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Byron Shire
April 24, 2021

Rail trail vision for future

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A new group is hoping to preserve the disused Murwillumbah-to-Casino rail line corridor by developing it into a rail trail for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, similar to others around Australia and the world.

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  1. What a wonderful use of space which is degenerating by the day. This area is a busy tourist destination and having a ‘rail trail’ gives visitors and locals alike a chance to see the diversity of this beautiful place.

  2. While a rail trail would be ‘nice’ what this area needs far more is a rail service. We are so desperately under-resourced when it comes to public transport across the Northern Rivers that it seems extremely indulgent to suggest we give our rail line over to this option. It also seems very cynical to suggest that the rail trail option is a way of ‘preserving’ the line for if and when a rail service is reintroduced. Once it’s in those that are making money from it would fight tooth and nail not to have it dismantled. Our roads are dangerous and far too many locals die in accidents getting between towns, to and from work and school. Let’s put a decent rail service back in and give everyone in the community (especially those who can’t afford a car, are elderly or have a disability) better access to transport. If I was a tourist, I can’t think of a more lovely way of visiting Bangalow for the day than by catching the train up and back from Byron. Bugger cycling up that hill in heat, humidity and rain!

  3. It looks like the time has come for the rail trail to take its place as an iconic piece of eco-tourism infrastructure. The host community gets access to our gorgeous countryside without the traffic, and visitors get to experience our beautiful lifestyle. The corridor is preserved for the future, but in the meanwhile we can use and enjoy it.

  4. Let’s do something positive with this costly decaying community asset. The recent transport study declared that trains will not be returning for the foreseeable future. Let’s preserve and use the corridor for all to enjoy as a rail trail. Let’s push for a better public transport system using buses and commute safely by walking and cycling via a rail trail.

  5. As an effected land owner along this proposed rail trail who doesn’t want to start up a tourist business. I would like know.

    1/ Will there be security fencing for homes located close to the rail line?
    2/ Will it be closed at night time?
    [Having know people who home backed on one of these bike ways in Brisbane. These bikeways make for very easy hidden access for people breaking in to peoples homes and also increase house insurance costs.]
    3/ Will there be any security patrols checking for illegal camping etc.?
    4/ Will the weeds be taken care, and not just the class 1 weeds but the lantana, camphor laurels, privet etc?

    If this rail trail goes through, please take into consideration the needs of the people who live along it.

    • Hi Les, I think your points are very valid. The rail trail would have to take into account your security and your privacy, all attempts would have be made to make the rail trail work for everybody, particularly the land owners. I imagine there would be fencing and planted screenings and I’m also sure that you would be able to express all of your concerns to whatever body is formed to develop and manage the rail trail. I would expect that these concerns would be heeded and acted upon if at all feasible. I can attest that many people who were previously skeptical about having a rail trail on their doorstep have been bowled over by the reality of having such a beautiful attraction come into their lives. I wonder how you might be personally surprised by how wonderful it will be. Adding such an attractive piece of public infrastructure would also normally have a very positive effect on land values. I think we will all be surprised by the unimagined ways that this rail trail will enrich our community. It will also save the corridor for a train if circumstantial changes make it a reality again at some point in the future.

    • Hi Les,
      You have made a good point and all these things will be looked at. It seems that properties close to rail trails in other parts of the world and Australia have actually increased in value. It would be good to work with local property owners.

  6. As much as it would be romantic to have a train running I would not like the road traffic to be held up at the Byron Bay ,Mullumbimby and Mooball rail crossing every hour or more ,I remember the crazy traffic queues at the Byron Bay crossing back in early 2000s with only 2 trains per day,imagine on Farmers Market day or holiday time ,it would be absolute mayhem.If the train doesn’t run every hour then it isn’t worth being used as a public transport option.Look at the rail line from above using Google Earth and it looks like a writhing snake,bends too tight for any speed and not picking up the major population centres without still having to provide buses.The population centres of Goonellabah ,Wollongbar,Alstonville,Ballina,Lennox Head,Ocean Shores will still require buses to transport train commuters from the stations in Lismore,Bangalow ,Byron Bay and Mullumbimby,a bit of doubling up of transport and I couldn’t imagine a private bus company trying to compete with a hugely subsidised train system.The Sydney train system costs $3.5 billion to run but only gets $700 million from ticket sales ,and this is in a major population/working area.Bring tourists for a rail trail and you will attract private bus companies .Check the low patron numbers on the Brisbane to Cairns train to gauge how much the train will be used in this area.I have ridden on rail trails in Victoria and New Zealand and have seen dying towns (like what is happening to Eltham,Mooball,Burringbar,Stokers Siding etc) flourish and boom from the influx of good healthy tourists .I also live on the local bus route that runs every hour and I see how little it is used.I also remember sitting in the Railway Friendly Bar back in the early 2000s and there would be more people sitting in bar than on the train ( and that was week nights).Give us a good bus service and allow the rail corridor to be used as tourism booster.

