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March 3, 2021

Rail trail plan chugging along

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Rail trails like this one in Pennsylvania USA could soon be attracting a new type of tourist to our region. Flickr/UGArdener
Rail trails like this one in Pennsylvania USA could soon be attracting a new type of tourist to our region. Flickr/UGArdener

Melissa Hargraves

The plan to establish a rail trail on the disused Casino to Murwillumbah rail line has moved a step closer with a scoping study announced for the project.

Members of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc (NRRT) recently presented a petition of almost 2,000 signatures to the minister for the north coast, Don Page, and member for Lismore, Thomas George MP.

Signatures have been collected since May this year when NRRT formed.

The petition was handed to Mr George and Mr Page at a meeting with NRRT attended by former CEO of the Queenstown Trails Trust, Kaye Parker, one of the driving forces behind a network of more than 110 kilometres of cycling and walking tracks throughout the Wakatipu region in New Zealand.

NRRT public liaison officer Marie Lawton said ‘with our beautiful landscape and existing tourism industry, it’s not hard to see how a northern rivers rail trail could be a great attraction for active tourists and provide business and employment opportunities for locals, as well as giving us a safer, healthier way to get around.’

Mr Page was impressed with the response of the community and said the rail trail will have enormous tourism, employment, social and health benefits for our region.

‘Rail trails, which use existing rail corridors for walking and cycling, are becoming extremely popular both in Australia and overseas and I think there is the great potential for a rail trail on the Casino to Murwillumbah line to generate much needed income and jobs for the region’s economy,’ he said.

‘The northern rivers currently attracts approximately 2.2 million visitors a year. A rail trail on the Casino to Murwillumbah line could attract thousands more tourists who want to experience the beauty and diversity of the northern rivers,’ Mr Page said.

‘Importantly the development of a rail trail would mean the rail corridor is maintained and preserved to allow for the future return of train services if required.’

Mr Page recently announced terms of reference for the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Scope Study which will: assess potential economic, social and environmental benefits and impacts; identify funding sources for development and maintenance; consult with stakeholders; ensure the corridor is preserved for a potential re-introduction of rail services; and investigate a light rail service in the Byron area.

Mr Page has said expressions of interest would be called soon from qualified companies.




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  1. Not restoring trains now, is as short sighted as it was for Costa to kill off the railway service.

    Trains would bring far more tourists to our growing area than a few hearty bike riders. To say nothing of locals who would increasingly use trains getting to and from our points of interest. 2000 who may have signed a petition are not even a pin prick in the 90,000 of us who live here and would welcome back our sadly missed train services.

  2. As much as we would like it – the trains are not coming back in the near future. We need to move on. The corridor needs to be used. If we don’t have trains a rail trail is the next best option.

  3. I am very excited about the idea of a rail trail. Nth NSW has some of the most beautiful countryside in Australia and I believe this is a brilliant opportunity to show it off. There are not enough bush walks in Nth NSW and the rail trail will allow tourists and locals to discover the beauty we have here. A very exciting opportunity not to be missed!!

  4. Yes, we all absolutely love trains. Trains Trains Trains . .
    But the sad facts are that they’re outdated as a means of mass transport of people, as we’re now so selective for jets and shuttle buses. Trains run on filthy diesel fuel which is increasingly a no no. Trains are incredibly heavy to haul around too, and then there’s the prohibitively expensive track maintenance.
    If there were dual tracks instead of our single, then there may have been potential for lightweight electric rail cars, but that too has difficulties with any single car running out of power.
    The Rail Trail offers complete flexibility, fittness and zero emmissions, as well as being a viable means of serious A to B commuting. It’s not just the mega tourism potential, with our world class scenery and quest for eco solutions.
    The real future for trains lies in major container movement between cities, not people.
    Sorry, but gee, we all have some wonderful memories of yester-year don’t we. I can smell all that coal smoke, just thinking about it . .

  5. Perhaps Roma, but this article did clearly stipulate that the rail corridor would be ‘preserved to allow for the future return of train services if required’… So, at least for the time being, whilst it sadly doesn’t appear to be economically viable to get the trains running (If it were, it would have been done by now), we’ll be able to use this fantastic, beautiful route through our region in a safe and healthy way that’s beneficial to the community. I don’t think it would be just the gung-ho cyclers who’d benefit from it either. It’s a really flat and easy track that would be perfect for kids, tourists, families or anyone interested in getting a bit of exercise and fresh air on their daily commute. Surely it has to be better than continuing to neglect it, leaving it to become the overgrown wasteland that it has whilst the community continue to to-and-fro ideas leading to nothing but further indecision and inaction.
    I’m all for it. Can’t wait to go exploring and to see fewer cyclists and less traffic on our roads.

