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Commuter rail to Coolangatta is a must

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores. 

If the people who want to rip up the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line are so convinced there’s no community support for a regular commuter train service from Casino to Coolangatta Airport, to service eight out of ten of the north coast population centres and two million tourists, they wouldn’t need to spend so much time writing desperate letters full of misinformation.

As they’re unable to do the most rudimentary research the following may help them out: as reported in the Byron Shire Echo on the 10 June 2015, a petition with another 3,500 signatures was handed to Ballina MP Tamara Smith.

Northern Rivers Railway Action Group had also collected another 2,000 signatures-bringing the total number of signatures in support of a regular, modern, clean, safe, sustainable rail service sent to state parliament to a total of over 15,000.

These signatures were collected by locals from locals around the Northern Rivers.

Online petitions don’t count as they can be signed by people anywhere in the world.

It’s okay for people from Nimbin to want to rip up the line, they don’t experience the preposterous traffic congestion, carbon emissions, the stress and disruption to their daily lives as people on the coast and in Byron do.

Like Thomas George in Lismore, who almost lost his seat at the last election, Ms Smith understands the overwhelming community support for train services and the Greens have committed to not ripping up a valuable piece of public infrastructure, the rail lines, but support a bike path along side the rail line, such as the one on the Bellarine Peninsular in Victoria.

Regular train services on the line is the only hope of reducing the traffic congesting in Byron, and other coastal towns, that destroy the environment and quality of life.

It’s really hard to fathom why a couple of cyclists are so bloody minded about unnecessarily wasting over $75 million of taxpayers’ money destroying the line, when we can have both: a cycle path and train services.

What a handful of cyclists believe about the community support for rail services is academic anyway.

What train supporters are focused on is the three kilometers of line in Byron which has been repaired for just over $1m; not the $6 million per kilometer the state government claimed it would cost in their disgraceful $2 million ‘study’.

Best of all, it’s not costing taxpayers or ratepayers a single, solitary cent.

When the Byron train is running next month it will be very obvious what the community wants.

 


45 responses to “Commuter rail to Coolangatta is a must”

  1. Tim WB says:

    Well said Louise.

    It’s a multi-use public transport corridor; a train & cycleway/walkway can very easily co-exist.
    And, as you say, ‘a regular, modern, clean, safe, sustainable rail service’ is in everyone’s best interests.

    All power to you.

    tim.

    • Will Jeffery says:

      Its all over Louise, rail trail supporters are the majority, a rail trail is achievable and after 13 years we are tired of waiting for train supporters to achieve something, anything! We need to move on with Plan B now. Your Coolangatta fantasy is proof that there is no rationale left in the train debate.

      The trouble is that you need ONE petition, if you are to avoid questions about veracity and ethics, not one Hansard petition plus TOOT petitions(s) plus NRRAG petition(s) plus the petition handed to Tamara Smith in 2015. How many petitions are there? Did you just add them all up? What were the proposals? How can we know if any one person hasn’t signed all of them? Your letter is a classic example of the relentless ‘wrecking ball’ behaviour by the ARTG, the Anti Rail Trail Group!

      I will contact Tamara Smith about the petition just to check on some of the details, but I’ll have to wait until she gets back from her ‘self funded’ fact-finding mission to the Central Otago Rail Trail and the Queenstown Trail in NZ. No surprises what she will discover there; good for you Tamara, if you support the rail trail, I’m coming back to The Greens!

      • Jillian Spring says:

        There’s no need for Tamara to go to New Zealand to see the Otago bike track & it is just that – a bike track – totally different need compared to our train service need here on the fastest growing regional area outside Sydney. Lismore is a city but devoid of a train service – shame Nationals, Tweed is now a city & we are all supposed to ride bikes! Too bad for all the people who haven’t the time to ride a bike, dressed ready for work/wearing a helmet – too bad about the hairdo, dressed in a straight skirt outfit,  dropping a toddler off to a preschool. Come on, have some sense – with all their school gear, baby stuff, handbags, … riding the Rail trail to work is just totally ridiculous. The Rail trail is just that – riding bikes for fun, not for practical everyday stuff. Our train service is for both work and tourism and just plain enjoyment. Just think of all the people who need to travel but not by bike, just to hop on a train for a fun ride to a destination of their choice – not having to wait on someone to take them it’s called independence. Their choice, their enjoyment. Jillian

        • Petrus says:

          Jillian The rail trail might be used by some people for commuting but it is primarily indented to provide recreational opportunities, both for locals but especially for tourists and weekend visitors from the 3 million people who live just North. I am not familiar with the cycling infrastructure around Tweed Heads – on paper it looks like a lot more can be done. I can assure you though that particularity in Europe, but in other cites like Canberra and here in Ballina with reasonably good cycle provision a lot of people ride to work. In Canberra it is common cyclist taking their kids to preschool on the way to work, accompanying kids riding to school, and riding in work clothes to work (you ride slower to not get hot). All public service offices there are required under awards to provide showers and bike parking and private employers commonly do too. It is not the rail trail what will preclude the rail line being used for commuting purposes – it is the high cost of train travel that makes it impracticable. There is no way the people of NSW would want to go back to subsidising a rail service in the Tweed and Byron Shire – why should they when their are much higher priorities? Would you want to pay hundreds of dollars a year more in rates so theTweed Council can pay the the hundreds of millions of capital costs and the heavy subsidies annually that would be needed to build and run a train that would be used by only a small number of commuters? Read your Transport Plan and you will appreciate why its not viable.

