Victoria has set the national standard for creating cycling infrastructure out of disused railway routes. Image: Victorian Rail Trail

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Work To Start On 103km New England Rail Trail, But Not All Are Happy

Imagine a rail corridor that hasn’t seen a train in more than 35 years being transformed into a 100+km cycling path … it sounds a dream scenario doesn’t it.

This is the vision of Glen Innes Severn and Armidale Regional Councils, who want to revitalise the rail line between the New South Wales regional centres, the ambitious ‘New England Rail Trail’ project aiming to turn this aging, deteriorating and under-utilised asset into a magnet for tourism and local employment. Finance for the project has been secured, with a combined $12million Federal Government grant allocated.

In a recent meeting the Armidale Regional Council voted 6/4 in favour of starting work on Stage 1 of the project, a 9km rail trail between Armidale and Dumaresq.

But, like the recently opened Northern Rivers Rail Trail, the project has drawn strong local criticism with many people still campaigning for the return of a rail link between Armidale and Brisbane. 

A sketch of a section of the 100+ km proposed New England Rail Trail.

The Armidale Trains North group is speaking out against the rail trail claiming it would put an end to their vision for the return of a passenger and goods train service. Despite the reintroduction of the railway service being conservatively costed at more than $1.4B, the railway advocacy group are determined to fight on. After the recent council vote in favour of the project, opponents hope the September local government elections will offer an opportunity for the project to be overturned.

Projections for the cycling & hiking rail trail are impressive: it is expected to attract 15,000 new day visitors and 14,000 overnight stays each year, alongside usage by around 37,000 local residents. This surge in tourism has been forecast to generate over $5.8 million in additional annual visitor expenditure and create 26 full-time jobs, as detailed in a 2019 REMPLAN report.

Bicycling Australia are strong supporters of this project and of all new infrastructure for safer cycling. We are keen to hear your thoughts on the proposed rail trail – have your say below.



  1. The original concept was for a 103km trail but grants awarded by the previous Federal and State Governments now only cover 31.8km, including 9.8km running from Armidale to Dumaresq, rather than 67.5km to Ben Lomond, and Glen Innes to Glencoe (22km), reduced from the original 35.4k to Ben Lomond.
    Both councils have voted to commence planning and addressing ‘rail trail framework’ requirements (2022 Rail Trails Bill). Funding extensions have already been granted. If they don’t satisfy these milestones including demonstrated community support, the rail trails, now 31.8km will not eventuate.

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