  7. This is seriously vital future infrastructure that can also use solar charged electric bikes. These will be seen more and more and become the relaxed and highly enjoyed norm. But peddle power will be pretty relaxed too, with the gentle rail gradients. A no brainer really. This will be one of the top rail trails in the world, with scenery even locals are yet to see . . .
    At the very least, a wonderful interim between the stenchy diesel powered train of the past, to maybe hydrogen powered trains in the distant future. But it appears we’re heading toward eco transport for the individual, when and where they want to travel, and have their vehicle when they leave the trail, all in safe clean air and with no trucks and petrol-heads to compete with.

  8. My whole family and I support the rail-trail. Such a worthwhile and exciting project. We will do anything to support. Thankyou

  9. I like the comments by Stuart and Christine – we have a more serious need for a regional rail service that should not be compromised by a recreation facility. I would rather see many people commuting sustainably to work/college/medical facilities/recreation by train than a relatively few extra tourists by bike, if a choice has to be made.
    A train service would clear the roads and car parks in all the towns served more cheaply than building more roads and freeway tunnels. The two towns not served by rail can be reached by a bus feeder service, and a rail service would benefit the whole region.
    The feasibility study needs to determine how both systems can be provided for.

  10. As the former president of NHAG, the Northern Horse Action Group who successfully lobbied for riding trails within the Caldera National Park it was always our dream to have riding trail links between the towns of the Northern Rivers and eventually links to the National Park trails. Even though our initial plans to use crown reserve roads (paper roads) for horse trails was frustratingly abandoned in all but a few localities due to a few landholders objections (legally we could have insisted on our right to use what is actually public land but did not want to be further enmeshed in conflict) we continued to support TOOT in the ideal of bringing back rail transport despite the potential for the rail line as a rail trail.
    Now, however is the time to go full steam ahead. Realistically the return of rail in the immediate to long term is dead and the ONLY way of preserving the rail corridor for any future return of rail; however unlikely, is to utilise it now. It is time and it will be an incredible resource for walkers, cyclists and horseriders.

  11. I fully support the rail trail having experienced the delight of walking and cycling along the iconic Otago Rail Trail in New Zealand. The tourist operators along this route were very low key; mostly country homes and small pubs with a smattering of other locals offering food along the way. But I see this rail trail as also addressing some of our needs for a safe alternative to the road network. I would ride to our small centres such as Mullumbimby or Bangalow from Byron which would take my car off the road.

    I commute by road a long way north to work from Byron Bay. Nothing would be better than a fast public transport option, but the rail trail route even if it were converted back to rail, would not service my needs or the majority of my friends and acquaintances who have to travel to larger urban areas for work across the border.

  12. Those who wish for a commuter train service for the Northern Rivers seem oblivious to what such a service will bring…urban sprawl of a kind never seen here before. In Sydney it is high rise apartments along all of the rail lines and massive retail/ apartment towers at the stations. On the Gold Coast it has brought urban blight of the worst kind seen in this country. Next time you drive back home down the Brisbane Motorway
    notice the difference when you cross the border into beautiful, green, undeveloped NSW, and thank your lucky stars that we dont have an urban rail structure. Developers are attracted to rail infrastructure like flies to a sheep’s arse. Bring on the rail trail!

  13. I hope cycling, walking and a solar assisted mini light rail vehicles can co-exist in the corridor. I look forward to getting off the roads to cycle between towns. I have an electric assisted 3 wheeler, which is built for longer distances and will help me move around the shire. The main roads are motorways and seem too loud and busy, too dangerous for cycling.

  14. Full support to the rail trail!! Whilst light rail could be great, (with pros and cons outlined in other discussions) who is going to do it?? Not Govt, (they have been unfortunately reporting their way out of it for years) and private industry?- unlikely, and driven by profit will make such a service expensive or infrequent- hardly a useful public transport option, and quite possibly confined to station based boarding nodes. I have been a supporter of rail for years (I even dressed as a mexican and held up the last train!) however am far more excited by the prospects of a rail trail. Arguing for rail now is only holding things back and relying on the ‘do nothing’ modus operandi of government. To TOOT members, I say move on. Think bigger people, The rail trail is potentially a major sustainable transport network spine that could revolutionise the way we see transport in the northern rivers- beyond the trail itself. This is impossible with the current cycling networks and sustainable transport options in the shire- almost all an after thought of roads and cars. It could be inclusive to a range of transport, including horses, more accessible than rail, and could accommodate small electric bikes for those concerned about distance or the ever so slight gradients- which are currently the only credible arguments for rail. This is an opportunity for diverse mobility without cars. The rail trail could be used by tourists, but will deliver far greater benefits to locals, including the young and old. Think of it as a great linear parkland, linking you, your friends and family all over this extraordinary landscape through simple sustainable transport, fresh air and exercise- not oil or timetables. Now who wants to argue with that?? Lets not be divided about it…and slow things down…Rail Trail all the way!!