          • Jillian Spring says:

            Petrus, I sure know a lot of mums who in no way would they be riding a bike to work, dropping children at daycare, school, showering at work – it is just not practical for the majority of people. In Canberra that is sure different to the country.
            The C-M train was making a profit. Jillian Spring

          • Jillian Spring says:

            Will Jeffery, Why I spoke about people riding to work on the bike track, is that is what Rail Trail people said. Great to ride you bikes to work & children to school. No, I did not say families would go on a train to do their grocery shopping. Say to Mullum, Byron, Mur-bah, Lismore, Casino to Lismore yes, that would work for people depending on their circumstances re transport – shuttle buses would be available to take passengers to Lismore CBD from the South Lismore station – an intergrated transport system.
            With children riding the RT as it is supposed to be a great idea – as so much of the railway lines are over flood areas on C-M, what would stop the children or even adults, going over the edge into the floodwaters? Also, all the brown snakes, black snakes, huge carpet snakes (very scary to a lot of people), funnelweb spiders, redback spiders, hairy grubs & all the other creatures climbing onto the railway tracks to get out of the flood waters pose a problem. The same going through the bush areas. Full of the same creatures. The track would have to be shut down I presume but they would still have a go at getting onto that railway & as we see people driving or trying to, through flooded areas, I can see people still trying to ride their bikes along the rail tracks during flooding! Jillian Spring

          • Petrus says:

            Jillian suggested my comments on mums cycling in the Tweed were not relevant because ” In Canberra that is sure different to the country.” Tweed Heads forms the southern suburbs of a city that is substantially larger than Canberra. If the Tweed had had the established cycling infrastructure that Canberra has had for 40 years, more people would ride to work and take their kids to schools etc. and in when it is built that will occur. On the matter of profit & subsidy of rail services. The profit depends on what is accounted for – that the line closed shows the full cost was not being accounted for and the investments were not made on the line to keep it operating – any business can be run at “profit” if you do not invest the future and run it into the ground. What we are told people want is not a service like that before 2004 but commuter services, and NSW commuters services are very highly subisidized. That can be worthwhile in Sydney because of the heavy externalities there of car use, the high population and the greater potential for a shift from car to train use. The economics are quite different in a rural area where a subsidized commuter train service would be more akin to a transfer payments from the people of NSW to a small minority of public transport users in a narrow corridor of one region, with little flow on benefit to others in the region.

    • Jillian Spring says:

      Agree Tim WB, Jillian

      • Will Jeffery says:

        Taking the kids to school? On a train? With all the stuff? How about coming home with the shopping? It’s a job for a car!

        Lets look at the new Elements train as an example of why your comments are so wrong. If you drive a medium sized car it will use 10 litres per 100 kilometres traveled. Assuming fuel costs $1.50 per litre that means a journey of 3 kilometres will cost $0.45 in fuel, $0.90 return. Compare that with a fare of $3 each way or $6 return, even assuming children travel for free you can’t escape the fact that the new train will cost more than 6 times the cost of driving, and where are the schools anyway, still quite a walk, taxi or bus ride away? They are nowhere near the railway stations, unless you are going to include a taxi or bus fare on top of that! My argument doesn’t even consider the convenience, security and comfort of private transport.

        If you add another adult to help with the kids and all the stuff it becomes $12 as compared to $1 adding a bit more fuel for the additional weight in the car. A group of 3 adults will pay $18 return. With this type of public transport, the poorer you are the more you need a car. It is no solution for people who are doing it tough! A single traveler might be able to make an eco-choice but it will be an expensive and onerous burden to do the right thing for the planet for pretty much everybody else.

        Strangely enough, 85% of the schools along the corridor would be less than 100 metres from the rail trail. The rail trail could reinvent the concept of kids riding to school on their bikes and if accompanied by a parent, it would mean quality time together for kids and parents with an inbuilt fitness regime as the by-product.

        The new train will be fun and powered by the sun, not a dirty diesel engine we are told and I wish it all the success in the world, though I’m not sure where you will find another mining magnate who would be willing to stump up the funds for any extensions, especially if there is no self-interest involved. Tweed, Richmond and
        Lismore might have to go it alone if Byron Shire would prefer to end up with nothing!