  6. Great news! This is surely a shot in the arm for far north coast communities with the growth in sustainable tourism that will definitely result. Perhaps Roma Newton and other detractors have not had the opportunity to visit communities on rail trails where cycle tourism and walking tourism is, in some cases, the difference between keeping a community going and having it fade away.

    Speaking only from my own first hand experience I have travelled rail trails in Australia, the USA, New Zealand and Spain. Our trips to these locations, expressly for the purpose of riding on the rail trails has brought thousands and thousands of dollars to communities such as Lauder on the Central Otago rail trail where it is the passing cycle tourists that keep the village alive. Similar stories can be told for most other rail trails.

    Don’t be misled: this is not a “few hearty bike riders”. This is thousands and thousands of tourists every year. Months ago I rode the Goulburn Valley High Country rail trail in Victoria and I passed almost 100 other cyclists between Mansfield and Bonnie Doon alone, on just one day. I have organised groups of six, eight or more on about ten multi-day trips to the Victorian rail trails: each person eats at cafes and restaurants, sleeps at hotels, drinks at pubs or whatever, but in any case it represents (rough estimate) about $50,000 in revenue that has gone to Victorian business rather than NSW ones because of the lack of similar facilities here, from just me, family and friends. Beautiful though the GVHCRT is, it is nothing compared to the beauty, the scenery, the climate and the tourist pulling power of a Casino-M’bah trail!

    Please don’t get me wrong: I do understand why people value trains and I lament the closing of the north coast line from Casino too. However if ever there will be a viable train service to the region again it is likely to be the VFT project which will require completely different routes and infrastructure. Opposing the creation of the rail trail will neither hasten nor delay the introduction of a new train service.

    Get behind this sustainable transport and tourism initiative! I’m nearly sixty but I hope to ride it before I get too old to do the whole length in a day 🙂

  7. I will become an instant millionaire if the train line gets connected to the the Gold Coast line.I will buy all the land along its path and develop it into a huge suburban sprawl like what has happened between Tweed Heads and Brisbane.I will build thousands of houses along the line between Casino and Murwillumbah for workers to be able to travel to the Gold Coast or even Brisbane,like workers from Newcastle/Woolongong travelling on trains to Sydney for work.I will build those shopping centres like have been built along the G.C to Brisbane line with gaudy signs and unhealthy eating cafés ,dollar signs are ticking over in my head right now .We shouldn’t keep this pristine Rainbow Region to ourselves,let’s attach ourselves to the Gold Coast scene with big glitzy McMansions and flashing lights,our councils will then be flushed with money to repair the roads.
    We don’t need our children getting healthy by riding bikes or walking between towns on the old train line.We don’t want to attract thousands of national and international tourists like they do on all the other Rail Trails around the world,this would mean jobs being created in our region,people would have to work to cater for all these tourists.We need this train to run every hour thru Byron Bay or Mullumbimby ,the tourists will love the huge traffic queues waiting for the train to clear the road crossings ,especially during holiday times,Farmers Market days.
    No we need to stick slow trains on the slow winding track that was built in 1883 back in service so that my hardworking taxes can get chewed up keeping up the maintenance.The Sydney train system recoups only 20% of actual running costs from fair paying customers ,and this is in a huge population and high usage area.

  8. Geoff, despite his tiresome sarcasm, has a point. Similalry, if trains are not returned, and the corridor is not dedicated to some public use, it will only be a matter of time before developers start angling to buy the land and then what…? Once the corridor is “broken” in just one spot its value as a transport link plummets and the land-grab is on! Yes, trains are a lovely thought, but it would seem they are not much more that that in the minds of decision makers despite all the effort and time spent to change their view. So, if trains are out (for the time being at least), what can we do to keep the corridor in public ownership without precluding the return of trains in the future? Start pedaling everyone!

  9. Great to see the Northern Rivers Rail Trail being considered. NSW is the only state not to have embraced the concept of rail trails. Here is a chance to retain the corridor for possible future use of rail (fossil fuels won’t last forever) while at the same time preserving a nature corridor for flora & fauna through the countryside. Tourism numbers both here & overseas show an immense benefit to communities as cyclists & walkers tend to stay for extended periods in areas, rather than just passing through on a train or bus.

