Key hails success of 'inspirational' rail trail

Cyclists enjoy the Otago Central Rail Trail between Hyde and Daisybank. Photo by John Fridd
Cyclists enjoy the Otago Central Rail Trail between Hyde and Daisybank. Photo by John Fridd
The New Zealand Cycle Trail grew today with the Otago Central Rail Trail officially joining the cycle network as one of its Great Rides.

The countrywide trail was an idea that sprung from the Government's 2009 job summit, and is expected to eventually include a network of cycle tours stretching the length of the country.

The Otago trail, which runs 150km from Clyde to Middlemarch, today officially became one of the network's Great Rides, with a plaque unveiling ceremonies held at the start and finish of the track this morning.

Prime Minister John Key, the man behind the national cycleway, said the Otago trail brought in 20,000 cyclists each year who contributed more than $12 million to the local economy each year.

"The Otago Central Rail Trail is a local economic success story and provided, in part, the inspiration for developing a national network of cycle trails,'' he said.

Mr Key said today that 60 percent of the national cycleway's 2400km of off-road routes had been completed.

Four of the 18 planned Great Rides, dedicated trails in scenic locations, have been completed, and Mr Key said another three more would open in the next three months.

Among those who joined in with today's celebrations in Otago was Green MP Kevin Hague.

"The Otago Rail Trail did the hard work of converting the sceptics, opening up the potential for cycle tourism opportunities throughout our beautiful country,'' he said.

"I have personally ridden the rail trail a number of times and have witnessed first-hand the development of a great cycling experience and the rejuvenation of local communities that has gone hand in glove with it.''

Mr Hague said the Greens would continue to work with the Government to help set up cycling infrastructure for the national trail.

"In this case, however, the hard work had already been done. All we had to do was turn up with the new signage and unveil it,'' he said.