  2. Petrus says:

    If there was support for a commuter service on the line why did the recent survey on public transport not reflect this? Why did the rail service close after years of declining use. The rail trail supporters are offering an opportunity to use the corridor with a well researched plan showing its benefits. If others believe they can use the corridor for a non-subsidised rail service, fair enough,. But just as we now expect all new road development to make safe provision for cycles , so any rail use should be funding the parallel access to a lower cost cycle infrastructure that they are displacing (as is envisaged in the Byron Line proposals). Or are you happy for rail interests to destroy safe cycling opportunities the way the car users did with the road system in the earlier part of the 20th century? In respect of he suggestion of extending the line to Coolangatta. This is unlikely to happen – the reasons a well argued in the Tweed Transport Plan (which its mayor appears to be unaware of). But if it did there would be no point unless you did it on QLD gauge and continued that though the corridor – so you would need rebuild the line anyway. Whichever way it makes sense o use the corridor for the well thought through proposed rail trail; the cost of building a parallel bike path would be a quite small additional cost on top of the cost of implementation of any future rail service.

  3. Damon Mitchell says:

    So Louise what you are really saying is after 13 years of trying to get the train back all you and your supporters have achieved is a couple of petitions and a helicopter joy flight over the corridor by the Greens MP Lee Rhiannon (http://lee-rhiannon.greensmps.org.au/articles/helicopter-inspection-boosts-northern-railway-reopening-campaign)? Surely there was a more worthy cause that the Greens could have spend money on?

    No government in power has even come close to bringing trains back. The ‘disgraceful’ study you refer to was the ARUP commissioned feasibility study that not only looked at the cost of restoring the line but also what benefits a trail service would bring to the community in terms of passengers and freight. ARUP are a well respected international engineering and planning company that have worked on large projects including the extension of the London metro! They are well qualified in this area. I assume you call the report ‘disgraceful’ because you did not agree with the outcome? It is naive to compare the cost of restoring a 3km flat section in Byron with only one bridge with the cost of restoring the rest of the line that passes through ruggered and inaccessible country with dozens of bridges that have been removed or would need to replaced for a train service. Costs aside, the report found that the current corridor does not actually serve the growth population areas in our region and there is no demand for Freight. The last such service was a couple of rail wagons a week of carcinogenic fly ash to Murwillumbah and this ceased well before the line closed for business reasons.

    Ironically you accuse other groups of misinformation but isn’t Byron Bay is actually the only coastal town served by the line? How then would a train service serve the other coastal towns for example Kingslciff, Pottsville, Ballina etc? Are you also actually able to list the 8 out 10 population areas you claim the train would service? It would appear you and your supporters are actually providing misinformation to support your claims that we need a commuter train to Coolangatta. I know for a fact that the QLD Government has no plans to extend the GC line from Varsity Lakes to Coolangatta in the next decade.

    If you’d spent the last 13 years campaigning for better buses and even electric and gas bus services you would have achieved something. Bus services would benefit many more communities than the train including the good folk at Nimbin. TOOT supporters often argue that buses are uncomfortable and damage the roads!!! Talk about misinformation!! Why then are buses used in every major city in Australia? Their arguments appear to be based on nostalgia for the train and really little else.

    I support removing the line to create a world class rail trail that would bring economic benefit to our small communities and town along the corridor. If we do nothing for another 13 years there will be nothing left but rotten sleepers and rusty rails and the corridor most likely sold off. The northern part of the corridor is already difficult to find due to the regrowth and the majority of the bridges have been removed. Lets not let this stunning opportunity go to waste! It’s time to step aside Louise and TOOT supporters and let something achievable come from the corridor.

  4. marie lawton says:

    I am sorry Louise, but most of the line is already destroyed. The rail trailers want to restore the corridor to some sort of usability. At least we will keep the corridor.

    • Petrus says:

      I was interested to read the article in the online Ballina Advocate last week featuring you, Marie, and Tamara Smith , prior to Tamara’s trip to NZ to examine the Otago Rail Trail. Readers might like to visit the Advocate for a second article on the subject and watch her video blog showing some highlights of the trail and her enthusiasm for the concept (said readers should return to the Echo afterwards though!).

  5. Craig Simpson says:

    $1 million for the byron bay resort rail line is not comparable to building a fully operational rail line capable of running an XPT or Xplorer. No signalling is required due to only 1 train being in use, low speeds and I believe no level crossings. That utilised section of track required very little gardening unlike what is needed to be done along the rest of the Casino to Murwillumbah line. If the byron resort train is successful then maybe it might extend to ocean shores but don’t expect the NSW government to re introduce an XPT service along this route

    • Angie says:

      Extensive clearing was done along the 3km section, and yes there is a level crossing at Kendall st. The $1 million price tag also includes 2 new stations and restoring a major bridge over Belongil creek

      • Will Jeffery says:

        I’m very excited about the new rail shuttle especially as Jeremy Holmes from Byron Bay Railroad Company has said: “The Byron Bay train will run from solar generated power from the get-go”. I genuinely do hope that this train can live up to the hype but I’m concerned, according to their website: “it is technically feasible to convert the train prior to its first run in Byron Bay. Byron Bay Railroad Company has ordered the necessary components and materials and is awaiting their arrival”. It doesn’t fill me with confidence, how long will the delivery of the parts take?

