“It’s magnificent”: Tweed community embraces new Northern Rivers Rail Trail
When the Tweed section of Northern Rivers Rail Trail opened on 1 March 2023, Jackie Forbes couldn’t wait to ride it. “I drove one-hour from the Gold Coast to Murwillumbah to be among the first to cycle the trail.
She described the trail as “magnificent”. “The bridges are fantastic, and the scenery is beautiful. It’s been well planned and thought out. I’m impressed.” “The facilities are fantastic. There are so many places to stop for a spell and chat. We’ve met so many people sitting here for a minute.”
Northern Rivers Rail Trail (Tweed section) project and official opening - 1 March 2023
A trail for all abilities
The Tweed section of the Rail Trail is a 24 km shared pathway from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek.
“It’s for everyone—cyclists, walkers and runners,” said NSW Public Works (NSWPW) Regional Projects Coordinator Alex Manning. “The Tweed section includes 26 bridges and passes through two tunnels, one of which is over half a kilometre long.”
The $14.3 million project was funded by the NSW and Australian Government. NSW Public Works project managed the project, working with many stakeholders. “One of the main reasons the project was successfully delivered was the commitment to the project and good cooperation between Tweed Shire Council, NSW Public Works, Hazell Bros and stakeholders,” said Infrastructure NSW Director Restart Project Management Office Julie Paton.
Ms. Paton, the NSW Treasurer’s representative on the project, was involved in overseeing the project from start to end. “It was very exciting to see another great regional project funded from Restart NSW Fund progress from a wonderful idea and vision to a well scoped and developed project that will provide many opportunities and benefits for the whole community,” she said.
Working with and for the community
The project was very complex, said NSWPW Project Manager Clint Nittolo. “We had some major obstacles throughout the 13- month construction period, which was the major flooding event last year,” he said.
In February 2022, the Tweed River at Murwillumbah peaked at 6.5 metres, marking one of the biggest floods in recorded history. The region flooded again in March 2022, stopping construction of the Rail Trail.
For two months, Hazell Bros redirected their efforts to help with the community clean up. Another success factor was that everyone bought into the project, said Mr. Nittolo.
“We could all see the bigger picture for what the Rail Trail could bring to the local community but also the tourism for the Northern Rivers.” Building the Rail Trail, which runs alongside 77 properties, involved a lot of engagement with the community.
“We had to work closely with the adjacent landowners to ensure we could get materials to the track,” said Hazell Bros Construction Manager Daniel Rose. “One of the positive aspects of the job was how well those communications went.
“Most of our team are from the Tweed, and that combined with the buzz of the local community, made the project such an exciting one and rewarding.”
‘It couldn’t be better’
Community feedback has been overwhelming, said Northern Rivers Rail Trail Project Director Iain Lonsdale.
“Not only in terms of the built asset and how good it is but about those, our contractors and the people that have been involved in its construction,” said Mr. Lonsdale, who works for Tweed Shire Council.
“We’ve repurposed an asset that served a real purpose over 120 years, which today serves a different purpose that we can all benefit from.” At the opening event, former NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the Rail Trail will be an economic boon for the region.
“The project will drive thousands of visitors to the region each year and inject tourism dollars into local economies,” Mr Toole said.
“We have created a world-class scenic trail for an estimated 82,000 visitors each year along a 24 km stretch of stunning hinterland. Whether you take the Rail Trail by foot or by bike, this project is taking tourism in the Tweed up a gear.”
Stage 1 of the Rail Trail will eventually link all the way to Casino, passing through Byron Shire, Lismore and Richmond Valley areas, stretching 132 km.
“It’ll be great when we can go the whole way,” said Grant Newbie, who was riding half the trail on its opening day. “It’s fantastic; it couldn’t be better.
It’s very peaceful. It gives you another look at the countryside at your own speed. “I’ll definitely come back to ride the full Rail Trail.”
View more information on the Northern Rivers Rail Trail