As a development that has been in consideration for several years, strategic assessments for a pedestrian and bicycle path along the disused tramway from Yass Junction Railway Station have been approved, with Council giving the go-ahead to source funding for a detailed design and go-ahead with community consultation.

 

Simply called the Yass Rail Trail, the path will connect the Railway Station to the Central Business District of Yass, at approximately 4.5 kilometres, culminating at the Yass Railway Museum. 

Yass Rail Trail would incorporate the tram line on Dutton Street into the CBD

Gabby Lucas, Manager of Media and Communications at Yass Valley Council summarised the report, and what to expect moving forward. 

 

“We’ve considered using and developing a rail trail on the tramway from Yass Junction Railway Station into the Yass CBD for a while now, over a number of years. Basically, it’s a proposed shared pedestrian and bicycle path and they want to use that tram-way corridor. They’re proposing using that as a basis, hence why they’re calling it a rail trail. We received funding last financial year to undertake the strategic assessment to see how much it would cost, structural assessments, heritage and indigenous studies, all of those things, so now that’s been done and we’ve received the final version of that assessment”, said Gabby.

Currently disused and deteriorating – the Rail Bridge would be restored as part of the project

This report also outlines the potential economic benefits, giving an estimated cost to construct the path such as concept designs, maintenance costs, identification of maintenance regimes, identifying if there is a benefit to users and how to quantify this, identify usage in numbers, what the trail may attract in terms of activities (economic and otherwise), opportunities as well as essential health, environmental and cultural considerations. 

 

The Assessment has provided potential outcomes and benefits for the proposed trails, including active transport use from Yass Junction to various locations across the Yass township, outdoor recreation including cycling, jogging etc which will provide both physical and mental health benefits, business opportunities, and perhaps most importantly the path will act as a connecting thread for the North and South sides of Yass, previously connected primarily through the Tramway Bridge and the bridge at Laidlaw Street. 

Northern Rivers example of how a rail trail connects visitors with local attractions

The potential economic benefit the Rail-Trail may bring to the Yass community has been estimated to be at $235,000 annually, through providing better foot traffic to local businesses. Estimated costs to construct the Rail Trail currently sit at $11 Million, with the upgrading of the Tramway Bridge as the largest cost component. Considerations have been made to maintain the heritage aesthetic during revamping. The estimated annual maintenance cost of the rail trail is $41,700. 

On why the Rail-Trail was an important project for Yass Council, Councillor and Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones summarised the perspective Council held, saying; 

 

“Council has been looking at ways to connect the north and south sides of Yass in a way that assists recreation as well as pedestrian safety. Ideally if this Rail-Trail is done, it will connect visitors directly from the railway station as pedestrians or cyclists all the way into town giving excellent access to the Railway Museum, the proposed Crago Mill Precinct, Yass Museum, Visitor Information Centre and playgrounds”,  said Mrs Jones.

The Yass Railway Museum Picnic is a popular annual event in Yass

Councillors voting on the Yass Rail Trail at the last ordinary meeting of the council, including Mayor Allan McGrath, Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones, Jim Abbey, Cecil Burgess, Cayla Pothan, Mike Reid and Kim Turner, were unanimously in favour of the project, as noted by Mrs Jones;

 

 “There was certainly unanimous support from councillors to push ahead with the next step. The community has been wanting to know what’s going to happen with the old Rail Bridge and how it’s going to be maintained or restored, and this is an ideal way to do that. It’s going to be a significant project to make that secure and passable for pedestrians, and in doing so that’ll protect and maintain a significant part of our heritage”.

 

No definitive timeline for the project has yet been given, with Council expecting to move forward with design concepts and a community approach as the next step in this development. 

 

Griffin Palen