        I imagine that the renewable energy feature will create a lot of interest in the shuttle and I think that visitors to the region will be keen to take a ride. Most importantly, it will be a wonderful additional feature of the Rail Trail (dare I say “The Bundjalung Way”). Who wouldn’t take a jaunty ride on a fun train powered by the sun as part of your rail trail experience.

        • Angie says:

          Apparently the solar panels are already fitted to the train shed and are being fitted to the train right now. BBRC have slfo sdid all along that the trail can go beside the train service

  6. neil mck says:

    Louise you get points for persistence – but that’s about it. Is it a matter of pride that you and your supporters cannot see what is so obvious to the vast majority ie there never will be a train on that corridor!? The only possible use is for a cycle/walk trail that would be attractive to tourists from all over the world – not just a “couple of cyclists” which is the standard TOOT putdown. It seems that your real agenda is to ensure that the corridor is lost, rather than concede that the battle is over and that those “handful of greedy cyclists” have won the day.
    Louise, why don’t you devote your considerable talents to more important and winnable issues.

  7. Craig Simpson says:

    I have no issue with the Murwillumbah line being used for a rail trail because it will never be operational along it’s entire length ever again. High speed rail has more chance of happening. I would however like to see something along the lines of the goods line in Sydney where a parkway was created while giving homage to the rail past. Along the length of the trail, the rail should be kept exposed and concreted into place to note the history of the trail.

    As I mentioned earlier I think the byron bay resort train could be extended to ocean shores if viable. The GC rail line will most likely not extend much further then where it ends at the moment. The light rail has some hope of extending into the tweed but not much further.

  8. Petrus says:

    I think it is also worthwhile pointing out once again that the Casino to Murwillumbah line only serves 40% of the population of our region – adding on a connection to Coolangatta would not raise that to 80%. It does not serve the fastest growing population areas along the Lismore Plateau Ballina Coast crescent, nor does the corridor pass through the fastest growing region, the Tweed Coast; importantly too these are the area with the the fastest growth on public transport dependent elderly people. The regional and Tweed Shire transport planning documents recognise these population dynamics and the movements of people in the region and through to the Gold Coast. The documents do so because they focus first on people and their transport needs, rather than focussing on an object – the railway. Focus on public transport dependent people and where they live and want to go and the logic will lead you to spend limited funds on improving the bus services, which are better able to meet the public transport needs of many more of the people in the region, not just the minority along the corridor .

  9. Sam Johnstone says:

    Interesting angle. Who is going to pay for this new train line? I quite sure the state government or private business won’ there just isn’t the demand or population on the norther rivers. Have you actually seen the state of the train line these days, north of Byron? There are a heap of bridges which need to be reconstructed, which equals big $$.

    I’m all for public transport. But we Byron bay residents are only 45mins from Gold Coast Airport by car or mini-bus. It would take longer on a train to get to Coolangatta.

    Also, do we really want more QLD tourists visiting Byron?

    I don’t ride a bike, but I think the promotion of healthy living & exercise has to be a benefit to the community.

  10. Angie says:

    If the rail trail campaign in really about “saving the corridor for trains” as they say, then why are their supporters so against rail projects and Toot

  11. Susan Stock says:

    Climate change is the greatest threat to the Northern Rivers and rest of the Earth. We must stop using fossil fuels. Try reading this and see solutions.

    https://grist.org/climate-energy/how-we-can-turn-railroads-into-a-climate-solution/?utm_content=bufferbcfdf&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    ‘Railroads have become a nexus of controversy in recent years due to their role in transporting climate-twisting fossil fuels. But they could become a locomotive driving the growth of clean energy. That is the aim of a new proposal to electrify railroads, run them on renewable energy, and use rail corridors as electricity superhighways to carry power from remote solar and wind installations to population centers. Few industries are as well positioned as railroads to lead a transition to a clean economy. Unlike other heavy, long-haul transportation vehicles such as ships, planes, and semitrucks, trains can be easily electrified, and electricity is increasingly coming from clean sources such as sun and wind. Rail is already the most efficient form of ground transportation, and it has an unparalleled capacity to provide clean freight and passenger mobility.’

    • Louise says:

      Exactly Susan.

      As for who’s going to pay for the renovation of the Casino to Murwillumbah line, we’ve seen concrete evidence of private enterprise investing in rail. No private company has shown any interest in paying to rip up the rails for a cycleway. Taxpayers would have to hand over at least $75 million for that.

      The tourists are already here-we have to provide a more sustainable way to get them here. As shown above.