    A new organisation, “Rail Trails For NSW” , is currently forming with an aim to lobby Government to actually get off their butts & implement rail trails in NSW. Current figures suggest touring cyclists using Rail Trails spend between $100 & $200 per day on their trips & typically travel 25 to 50 km per day, so multiple communities will benefit from their visits.

    Another future development is to link these trails into the Travelling Stock Route Networks to allow more riding around the areas covered by Rail Trails..

  10. For me the big issue is preserving the corridor at all costs. This is an important valuable community resource and it would be tragic if it were sacrificed for short-term monetary gain.

    It’s taken me a little while to become a convert to the rail/bike trail, I have looked at the incredible success of other rail trails around the world and I have to say its an impressive story.

    Rail/trails tick so many boxes, covering, health, fitness, tourism, education and employment opportunities. I am passionate about the creation of high quality food manufacturing in our area based on the diverse crops we grow. The rail trail could become a culinary journey of discovery. The stations could be converted into iconic cafes/restaurants as well as places where stories are told of the area, its people and their crops and products. It’s a fact of life but food tourism is one of the fastest growing areas and the proposed rail trail will create jobs and new opportunities. I am excited by this concept.

  11. We walked the disused rail way line just after it was closed! Fabulous all the way to Bangalow.
    Does anybody that is against understand why the trains were taken off the tracks??
    Nobody was using them!!
    It is going to be such a boost for these beautiful towns, B & B’s pop pong up along the way

  12. A few paltry riders indeed……try up to 10,000 per month once word gets out around the world, and because of our weather, the railtrail can be utilized all year round unlike the southern trails of Australia & NZ where riding in winter is very unpleasant…All the towns along this corridor will thrive with B&B’s, cafe’s etc….this will be a railtrail made in heaven running thru our beautiful countryside…

  13. Having had the pleasure of riding Rail Trails in Victoria as a tourist and spending happily, I am now extremely excited by the potential the region presents with this amazing opportunity. Cycling is becoming one of the fastest growth recreation sports in this country (not too soon) and cities are embracing this mode of transport very quickly.

    To have the natural alignment of location, weather, environment, existing tourism branding and world acclaim, the region is sensationally developed to deliver a world class destination.

    The ability to preserve our environment is achingly in need of our intervention through sustainable ventures……the recent Great Barrier Reef decision being a case in point. Lets turn this wonderful asset into a long term social and economic boon and lets do it now!

  14. Rail trails are ‘nice’ to have but what this region is crying out for is the return of a rail transport system. Let’s focus on the needs of the region’s residents first for a public transport system that provides another option to daily car travel for workers, students, the elderly and people with disabilities. The tourists will love it too – aka the train that runs up to Kuranda in FNQ. Tourists including families and the elderly can board the train in Byron and catch it to Bangalow for the markets etc. What a lovely way to travel. The obsession with rail trails is just a distraction from the main event – which is to put trains back on our tracks. Trains first. Rail trails just a nice addition – especially for those who make money from tourism.

  15. I think bikes are great – in fact I ride mine 3-4 times per week. And I think the region’s future is best served by having rail AND bikes running beside each other, like they do in so many parts of the world.

    For the rail, we want small modern light trains, making several journeys per day (so nothing like the old single XPT service).

    This means everyone can use the rail corridor. You might choose to cycle one way. And then, when its too hot, or it starts pouring with rain, you can cycle home.

    The Ritz Rail was a tourist train that ran here many years ago – it was booked out months in advance. Why ? Because tourists want to see our beautiful countryside.

    Some of you may recall that in 2004 Becton’s ran a 2-car railmotor around the Byron Shire for a day. It was so popular that many people – including me- were turned away. It was a Sunday and market day at Bangalow – wouldn’t that be a great way to arrive? And those who want to cycle can take the cycle path running alongside

    Now the new owners of the Becton’s site, North Byron Resort, propose running a rail motor from their site at Belongil into Byron Bay town, thus avoiding the traffic.

    And the bridge over Belongil Creek will be upgraded to accommodate rail AND bikes, thus showing that they can operate together.

    For the longterm the only guaranteed way to keep the tracks for rail is to run rail.

  16. So trains operating thru the night and past our back doors to deliver the late night party people home.If the trains are not operating at night then they will be a huge financial liability.So we can all look forward to the clunkety clunk noise and diesel fumes from the trains travelling past in the wee hours of the morning,sounds like fun,probably worse than having a noisy holiday let home next door!


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