Train advocate and co-chair of the Northern Railway Defenders Forum Siri Gamage has put up a GoFundMe page seeking donations to pay for legal advice.
“I am fundraising to obtain legal opinion about the legitimacy of NSW government’s policy of supporting councils to convert regional rail corridors (non-operational) to rail trails (bike and walking paths),” the fundraising page reads.
“If there are grounds for a court case, we need to engage a solicitor and a barrister for the case.”
“In New England two councils are actively sponsoring New England Rail Trail (NERT). This requires the removal of existing rail infrastructure.”
The ongoing controversy about the proposed Rail Trail, which has never had majority public support, has intensified following a recent Glen Innes Severn Council vote to proceed to the next stage. The conversion of disused rail lines for rail trails was simplified under legislation passed last year that allows the line to be leased for 30 years.
“Under the Rail Trail Bill 2022, NSW government’s transport asset holding authority or Transport for NSW can lease a non-operational rail corridor to a council for up to 30 years to build a rail trail,” Mr Gamage says.
“I believe this is detrimental to the people’s right to have a proper and functioning public transport service by rail.”
“It will also put our region backward in terms of inter-regional connectivity. Transport is the key to attract more population, business and industry to regional NSW.”
“It is important that we help our disabled, elderly, sick, isolated and unemployed regional residents to travel to various destinations in comfort by using rail.”
“They face numerous difficulties to attend to medical and other matters over the border in Queensland.”
“As a civilised society, such residents who deserve our care and attention should not be neglected anymore.”
Mr Gamage describes the appeal for donations on the now 8 year old contested issue as ‘urgent’. This is possibly due to a social media post by Armidale Mayor Sam Coupland yesterday that said “it’s all coming together” and the next stage would be to finalise the lease with Transport for NSW.
Over $5000 has already been donated to the appeal, with a target of $250,000.
The fundraiser can be accessed at https://gofund.me/46389602
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