtrails are encouraging
      people (50-60% locals) of all ages to exercise more due to the easy grade and safety of the
      pathway. The finished Oberon to Tarana corridor will have these health benefits as well as the
      potential for special events such as the RTA Big Ride, local school cross country sports events
      and iron man/woman events.

   Disabled access
      The concept dimensions make this experience accessible to many categories of people with a
      disability and will provide a unique opportunity for everyone to enjoy the rural and natural

   New Regional Tourism Product
      Given there is no similar Railtrail in NSW, the Oberon to Tarana trail will be a significant new
      tourism destination in the Blue Mountains Region. Oberon, within a two and a half hour drive,
      is well located to take advantage of the enormous Sydney market potential. The project fits
      three of the four experiential pillars (Nature, Heritage and Indulgence) as well as the Unique
      Selling Point (USP) of the new Blue Mountains Regional Three Year Tourism Plan. Proximity
      to accredited "Operators of Railways in NSW" at Lithgow, Cowra and Sydney will facilitate
      operation of rolling stock for tourist use without the need for expensive investment in carriages
      and locomotives. It is anticipated that the first level of railway activity will be with "Section
      Cars" and trikes.

   Heritage Conservation and Appreciation
      The proposal will give users first hand experience of the Oberon Pioneer Rail Line and the
      impact that it had on the development of the area. The trail will start (or terminate) at the old
       Oberon Railway Station now the Oberon and District Museum, providing the museum and its
       exhibits with increased exposure and patronage. This will provide a significant boost to an
       existing community asset and allow for accelerated conservation work to rail infrastructure. The
       trail will finish (or start) at Tarana accessing CountyLink train services and allowing direct
       interchange of rolling stock with the main Western Railway line. The corridor also has
       connectivity with National Trails.

   Improved cash flow for business, more opportunities and more jobs
      Businesses catering for visitors to both Oberon and Tarana will experience greater patronage
      and cash flow, and there will be flow on benefits to other businesses and opportunities for new
      businesses. After only two years of operation, the Murray to Mountains Railtrail (around three
      and a half hours drive from Melbourne) is attracting between 60 and 180 users per day on week
      days, and up to 1600 people per day on some weekends and public holidays injecting a
      surveyed average $51 per user per day into the local economy. Four new businesses have
      started in the area to cater for cyclists. Oberon too will have opportunities for new businesses
      such as cycle hire/sales/repair; coffee shops; rail/bus interchange to convey rail passengers to
      Jenolan Caves & Katoomba; overnight accommodation etc. resulting in improved employment
      opportunities. The local timber industries and accredited private rail operators could be
      encouraged to reconsider the use of the rail corridor as a means of transporting raw and finished
      product alongside a walking/cycling trail. This could lessen the number of heavy vehicles on
      local roads and reduce road maintenance costs. It also conforms with State Government plans to
      boost container movement from trucks to trains.

   Nature Conservation and Appreciation
      Public control will ensure the corridor remains intact, providing a wildlife corridor between
      remnant bush and grass land communities, over a range of altitude, enabling animal and bird
      movement and improving genetic diversity. The proposal will provide protection for the
      Grassy Box Woodland which is a threatened ecological community in the area, and there are a
      number of known threatened species of plants and animals (such as the Bathurst Copper
      Winged Butterfly) that use this community as habitat. Fencing will provide protection from
      farm stock and, for the first time in over thirty years, regular management for the control of
      weeds will occur. The walking path, with appropriate motorized vehicle inhibiting structures,
      will enable visitors to view and interact with wildlife through a range of eco systems as the trail
      descends from the plateau. The rail group proposes evening wildlife tours down the line using
      open carriages during appropriate seasons.

3. Partners

This project is very much a partnership between the community and the Oberon Council, with Council
taking the lead role. A number of the partners (identified below by *) have the capacity to contribute
resources to the project.