      Our roads aren’t coping now and will not cope with a doubling of traffic. Ripping up the rails, as they did on the Gold Coast in the 1960s, and taxpayers are now paying billions to replace it, is NOT the solution to our transport dilemma or climate change.

      • Petrus says:

        Cycle paths, like most roads, like all footpaths are built with public money. The net benefits in terms of reduced traffic and pollution, health benefits, social inclusion are normally very good. In the case of a rail trail it is a tourist investment – the benefits are outlined in the feasibility study and based on the Victorian trails which are much further from any major centre than we are, and which do not have a cycling season nearly as long as our area, nor the plethora of culinary, entertainment and accommodation options that will doubtless have the happily tired and hungry trailers spending more than the average of $200 a day they spend down South. I do also urge you and other readers to read Tamara’s blog on her visit to the the NZ rail trail . She is I believe having a rail trail to Damascus moment and this reflects the positive reaction most people have when they try cycling on dedicated paths away from roads.

  12. Robert says:

    i am all for the restoration of services. Yes, it may be costly. Yes, a rail trail may bring plenty of cycling tourists. But look at it in terms of overall benefit to the community, as opposed to the interests of the rail trail advocates, or the community groups supporting the return of rail.

    How many local cycling enthusiasts would be utilising the rail trail on, say, a weekly basis? 50? 100? 200? How about monthly? Yearly? It is nice to have a rail trail through some picturesque country, but just how many would be regular users? Even when you factor in tourists as well, how many actual trips would be getting made along the rail trail? Who would pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the trail? Who would be responsible for lighting and other safety initiatives on the trail? If a cyclist injures themselves, what options are there for access to emergency services? What about facilities…restrooms, water fountains, who is responsible for them?

    For possible businesses that may pop up along the rail trail, has anyone done an analysis on the number of cyclists needed to make them viable? How many coffee shops could a rail trail sustain? How far apart would they need to be? What other businesses could benefit from the rail trail? Would there be enough of a constant demand from cyclists to keep these businesses viable? And what happens when those businesses fail, due to a decrease in interest in the rail trail? If a lot of other rail trails proposed around the state go ahead, will there be an over-saturation in the market?

    When looking at rail trails, whether it be in Australia or around the world, have rail trails that have failed been looked at as well(I read somewhere that out of every five rail trails/bike paths etc that are created, only one remains viable after five years)? What about what happens to the corridor if the rail trail fails…do you just turn around and say “we tried, we failed, let’s sell it to developers now”?

    There are just as many railfans out there as there are cycling enthusiasts…so my idea is this. Re-open the line. Do the necessary upgrades to allow the XPT or Xplorer to run along the line. Encourage any possible freight opportunities. But also set up some kind or rail museum. Run regular heritage trips on weekends and special events. And still build the path next to the line. Cyclists get their path. The community gets a train service meaning less cars on the road. Tourists get a mode of transport to travel on. Employment in the area increases due to the flow on effects. And everyone is happy

    • neil mck says:

      Robert – of course nobody can forecast exactly how many people will use the rail trail regularly, just as no-one can predict how many would use a train service! You ask a lot of unanswerable questions and include some vague statistics eg “I read somewhere that 4 out of 5 rail trails fail” Really – that would need some verification. This rail trail would be used by locals as well as inter-state and international visitors. Because of its unique location it will be one of the great cycling/walking trails in the world. That is quite a claim but the potential is there if only small sections of the community would cease their spoiling activities and admit that it will never be used for train services again.

    • Petrus says:

      As I note above the Feasibility Study for the rail trail gives a detailed analysis of the likely usage and the cost benefit analysis. The usage buy locals is not that relevant in what is a tourist focused trail but it would be rather more than the Victorian trails and would be yet another high quality amenity that makes living her so attractive to many people (code for it will push the value of your Byron properties to even higher heights). It would be good to have a reference to the comment on bike paths not being used. Where they are under-used has generally been in situations – typically in places like the US (or Australia) – where a lot of the earlier cycling paths were built in isolation, and were not integrated with a good safe cycling paths or roads. Some people like me will cycle anywhere but a lot will only cycle or let their kids cycle – if the whole journey is on a safe path ideally away from roads. In places like the Netherlands and Denmark where such safe comprehensive networks exist about half the population regularly cycles. When the modern road system was developed in England, the US and Australia in the late 19c for, and at the behest of cyclists, and before cars came along and rendered those roads less safe for cycling, a much larger proportion of our population cycled, including many women who are more cautious about where they ride (hence the well documented impact of cycling on the growth of feminism and the suffragette movement in the early 20c) . In Canberra a network of cycle paths was built in the 70s leading to markedly higher rates of cycling participation than any other city. Many of those paths have deteriorated but they, and the newer paths built as the network extended, are all regularly used (some heavily on weekends and holidays). In respect of the rail, the recent surveys on public transport use in the area does not support the idea that the rail service would lead to any shift from private car use. Most people have and can afford cars and the directions of journeys here are very diverse, so any significant shift to public transport within the region is likely to be small regardless of the public transport vehicle. However a greater uptake is likely to result from better timetabling of current services and providing better transport on routes people want to travel, which in the main are not along the rail corridor. The improvements are needed on equity and inclusion grounds for our less well off, elderly and young, but can be better achieved with improved bus services.