  15. I’m glad to see the rail trail is going ahead. What a great use of a valuable community asset, preserving the corridor for future rail services when they become viable. In the meantime, we all will get the pleasure of riding/walking safely through our beautiful countryside along the rail trail.

  16. Last year over 4 days I cycled the Wangaratta to Bright “River to Mountains” rail trail in Victoria with a group of friends. Over that time I was amazed at the number of interstate visitors we met who had come to Victoria to do the trail. We stayed in BB’s and caravan parks along the trail and sampled the local cuisines in small country towns and in doing so benefitted the local economy. It was a great way to experience the country side at a leisurely pace. I believe that the Northern Rivers Rail Trail has the potential to become one of the great rail trails in Australia with all this beauty around us. I for one can’t wait to do this trail.

  17. I have no wish to knock cycle tourism, having frequently enjoyed cycle touring, but before we get euphoric about this trail it needs to be recognised that it is different from most existing trails on defunct rail lines.
    It is an existing operable rail line servicing the whole NR region that has been de-funded by the State Government; it can be re-opened any time that normal transport funding is made available, maybe by the next Government. It may very well soon be needed as road fuel prices gradually escalate. In the meantime, we need to avoid any damage to the rail infrastructure.

    The advantage of using it for rail travel is that it would abstract a significant portion of road traffic from the road system, and de-congest the regional towns, improving travel efficiency for everyone for every purpose.

    Can anyone point to a rail trail anywhere that provides a significant amount of commuter traffic between towns? Rail trails do not generally seem to be used this way, but only as attractors of tourists.

    As well as the potential damage to our major regional transport facility, I am aware that the cost of re-engineering the line to make it safe for tourist use may be equal to the cost of re-opening the rail line. It is not just a matter of laying 130kms of gravel. Railway bridges rarely have a deck or side fence, the 169 of them are simply rails supported on girders, and tunnels are just holes in the ground. Can we justify the expense when we could be re-activating a transport facility of real benefit to the region?

  18. This idea has been simmering away since the demise of the XPT in 2004, but we all felt nostalgic about the renewal of rail services. But we know now that is not going to happen! So we now can feel excited about the conversion of this remarkable corridor to a world-class “rail trail” for cyclists and walkers. Come on…lets get on with it so we are not waiting around forever starting with Byron-Bangalow!

  19. Hi Robin, you can’t have done the research if you believe that only tourists will use the rail trail. The majority of people on the trail will in fact be locals. They may not walk or ride the entire length of the trail but they will commute shorter distances along the trail for work and school or for exercise or fun. It will attract people out of cars and it will help to decongest the roads especially during peak hour in the urban centres. It will offer a wonderful opportunity for mums dads and kids to have quality time together. On the other hand, the train would be very slow, it would cause chaos at the Byron Bay level crossing and it would deliver people into South Lismore, far from shopping, hospitals, jobs, university and virtually every school and it will be abandoned the moment the weather turns bad. The current proposal for returning the train is based around the “Bluebird Railcar”, the rolling stock fleet that was proposed in the 2004 feasibility study. It was manufactured in the 1950s, would have to be leased from a railway museum in Victoria and it belches old technology diesel fumes. Getting on and off this relic will be difficult for people with disabilities and let’s not forget all of the country roads with level crossings! The train is a fantasy, anyone who thinks it is still viable, I’m sorry Robin, is deluded. Luckily those with their hands on the taxpayers purse are sensible enough to know this would be a white elephant of massive proportions. $900M to modernise the line is hardly ‘normal transport funding’.

    The Pacific Highway needs all the funding it can get to iron out all the black spots. Does anyone really believe that funding a regional train will mean we don’t need to upgrade the Pacific Highway? We need better roads, better drivers, more fuel efficient vehicles, more overtaking lanes and if you want to see fewer big trucks on regional roads, stop buying all the stuff that they are carrying. Try shopping locally for locally made products, it will create jobs for your children. Lets put our efforts into community transport and better bus services.

  20. A great idea to promote health and exercise. A great way to boost tourism and use the space.
    Take a look at the Otago central rail trail to see how this has saved some villages from extinction.


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