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Lismore to consider trial rail trail to Eltham

A file picture of a rail trial. Lismore council will consider a report next week that outlines the next step for the proposal.

A file picture of a rail trial. Lismore council will consider a report next week that outlines the next step for the proposal.

Darren Coyne

Supporters of a rail trail between Casino and Murwillumbah are proposing a trial section between Lismore and Eltham.

The NSW government has offered up to $50 million for the construction of the rail trail and auxiliary structures, and has called for expressions of interest to be lodged up until 31 March.

A report to be considered by the Lismore City Council next Tuesday outlines the direction Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc is expected to take with it submission.

NRRG Inc formed in May 2013 as a not-for-profit community group.

It includes local philanthropists known as the Sourdough Group, community volunteers, local government councillors and staff, and leaders of the tourist industry.

The Lismore council has already resolved it supports the rail trail. However the council has requested a draft copy of the EOI prior to it being submitted to the NSW Government.

That report is not yet available, but council staff said it was anticipated that the EOI would highlight ‘significant advantages to the region’.

Staff quote a report from engineering consultants, the Arup group, that states the rail trails offer opportunities for short, medium and long rides and walks.

‘Eltham represents a significant destination for visitors and locals alike,’ the Arup report says.

‘The award winning Eltham pub would make an excellent destination for visitors who use Lismore while they explore all that our region has to offer.

‘Developing a short ride and walking trail from Lismore to Eltham as a trial section would not only enhance tourism in the area but would also address a cycling safety issue for the students attending Woodlawn College.

The report to councillors also outlines concerns raised at the council’s December meeting, including contamination, fencing and funding issues.

‘The Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. recognises contamination as a risk and proposes testing during project design/construction,’ the report says.

‘The NRRT Inc. can take some comfort from Tweed Shire Council’s initial investigations in which they advise that the Murwillumbah to Tweed Gallery corridor has not revealed significant levels of contamination and have shown there is little likelihood of harm to users and the environment during construction and operation of the project.

‘Further investigations into potential contaminants associated with past use of the rail corridor would be considered as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

‘If any traces of contaminants were present, the risk would be further reduced by the proposed method of construction for the rail trail, by placing a pavement layer over the existing railway formation.

‘This would provide a barrier between the rail trail and any contaminants.’

As for fencing, the Arup report estimated fencing would cost about $7.7m over the 132Km of rail corridor.

‘The Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. advises that fencing will be a cost to the project and will be addressed during consultation and in the design phase.’

‘The Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. have also been advised that council’s support is in principle and that council does not intend to offer financial support either now or in the future.

‘However the State Government will look favourably on EOI’s that include other sources of funding or can leverage other funding in addition to the government funding.’

Councillors will be asked to support a recommendation to allow the general manager and Mayor Jenny Dowell.


6 responses to “Lismore to consider trial rail trail to Eltham”

  1. Jens Krause says:

    No surprise. the strategy is clear. A death by a thousand cuts. And the perpetraitors are rewarded. I question the philantropic nature of the Sourdough group. Where is the common interest in all this? Where is the larger vision? Put the rail trail next to the line and you can show some respect to community values.

  2. ken says:

    This is a disgrace and the fools that have encouraged this absurdity, should hang their heads in shame !
    A total step backwards to demolish infrastructure, in order to devolve to horse and buggy mentality that will be used by ‘horsy devotees” all two or three dozen on the Northern Rivers.
    This area is desperately in need of forward thinking and what do we get ? horses and bicycles ! And Thomas George.
    G”)

  3. Damon says:

    Ken, a comprehensive transport study was commissioned in 2013 by a well respected global engineering and transport planning firm ARUP. They found it was not feasible to reinstate rail services on the old line. Interestingly the current corridor only serves 40% (predicted to drop to 25% as the population moves to the coast) of the population and it does not serve the major population areas of Tweed heads and Ballina. You can read the study at http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/Projects-Completed-Projects/projects-casino-to-murwillumbah-transport-study. Given the findings of this study I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for trains to come back.

    A rail trail would be a fantastic use of the corridor. They have proved to be hugely successful in other states and countries and have revived local towns and communities by creating jobs and business opportunities for locals. Not to mention the health and recreation benefits for the 1000s of people who would use the trail. A step backwards would be to keep debating trains for another 10 years while the corridor deteriorates into oblivion or gets sold off.

