Trains on our Tracks (TOOT) president Karin Kolbe has accused Don Page and other north coast politicians of lying to the public about their intentions for north coast rail in order to garner their votes.
Ms Kolbe’s comments come just 24 hours after a local newspaper’s web poll showed 69 per cent of readers supporting the return of a Casino to Murwillumbah rail service and two days after Mr Page delivered a petition to Parliament calling for the track to be turned into a bike path.
‘Why is the government ignoring the people? Why are they back-flipping on their pre-election promises?’ Ms Kolbe asked yesterday.
‘The land up here is very valuable – we strongly suspect that that’s the real reason: that the government wants to rip up the tracks and sell the stations and corridor,’ she said.
The petition of 1,400 signatures read, ‘it would be economically attractive and socially beneficial to convert the railway corridor into a world-class rail trail to create jobs, attract tourist revenue and enhance the wellbeing of communities along the 132km corridor’.
The poll on the Northern Star website did not disclose the number of voters but was broken into supporters of the existing rail link, supporters of an extended rail link to Coolangatta airport and supporters of a rail trail.
Taken together, support for the two pro-rail groups totalled 69 per cent of all voters.
But TOOT believes light rail and pushbikes can co-exist, with people using the bike track to ride to their local station.
‘Rail and bikes can work together safely in the same corridor – like in Victoria – to create a true transport system for all,’ Ms Kolbe said.
She added that she believed the terms of the recent feasibility study had been manipulated to get the outcome the government wanted.
‘The government’s so-called feasibility study last year ignored the option of light rail. It unnecessarily added in the costs associated with the XPT to make the costs higher than needed.
‘The report didn’t include tourists in the passenger numbers, [it] totally ignored all environmental issues [and] deliberately inflated the costs and ignored any benefits to justify a policy backflip.’
And she reminded voters that all the region’s National Party state MPs – Don Page, Geoff Provest, Thomas George and [then member for Clarence] Steve Cansdell – had been vocal supporters of the rail link in opposition, only to backflip once in government.
Mr Page is quoted by Hansard as saying in 2006, ‘it is essential that we… put trains back on this track. If people want this, they must support The Nationals and the Liberal Party at the next election.’
As recently as 2011, Mr Provest told Parliament, ‘members would be aware that my colleagues and I have campaigned for many years to reinstate that rail line’.
Not to be outdone, Thomas George said in 2009, ‘the government could provide stimulus to the north coast by reinstating that rail service’.
‘It would not only support the region’s transport industry but also support tourism and industry along the line,’ Hansard quoted him as saying.
TOOT is now calling on the NSW government ‘to show vision and leadership in creating real transport options. And to honour their commitments to rail transport in this region,’ Ms Kolbe said.