MEMBER for Paterson Meryl Swanson hopes Labor's $200,000 pledge to build the terminus of the Richmond Vale Rail Trail at Kurri Kurri will "kick-start" the long-awaited project.
Ms Swanson announced the pledge at Log of Knowledge Park, where the proposed trail would end, alongside Cessnock deputy mayor Melanie Dagg on Tuesday.
The funds would go towards the installation of solar lighting, signage, toilets, a miners' memorial and one kilometre of paved track.
"This is a little way of starting it at the Kurri end and getting the councils involved as well," Ms Swanson said.
The 32-kilometre trail, which would start at Shortland and link with the old Richmond Vale line at Hexham to continue to Kurri Kurri, runs through three council areas, three federal and two state electorates.
The project was estimated in 2016 to cost $14 million.
A independent feasibility study predicted it would bring $5.2 million into the region each year through day trips and overnight stays.
Ms Swanson said the trail had a string of benefits but more planning needed to be completed before further funds could be committed.
"Newcastle council have done an outstanding job," she said.
"They have spent, I think, around a million dollars on this project already doing a lot of detailed work and planning.
"Especially over the area of the wetlands where the rail trail would need to traverse."
City of Newcastle released concept designs for the Shortland to Tarro stage in 2017 and has been preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the wetlands section of the trail.
The council moved to form a working party with other stakeholders late last year to progress the project.
Lake Macquarie and Cessnock councils have since nominated representatives in anticipation of the group's first meeting.
A City of Newcastle spokesperson said on Tuesday that the working party would be formed in July.
The spokesperson said the council expects to submit a development application and supporting EIS for the project "by mid-2019".
Federal Labor last month committed $17 million to a stage of the 132km Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which will run from Casino to Murwillimbah via Byron Bay.
The funding would come from Labor's proposed National Bike Paths Strategy, a $260 million pledge the party announced in recent weeks to upgrade cycling paths across the country.
- Working party to progress Richmond Vale Rail Trail (2018)
- On trail of another ecotourism winner (2017)
- Walking and cycling cemented in region's plan (2016)
- Cyclists and conservationists welcome progress (2016)
- Newcastle council to move forward with rail trail (2016)
- Richmond Vale Rail Trail gets $30,000 (2015)
- Minmi's hidden lifeline (2015)
- New Hunter cycleway brings $5 million benefit (2014)
- Cycle route has tourist promise (2013)
- Cycle trail plan 'back on track' (2013)