    Hats off to the pollies and others for showing vision and not pandering to a very vocal minority who want trains back at all costs even if the trains don’t actually serve the majority of our population.

  4. geoff bensley says:

    Eltham will have a huge capark built to allow people from Goonellabah,Wollongbar,Alstonville and Clunes to leave their cars .The working people can get on the train to go to work in Byron Bay or Murwillumbah (to then get on a bus to Tweed Heads).
    Another huge car park in the centre of Bangalow will pick up the BallinaCumberland and Lennox Heads workers.It will be a multistorey car park building in Bangalow as space is limited.
    The other option is to have a huge fleet of buses picking up these same people close to their homes and dropping them off at the train stations.
    I don’t know ,it sounds like a lot of inefficient double handling and will detract from the heritage feel of these towns.
    Maybe a dual track electrified train system located in the existing Pacific and Bruxner Hwy corridor with bus interchange stations and large carparks located at the highway exit points would be a quieter ,less intrusive and more efficient way.
    But of course we will still have the nostalgics who like slow winding train travel ,just leave home 30 minutes early and get home 30 minutes later each day.
    Sorry but I dream of a train system that is faster than car travel .

  5. Mathew says:

    Under my studies and research at UQ. I am working through my Masters degree with the professors and academic researchers of transport corridors, integration, sustainable development and social activities.

    They found that, in similar context to many European countries to consider use intra-urban cycling infrastructure is to encourage people not to use car as defaut use. All research case studies have these intra-urban cycleways have distance under 10km each………….on a FLAT terrain. Which is different to Northern Rivers where the landscape is very hilly and mountainous. I am a little worried about the social side ofour communities for encouraging people to cycle more than cars is because of improbable terrain we have. People from hilly suburbs and towns of Goonellabah, Alstonville, Teven, Wollongbar and North Lismore wouldn’t be convinced to use the cycleway to Eltham.

    This is expensive problem to the infrastructure. The research we determine up here at UQ is to focus on social sustainability for all transport practices. We found that light rail works very well in lower population areas such as Northern Rivers as the case study from Netherlands’ regional context is familiar. Population around 300,000……but tourism is big difference.

    So, I am concerned about the name of ‘rail trail’ would disencourage people to support the idea due to many factors like I mentioned about hilly terrain in addition climate and property/wildlife protection. Its’ something we are not considering this into a professional context to deliver the project because of priorities, geographical, socioeconomical and social sustainability does not take consideration.

    The three pillars of sustainable development appears to be not being considered in many projects in Northern Rivers recently. Likewise, unsustainable tourism industry in Byron Bay leading to deteriotation of community culture, danger to homeless people (social justice), potent to climate change impacts and lack of infrastructure. Byron Council have no money. This is clear that tourism industries doesn’t pay their taxes to get infrastructure maintained. This is not a revenue raiser. We need to think clearly where those industries pay their taxes towards to?

    We don’t want to eliminate the communities voices from our communities in way of unsustainable road/car dependecy spending, private tourism industries development and urban sprawling. People wants public transport, but rail trail appears to be a major hot topic coincide with CSG in our election promises which is out of the people’s voices of our communities. This fails to meet the needs of the communities; thus no sustainability. We should focus on the positive, helpful and proactive approaches that create stimulus and active development to our life in the region such as urban regeneration, increasing height limits, multi-use centres, public transport infrastructure such as rapid transit ways and train corridors, and public governmental services.

    ——————————————
    Now I am speaking on my behalf about the rail trail vs public transport debate. I am carefully speaking about this heated debate. The line between Casino and Lismore will be considered to be reinstated after the election as promised by the Greens. Between Lismore and Byron Bay should reconsider change of plans into multi-use corridor and remodel the rail track that suits to current demand and technology. Track must be realigned to suit faster train speeds. Rail trail alongside and on tracks partially will be feasible in this section. Byron Bay to Ocean Shores should be heavy rail, but I believe that the line towards Murwillumbah should become a rail trail because I can’t see any benefits coming out of Tweed Valley to have a train. From Ocean Shores, heavy rail connection to Gold Coast Airport via Pottsville and Tweed Heads.

    Now, I think many communities and their leaders have spoken about potential new line in Ballina. I understood that Lismore to Ballina and Byron corridor is busiest in the region due to peak hour and Ballina Airport traffic. Having a rail station at Ballina Airport would be very feasible to meet the needs for the commuters to Byron Bay.

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