Table of Contents
Benefits of Rail Trials in Australia
Barriers to Development
Stakeholders and Support Groups
Rail trails offer convenient access to various regions within Australia. This is attributable to the minimal traffic and gradient challenges of the trails. However, rail trails require substantial government support in funding their construction, as well as, their continued maintenance. This is so because; lack of maintenance deteriorates the quality of construction hence accelerating the rate of wear and tear. Therefore, assurance of government funding in these development projects translate into project success by producing high standard rail trails.
For this reason, this feasibility study seeks to analyze the proposed project of the Upper Molonglo Rail Trail that runs from Bungendore to Captain’s Flat. It will highlight the benefits obtained from the successful implementation of the project; hence determine its economic viability. The study also seeks to analyze previous successes of rail trail projects to forecast the effects of the Upper Molonglo Rail Trail on the community. As such, this study offers insight on the utilization of funds in rail trail projects in the development stage, as well as, their maintenance after completion.
Construction of rail trails follow along an old railway line or an operating railway line. Their distinction involves the history of the railway line in which construction takes place, as well as, the level of grading (Hasham 2014). The trail’s intended users included cyclists, walkers, and horse riders. At first, cyclists became the most common users of rail trails to connect to the interior parts of Australia. This was so because the eased vehicle traffic along the trails and level gradient made them a safe means of transport. It is apparent that the construction of trails occurs under strict guidelines for quality assurance especially in terms of the gradient (Railtrails Australia Inc. 2006). In modern-day Australia, the emergent trend of recreational cycling has created the need for upgrading the trails to facilitate this activity and prevent their deterioration.
In brief, the history of the rail trails traces back to the 19th Century during the gold rush. Mineworkers used the trails to push cart while transporting gold to various regions. However, the use of these trails became dormant after the era but has lately become a centre of attraction for tourists; thus, the government seeks to revive them. The proposed Upper Molonglo Rail Trail Project seeks to take advantage of the unused rail line offering beautiful scenery (Krause & Bay 2014).
The Proposed Route: Status
The rail trail connects the two areas; Bungendore and Captain’s Flat in rural NSW near Canberra (Dwyer 2014). It is reported that the old railway line connecting the two areas ceased operations approximately 40 years ago; hence some of its infrastructure needs replacement. The steel railway line remains intact up to this day; thus, it acts as a guiding structure for the placement of the rail trails. The trails will ideally follow the abandoned railway line along the same route previously used by trains (Rail Trails Australia 2006). The railway lines also contribute in maintaining a low gradient on the trails to facilitate its use by cyclists. In addition, the railway stations remain erect although they have been leased to private owners through renewable lease agreements. These offer guidelines to the project developers on areas to establish stations with facilities such as restaurants, motels and shops among other facilities required by trail users.
Moreover, the bridges along the railway line will facilitate the project since the trails can utilize the bridges and save on construction costs. Particularly the bridge over Molonglo River connecting Hoskins town and Captain’s Flat functions well and it provides a panoramic view of the lovely landscape. It is also worth noting that the goods sheds along the corridor still exist along the areas where cargo trains offloaded their luggage. Besides, the brick culverts incorporated along the railway line remain functional, preventing flooding in the surrounding areas. These will save construction costs by enabling the rail trails to run above the culverts; instead of building new ones. Finally, the weighing bridge at Captain’s Flat remains intact; thus, conserving the history of the railway line and its operations. Therefore, the railway station, steel rails and the weighing bridge conserve the history of the railway line that contributes to tourist attraction in the area.
Concisely, the railway line in focus begins at Bungendore located near Lake George and possesses several attractive geographical features. It passes through the countryside with a view of the beautiful landscape offered by the geographic features. As such, rail trail users will comprise a large number of tourists who visit the region for recreational purposes. Besides, the railway line acts as a connecting path to the countryside residents and promotes access the extensive countryside.
The second geographical feature found in this region is the Molonglo River Valley which offers a spectacular view along the rail. It is located a few miles from Bungendore village and the bridge enables people to cross Molonglo River. Tourists use the bridge constructed across the river to enjoy the surrounding scenery (Dennis 2010).
On the other hand, the railway line passes through forested hills covered by indigenous vegetation and animals that graces the environment with a sense of nature. For instance, the Lowden Forest Park offers a spectacular tourist attraction, consisting of rare species of trees and wildlife.
