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Byron Shire
June 25, 2021

Worldwide rail revival

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Over the past few months I’ve been overseas studying transport systems and policies. The core message is integration – it’s not just about bikes, or rail or cars. You create the core longer routes, then add the short, connecting journeys.

The northern rivers is blessed with a transport corridor 130km long that connects our towns and villages – like Bangalow, Lillipilli, Byron, Sunrise, Tyagarah, Mullum and Billi.

For long distances between towns, rail is the only serious transport option. It suits visitors and residents, young and old, night and day, rain or sun.

We can use bikes to get to and from stations. Or, we take our bikes on the train. Or, bikes travel beside the tracks on their own path – as they do in California, Italy and even Victoria. This creates a choice to bike one way and rail home.

We also add small feeder buses, like Ocean Shores to Billinudgel, to assist others.

Keeping the tracks for rail is the only option that guarantees the land stays in public ownership forever, for long-term social, economic and environmental reasons. No other option does this. The rail revival is happening worldwide – let’s not go backwards.

Karin Kolbe, Suffolk Park



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  1. We can keep the corridor in public ownership with a rail trail. The scoping study will look into the possibility of running both train and bikes on the corridor. Once finished, we need to run with their decision – otherwise we get nothing. No-one wants that! If it is decided that the rail trail can go ahead, the corridor will be available for future trains if it becomes a viable option down the track. Having a rail trail will not stop the trains coming back.
    Rail Trails around Australia and the world are becoming a popular way of ‘railbanking’; preserving disused railways for future rail use by maintaining the rail corridor for an interim use, such as a public trail.
    The NRRT group understand the sadness for all of you who have worked so hard to get the trains back.
    I think it would be fantastic if we can all work together now and keep the corridor in whatever way is possible, viable and likely!

  2. Karen did not need to travel overseas to find this out.
    All the reports on active transport and community transport say this.
    This is what the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association has been saying all year.
    It is why the NRRT has a policy of rail banking; if we can get a train back using the corridor, firstly we have to keep the corridor. The best way to keep it is to use it so until the funds and patronage can be found for a train service, we need to use the corridor and the most achievable way is as a cycling and walking trail.
    So lets work together on this and make sure the corridor is not sold off or used for purely commercial purposes that do not help this community.

  3. The heading for Karin’s article could have been “Worldwide rail trail revival”. Cycling and walking trails are being built on disused rail corridors at an increasing rate across Australia and worldwide. They protect the corridor and ensure it remains in public ownership. Every rail trail that has been developed attracts multiple users, inevitably far more than the most optimistic projections for rail travel on the same corridor. The Northern Rivers Rail Trail will do the same with tens of thousands of users each year. The trail will give people a safe, healthy and enjoyable way to move around busy towns and to connect to schools, shops, work, libraries, etc. It will take cars off our roads as people rediscover the joys of walking and cycling. Very few people used the train 10 years ago – it doesn’t meets our needs – a rail trail does.

  4. I agree that integrating a number of options for using the available rail line is a good idea. However, there needs to be priorities. In my opinion, the number 1 priority for Northern Rivers communities is an effective light rail system that links our various towns and hamlets, and provides a much-needed, safe, environmentally-friendly transport option to those who are either forced to drive daily around the region, or who are prevented from finding employment etc because of lack of transport. Train first. All the other ‘nice to have’ options second. Karin speaks for many people who don’t possess the same volume of some of those who have been extremely vocal and somewhat divisive about their real intentions for the rail line. The only way to truly protect the rail option is to reinstigate it, whether by public or private means. Don’t be fooled by assertions that the rail trail (without rail) is the only way of ‘protecting’ it’ the rail some mythical time in the future.

  5. The patronage of the old one a day XPT train service running at inconvenient times, which locals could not use, cannot be compared to a light commuter service with trains running all day. A more relevant comparison is the Gold Coast to Brisbane service which is usually packed with standing room only.

    Given that the line has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent, upgrading the existing line to make it safe for a rail trail will cost the same as for a rail service. It does not make sense to spend huge amounts of taxpayers’ money for something that will only be used by a few very fit people in good weather when for the same money we could have a service which could be used by the whole community-bikers, surfers, students, workers, everyone.

    Rail trail supporters need to beware of politicians who have a record of making promises but delivering nothing.


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