On Friday, NSW minister for the north coast and Ballina MP Don Page announced a tender to evaluate the costs of restoring and maintaining the 130km–long Casino to Murwillumbah rail line for heavy- or light-rail passenger services.
The government has budgeted $2 million for the study and is opening tenders to help complete it.
The successful tenderer will survey the condition of the existing line, evaluate restoration and maintenance costs and assess the potential for light rail.
The study will also consider the potential to connect services with Coolangatta Airport and Queensland rail services.
The group Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) has commended the government for its investigation but believes the government needs to widen the terms of reference.
TOOT President Karin Kolbe said, ‘this study seems to be very narrowly focused on costs, but [includes] nothing about the benefits.
‘A rail service will provide many benefits to the region but these are not being examined at all in the proposed study.’
‘We’d like to see an analysis of having less congestion, particularly in places like Byron Bay.’
‘We’d also like to see the benefits to tourism considered. We already have 1.5 million tourists looking for transport into and around our region.
‘We’d also like to see the environmental benefits, like reduced carbon emissions, or better air quality properly accounted for.
‘And we’d also like to see the savings factored in. With fewer cars and buses on the road, maintenance costs to councils and the RTA will be reduced.’
The tender closes in January 2012 and it is planned to award it in February 2012. It is expected the work will be complete by October 2012.