Moreover, the expansive pastureland marks the surrounding areas of the railway line where livestock feed and use the abandoned railway line as a connection between one paddocks to another. Flood plains are also visible when travelling along the rail track where some farmers leased land for farming purposes.
Molonglo rail trail offers an opportunity to increase the number of tourists that frequent the railway route. Bungendore is located a few kilometers from Canberra, a well-known town for cyclist tourism. Therefore, development of the trail will promote this mode of tourism in the region by offering more space for cyclists (Weston & Mota 2012). In addition, the gradient of the trail offers a safe ground for cyclists and walkers; thus, encouraging more cyclists to visit the region. For instance, cyclists will be able to hold their competitions on the rail trail and this will promote cyclist tourism in the country (Thistleton 2014).
Secondly, Bungendore village holds a rich history in the numerous historic buildings and other artwork. For instance, the Woodworks Gallery reflects the culture of the people entertaining tourists while offering refreshments, food, and accommodation. Besides, the regular transport services offered in the area also facilitate the ease of movement to and from the area.
Moreover, Captain’s Flat offers mining heritage that began in the gold rush era and facilitated the construction of the railway line. The area possesses mines that tell the history of the region and acts as a key tourist attraction. Therefore, maintenance of this heritage will attract more tourists to the region to enjoy the rich history offered by Captains Flat. On the other hand, the Molonglo River Valley attracts tourists to the region and holds the potential to attract more people in the region (Thistleton 2014).
It is also apparent that, the proximity of the rail track to Sydney offers it a competitive advantage and attracts more tourists to the region and the beautiful scenery increases the potential of the rail trail to attract users from all over the country. From entrepreneurial lens, the trail will attract the establishment of more businesses along the trail to serve the visitors. For instance, accommodation facilities particularly attract tourists to spend more time on the trail and visit several attraction sites. Therefore, hosting overnight visitors expands the economy of the region since the expenditure of visitors increases with the duration of their stay.
Benefits of Rail Trials in Australia
The construction of rail trails along unutilized and abandoned railways offers several benefits for the community. Foremost, it promotes the growth of businesses along the route and encourages the emergence of new investments. The economic benefit emerges from the large number of potential customers using these routes.
Reports from health records indicate that rail trials in other localities in Australia serve as wellness sites. The health benefits obtained from the trails occur due to the improvement of fitness and leisure facilities offered by the rail trails (Weston & Mota 2012). In these areas, trails offer a substantial ground for joggers, walkers, horse riders, as well as cyclists, which improve the health of the participants and encourage a healthy lifestyle (Gordon, Zizzi & Pauline 2004). Research shows that every $1spent on recreational activities on the trails yields a medical benefit of $2.94. Therefore, medical benefits to the country’s GDP amount to $5000 to $7000 annually, whereas the society reaps an economic benefit of $850 to $2550 annually. This lifestyle change facilitates reduction of obesity burden that costs Australia approximately $1.3 billion per year. In addition, the safe environment offered by the rail trails values life upwards at $46000 per year. This statistical life value considers the rate of amortization at $1.1 million per life. Adopting the cycling lifestyle families reduces expenditure on purchasing motor vehicles; thus, enabling households to save $5000 to $16000 annually (Gordon, Zizzi & Pauline 2004).
Some of the landscape projects included in the construction of the trails maintains the beautiful natural environment in the region covered by the trails. Fire management near the rail trails benefits with the improved traffic movement and the convenience bridge reconstruction. As a result, the upgraded rail tracks promote tourism along the route as tourists visit to enjoy the beautiful countryside view (Gordon, Zizzi & Pauline 2004). This aspect is reaffirmed by investment reports that indicate that rail trail construction creates approximately eight jobs annually; thus, promoting employment for people in the region. In this scenario, job creation is attributable to the wide range of activities along the route that require varying levels of skills; hence requiring employment of additional workers. Research shows that every $82,000 spent along the route creates a new job for the rail trail workers. As such, the project offers the opportunity for the investment in supporting services such as restaurants, motels and banking institutions. These activities facilitate the implementation process involved in the project execution. They also facilitate the users of the rail trail by offering convenient basic services for their comfort.