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Byron Shire
May 11, 2021

Rail study asked wrong questions

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The rail study into the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line recently released by the O’Farrell government raises some very important questions, and the community deserves answers.

Why does the ‘study’ not mention the transport needs of the population of almost 8,000 people north of the Brunswick River, who have little access to public transport, but are close to the Billinudgel train station?  Or the 1.5 million tourists?

Why does the ‘study’ give costings for a heavy rail service when the North Coast community has been asking for, and promised, a light commuter service on the line for almost a decade?

Does the state government really expect us to believe the cost to repair the Casino to Murwillumbah line for a commuter service (50 per cent of which is in reasonable condition despite criminal lack of maintenance) has increased from $30m in 2004 to over $900m, which is more than the $1.1 billion it cost to build the completely new, 155 kms of heavy freight line between Sydney and Newcastle?

Queensland has a population almost half that of NSW, so how are they able to electrify their main line all the way to Rockhampton, rebuild the Brisbane to Gold Coast line, (which they ripped up in the 1960s) and build a new light rail service (with $365m of federal government money) from Surfers to Coolangatta, but NSW politicians can’t get trains running on the line we have?  Why haven’t they been able to get the $150m of federal funding promised in 2004 for this much-needed service?

Why does the ‘study’ recommend major roads be upgraded to try and alleviate traffic congestion (no costings given – but experts claim it will cost billions) rather than recommending a few million be spent on a commuter train service?

Why are small towns in the Hunter Valley, similar distances from Sydney as we are from Brisbane, serviced by regular commuter train services to the city, but the North Coast isn’t connected to our closest city?

Why does the ‘study’ not mention the rising cost of oil and petrol?  Or even hint that we should be planning for a world where oil is a rare commodity and too expensive to put in our cars?

Rather than increasing traffic congestion on our terrible roads and discriminating against a large section of the Northern Rivers community who are unable to drive or use dirty, diesel guzzling, uncomfortable buses, the state government should stop wasting our money on useless ‘studies’ and give us the (accessible to all) commuter train  service they’ve been promising for almost a decade.  And start planning the 22 kms of line needed to connect us to the Queensland line at Coolangatta.

 


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