The Oberon to Tarana Rail Corridor Committee has been accepted as a 355 committee by The
Oberon Council.
A Management Committee (drawn from the Council, community and stakeholders) has been set up to
oversee the development of an overall plan and ensure all stakeholders are involved. This management
committee is open to any interested groups not already listed.
The community is represented by but not limited to:-
        The Oberon Council **
        The Lithgow City Council (for Tarana residents) **
          The Oberon Plateau Tourism Association *
          Blue Mountains Tourism Limited *
          The Oberon Business Association *
          Oberon service groups such as Rotary, APEX and Lions etc*
          Oberon Timber Industry **
          Oberon, Bathurst, and Lithgow Bicycle Users Groups *
          Oberon and District Museum Society *
          Oberon Rail Group*
          Lithgow State Mine Railway*
          Walkers, joggers and birdwatchers etc
          Oberon Tarana Heritage Railway
   Stakeholders will include:-
          Landowners adjacent to the rail corridor
          NSW State Government agencies (a number have an interest in this project) *
          The timber processing industries in Oberon *
          Local emergency service organizations
          Oberon Museum and Historical Society and local and regional rail enthusiasts *
          Local Land Care groups and Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers *
          Local Schools, TAFE *
          Dept of Corrective Services Young Offenders program *
          Blue Mountains Tourism and neighboring tourism outlets *

   4. Achieving outcomes

Management Skills.
The Rail Corridor Committee is a duly authorized 355 committee of Council having all the professional
resources of Council available to it. Available to the committee as consultants and project managers are a
number of qualified professionals who will, with other local input, make up the Management Committee.
Oberon has an increasing number of professional families retiring to this area from Sydney. The project is
well within the skill resources available from within our own community.

      Relatively (for the overall benefits) low cost, low maintenance, low impact project with broad
       public appeal; with real tangible benefits to the environment, individuals (able to be used by all
       ages and abilities including the disabled) and the local rural community
      Historic rail infrastructure is largely intact
      A combined historical rail line and walking/cycling corridor so close to Sydney will be unique
      In other states Railtrails are well established; providing successful models, information and
       assistance via ‘Railtrails Australia’ and ‘Trails and Greenways’
      In NSW and other states, successful Tourist / Heritage Railways have been established from lesser
       beginnings and have succeeded in establishing successful business enterprises.
      The proximity to the Lithgow State Mine Railway has encouraged that group to offer backing in
       terms of "accreditation" and operational assisistance along with the provision of some operating
       trains when track restoration permits - this will be a big saving in insurance and operating costs.
      Oberon is part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area; is in close proximity to Sydney, the
       largest potential tourism market in Australia enabling us to target the immense potential of cycling,
       adventure and family based experiential tourism thus complementing our regional tourism plans
      Provides connectivity with National Trails and the Main Western Railway line.
    Some of the more important benefits may be hard to measure eg improved personal health.
    Landowner issues are still to be addressed and must be addressed to achieve the desired outcomes
    The inability to successfully place the corridor in public hands and/or a failure to negotiate a co-use
      or shared use outcome for the pathway in critical locations
    Inability to attract sufficient funding
    Loss of connectivity of the access corridor from third party intervention
    Provide a NSW precedent for the further development of rail corridor trails in the State
    Significantly boost local and regional tourism.
    Eliminate unlawful use of the corridor by trail bikers

    5. Contacts

Contact                                                        Phone          Email
Bruce Fitzpatrick, General Manager, The Oberon Council         02 63361100
Col Roberts, Bicentennial National Trail Coordinator           02 63328486
Bill Dawson, Councilor, Chair OTRCC                            02 63363160
Gary Taunton, Bathurst and District Bicycle Users Group        02 63328463
Wayne Cooper, Secretary, Oberon Plateau Tourism Association,   02 63363136
Secretary OTRCC
Rick Fletcher, Secretary, Oberon Tarana Heritage Railway       02 6336 1787

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