  13. Will Jeffery says:

    Interesting article there Susan. Electrical Superhighway really, from Casino to Murwillumbah? Did you actually read this article? It is written by an author who is trying to sell his book. Its about theoretical applications for railway lines in a country with a population of 319,000,000. It is not an academic article, it’s a sales tool!

    Why do The Greens continue down this route of misinformation, is it about loss of face? Don’t let it be, you are loved! The community loves you for your part in the victory at Bentley. Your talents and skills would be a wonderful asset for the rail trail. Please Greens, don’t leave it until it’s too late, get real and join the majority who support the rail trail, it’s achievable.

  14. James Alister says:

    The new rail service by Byron Bay Railway Co is primarily private transport for their resort guests to get in and out of town. Sure the public can use it. However there are a couple of issues, being no car parks at the Byron end of the line being provided and very few at the Sunrise end. I defy that locals will use this shuttle service , except for out of novelty. It’s not a genuine public transport service. Seriously WAKE UP PEOPLE. This service to the general public is useless.

    • Louise says:

      There’s been no detailed, professional cost/benefit analysis of a cycleway, which would cost taxpayer’s a minimum of $75m-just thought bubbles from people with no expertise. We now have concrete evidence of the cost of repairing the line for trains and we know from many years experience that the Gold Coast trains are always full.

      Regardless of how many locals use the Byron train- if only 25% of two million tourists use the Byron train, it will take many cars of the congested Ewingsdale Rd and reduce congestion, carbon emissions, stress and disruption for so many locals, and make Byron a much nicer place to visit. We’ll soon have concrete evidence of the popularity of the service.

      It’s only a small but valuable start to the regular commuter service from Casino to Coolangatta which has been badly needed for many years.

      One of the core Greens policies is the provision of public transport, including rail services on the Casino to Murwillumbah line, and building the 22ks of line needed to connect to Coolangatta, so people can travel in a more sustainable way while reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

      If cyclists really believe the Byron train will not work they wouldn’t be writing such desperate letters.

      • Will Jeffery says:

        This is the tried and true TOOT smoke screen method. Whenever there is a hard question, ignore it and simply repeat the same tired old rhetoric bereft of any sense of practical reality! The majority want a rail trail, it is achievable. I wish you would stop posing as a tourism expert, with 35 years experience in the Tourism Industry I can tell you that your views on the subject are embarrassingly naive.

  15. Petrus says:

    I spent two decades working for AusAID which is the largest employer of consultancy services in the Australian Government. In that time I read scores of feasibility studies, many for projects of the dimension of the rail trail. I was amused to reread the Echo’s initial assessment of the Study in 2004 was that it cost a “remarkable” $1 million; it is a typical amount that you would spend on assessing project of this size. With the benefit of that AusAID experience, I read the Feasibility Study, starting as you always should with the terms of reference and they appear very thorough, quite appropriate to the task and in no way written to lead to any conclusion. The report addresses the terms of reference, it provides an analysis of each the issues, and a thorough cost benefit analysis. I have read many cost benefit analses in these sorts of studies; this was more thorough then most and did not appear to have any errors in its assumptions or methodology. I have noted elsewhere it provides a convincing case to fund the rail trail. I have read some quite fanciful commentary in the Echo and elsewhere trying to undermine the reasoning behind this report, and in particular trying to suggest the numbers of users would be few or they would not spend he projected amounts. I have read that it is too hot, too cold – too cold for goodness sake here – too long, that the young or the old would not use it, that people would not cycle the 1km into town from South Murwillumbah and so would not spend any money there . etc etc. Readers of the Echo will now that I have refuted all of these nonsensical comments. I am therefore surprised to read that you consider that n “There’s been no detailed, professional cost/benefit analysis of a cycleway,” To use the contracting term the study is clearly of “workman-like quality” it is readable to the layman and the cost benefit analysis appears well done . I do not have the benefit of James Robinson’s CV; I cannot comment in detail on my dealings with Arups in the aid program save to say it gave me no concern to know that they were the consultants. I therefore ask exactly why you do not consider the cost benefit analysis was not done in a professional manner, do you imply that Mr Robinson was not professionally capable of undertaking that analysis, and why?

    • Petrus says:

      oops a double negative in the last sentence. It should read “I therefore ask exactly why you consider the cost benefit analysis was not done in a professional manner, do you imply that Mr Robinson was not professionally capable of undertaking that analysis, and why?

  16. Gary Ainsworth says:

    I think that once the buzz wears off, the rail trail won’t be used very much at all. We have cycleways all over the region already. Most of them just sit idle. Councils will be forced to pay for ongoing maintenance, for which they will need a substantial budget for. The concrete surface will have to be kept smooth and unbroken for the entire length of the trail to ensure safety for all using it, otherwise it will become unattractive. Washouts and damage to the surface will be an expensive and frequent occurrence given torrential rain the region experiences very frequently.

    Facilities such as toilets and water taps will need to be cleaned and checked regularly. Weeds will need to be battled tirelessly on a weekly, all year basis to minimise the threat of snakes and untidiness of the trail.

    The whole rail trail, including tunnel walls and surrounding structures will have to be checked and graffiti removed on a weekly basis. Tourists hate graffiti and vandalism as it evokes feelings of unsafety.

    Then there is the liability aspect of the proposed rail trail.

    Very tall, thick fences will need to be constructed the entire length of the trail, at the cost of the respective council, as a result of the lower socioeconomic areas the rail trail would traverse. Fences would be needed to prevent theft from neighbouring properties, damage to surrounding areas and wetlands, and vandalism of surrounding buildings that the trail would give easy access to. Fences should be spiked and checked regularly to ensure sections that are damaged are repaired quickly. Unfortunately the right fencing will likely not be installed, therefore theft of property, damage and vandalism of surrounding areas would be common.

    If a cyclist is to injure themselves, have a medical episode or be bitten by wildlife such as brown snakes, death adders, spiders etc. (all of which are common on the line). They would likely face death as the bulk of the trail is very remote and emergency vehicle access is limited and would simply take too long to access and treat the casualty in situations where every minute counts. There is potential for unfortunate events such as these to be a frequent occurrence, therefore give it 6 months and the trail would likely be condemned and closed as a result of this alone.

    Based on ongoing maintenance with little usage and no return on investment, I think there is potential for the trail to be deemed financially unviable and subsequently closed after a year or so.

    Unfortunately these are all very real and realistic issues with the trail that will always be natural side effects of its construction.

    Gary A

    • Will Jeffery says:

      So Gary, the ARUP report is a conspiracy and we should listen to people with absolutely no qualifications or expertise at all instead, the Central Otago Rail Trail is an unsubstantiated myth, not a stunning success or NZ’s number 1 tourist attraction and running passengers on the old line at commuter speeds without $1billion worth of upgrades comes without any risk at all to passengers or those who would have to use all the level crossings. Sorry Gary, this is a clear-cut case of close-mindedness.

    • Petrus says:

      Once again we have an outpouring of negativity about the rail trail – one wonders why you are so concerned to disparage what the rest of the world sees as a healthful recreation. Can I respond first by pointing out that all outdoor recreation has risks and participants need to take care. Would we stop building walking paths through National Parks or stop bushwalkers using them because they are exposed to risks from snakes or exposure etc etc? It is all very well for you to think that once the buzz wears off, the rail trail won’t be used very much at all but do you have evidence that that is so. It has not occurred in Victoria and their trails are a lot further from a major centre. The reason usage will continue is that cycling is a growing activity in Australia, particularly among older people, and their is great demand from the large minority who like cycling but will only do on off-road paths. i would also question you evidence to support the contention that most cycle ways all over the region already sit idle. Those in Ballina are constantly used by walkers, cyclists and mobility scooters. The feasibility study outlines the potential usage and it is based on the experience gained from paths over time. It also outlines the costs and benefits of the path, and included recurrent costs. It’s conclusion was that benefits to the region outweigh the costs. It is in my experienced judgement a good analysis. As I challenged Louise – are you suggesting that the report and its cost benefit were not professionally done, and what is your basis for doing so? I would also note that existing facilities are available near the trail with lots of opportunities for people to stop and try the local food and drinks – it is one of the things that makes a path in this region so attractive .

      I think it is indicative of the desperation of opponents of the trail that you need to invoke the threat of graffiti and to suggest the a rail trail will be a conduit for crime beggars belief – “I saw the thief officer – she was 50 year old woman in Lycra – she took off towards Mullum with my flat screen on the back of her touring bike”! .

      As a positive was pleased to no longer have to read how hot or cold you think the path would be. It is though very sad to read such negativity from people in an area renown for encouraging people to engage with their natural environment, even if that means some reasonable risks and physical effort, and to practice sustainable, healthful activities that also profit local people. I trust others will read the sense of desperation in this attempt to stop a a path of such manifest benefit.

    • Will Jeffery says:

      “Very tall, thick fences will need to be constructed the entire length of the trail, Fences should be spiked and checked regularly to ensure sections that are damaged are repaired quickly”. We are not trying to shut out Mexico here, it’s just a rail trail!

      • Petrus says:

        the analogy is great Will. Some people try and cut themselves off from the world around them with air conditioning and tall fences – they won’t use a rail trail – the are likely part of the half of adults who never ride a bike. I lived in or near, and regularly cycled without problems through, the pre-gentrified East end of London,and the shanty towns of Port Moresby and Jakarta, I cycled without issue through the slums of Tijuana, Washington, New York, Watts in Los Angeles and Brixton in London in the years following their respective riots, and many other low income area. Maybe God keeps an eye on drunks, sailors and small cyclists. More relevant to Gary’s concerns I rode last year the path along the disused rail corridor through the lower socio-economic areas of Hobart out to Mona . The path has its share of graffiti – some of it could be moved to Mona – but that and the post-industrial streetscape of parts of North Hobart and Glenorchy did not seem to bother the steady flow of tourists that rent bikes to ride to and from Mona. Riding a bikes is about engaging with the natural world and the community you ride through. Cars take people off the streets and paths; bikes put them back.

  17. Sheridan Edwards says:

    I am a resident in Lismore, NSW in the Northern region.

    My perspective with the train services is very important. For instance, I’m Deaf and vision impaired. I cannot drive due to my vision impairment, so therefore it is necessary to re-open the Casino-Murwillumbah line in order to get our train services back!

    I have written a letter to Tamara Smith, Ballina MP to address my concerns of the restricted public transport services in the Northern NSW region. We need the railway from Tweed Heads and Coolangatta to reconnect with the current Casino-Murwillumbah in order to reduce the traffic congestion on our roads between the state borders of NSW and QLD.

    • Will Jeffery says:

      I have a niece and a nephew who are virtually blind with Albinism, they receive community transport and taxi vouchers. Do you have an advocate? There is a better solution than waiting for a train the isn’t coming.

    • Petrus says:

      I have recently moved from Canberra, where I have a number of visually impaired friends and colleagues. They have been able to move around the city with relatively little need to use taxis or Uber, because Canberra has a comprehensive bus network that operates from about 6am to midnight, and beyond that in the festive season. Canberra now has about double the population of the Northern Rivers, but the bus network was there when its population was comparable to this area. The network is heavily subsidized by ACT tax and ratepayers much as are the NSW commuter rail services. This area too could have a similar comprehensive public transport network that connects residents with each other and with QLD and with the transport hubs in Ballina and Coolangatta, if NSW focused on on the best way to provide public transport, instead of wasting money on subsiding rural train services. Every day you are subsidising the the small number of people who catch the four hour twice daily train from Sydney to Canberra, when there are unsubsidised faster buses available almost every hour, for a similar ticket price to the train’s concessional fare. There is similar waste around out state that stops you and other disabled and elderly NSW residents enjoying a comprehensive public transport network like Canberra’s. Canberra taxpayers are about to waste a billion dollars on a light rail and all of my VIPs and a number of disability advocates are strongly opposed to it, because they know it will bleed public transport funding from the bus system in order to provide a nice smooth tram trip for the articulate, noisy Green voting people in the wealthiest areas of the city – sound familiar? I was also born blind and live with the threat that my lack of vision might return. That is why I want to see better and fairer public transport in NSW and the Northern Rivers and why you should be pushing Tamara for better public transport for all visually impaired people, not just those who happen to live along the corridor who only need to to travel at the limited times even the most frequent train service could provide. .

  18. Geoff Bensley says:

    http://www.artc.com.au/library/agreement_asig.pdf
    The above document by the Australia Rail & Track Corporation ARTC talks about the poor alignment of the 100 years plus North Coast line , the Northern Rivers is much worse with 130 bridges , sub 300 metre curve radius bends and not fulfilling the needs of the population growth areas of the Northern Rivers.
    As Petrus says buses are the only way to deliver and are almost door to door unlike trains. Getting people out of cars won’t happen by trying to reinstate a sub 80km/hr train system.

  19. Gary Ainsworth says:

    You were foolish to expect the rail trailers to understand Sheridan. If they truly understood, they would be pushing for rail services instead of the rail trail that realistically would only be used by cyclists.

    • Petrus says:

      As someone who has been part of a group that provides opportunities to share cycling with disabled people in Canberra, including trips to Victorian rail trails, and helped them maintain our tandems and build home made trainers for exercise when tandem pilots are not available.. We also shared training rides with some of our Commonwealth and Olympic para-cyclists, which for me it provided the memorable experience of cycling with a young elite athlete whose strength and skills were so much more able than mine, and to share the dedication, mental strength and sense of purpose of one of our medal winners at Glasgow. As such, I find these suggestions that cyclists do not care about disabled people patronising and inaccurate. I think you will find in my response to Sheriden that I appreciate that the disabled people face a need for public transport – I anticipate facing those needs in the coming decades. I also am annoyed to find local train enthusiasts taking the high ground on transport for disabled when they show no heed to the needs of the disabled and elderly in Ballina and the Tweed Coast and many other populous places in NSW that are not on rail corridors. There are buses available that can accommodate disabled,and elderly peoples’ needs just as trains do and they are in regular use in Britain and Europe. Of course we understand Gary, but some of us are thinking about the best way to address those needs, and that has to be the most economic way that maximises services to all NSW residents, not just those along the corridor.

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