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May 14, 2021

Green MPs call for reopening of train line for commuter rail cars

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A rail motor similar to the one planned for use on the Byron - Belongil run. Photo Wikipedia
A light rail motor such as this could be used on the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line. Photo Wikipedia

The NSW Greens have moved a notice of motion in the Upper House calling on the government to reinstate the Casino-Murwillambah line as a light-rail commuter service to meet growing tourism and transport needs in the region.

The Green MPs also fear plans to rip up train lines to build rail trails, which they say can be useful tourist infrastructure which should co-exist, not replace, rail lines.

The motion, introduced by Greens transport spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, highlights Labor’s role in closing the line and the Coalition’s broken promises to open the line.

‘I have called on the government to reinstate the Casino to Murwillambah line and provide real public transportation options to the people of the North Coast,’ Dr Faruqi said.

‘It has been 10 years since Labor pulled trains off the tracks and the community on the north coast is still waiting for the train line that the Coalition repeatedly promised them.

‘This rail line should be re-established to make a regular commuter service for locals and tourists.

‘The line does not have to be reinstated to XPT standards, there are other options such as a railcar or DMU which have lower constructions costs and flexibility in matching passenger capacity to demand.

‘The government study on the cost of rehabilitating the line appears to be very problematic, coming out at many times more the cost per kilometre than equivalent line rehabilitations in Victoria.

‘An independent study of the government’s paper is urgently needed.

‘This trend of massive overestimation of rail project costs has not only starved Sydney of public transport, but also regional NSW of much-needed rail lines.

‘I am deeply concerned about proposals to rip up train lines to build rail trails. Rail trails can be useful tourist infrastructure but should co-exist, not replace, rail lines.

‘It would be madness to tear up any rail line or infrastructure, just because the current government lacks the will to utilise them.

‘The government is prepared to spend billions of dollars on the wasteful and unnecessary WestConnex Tollway in Sydney, but has nothing to offer regional NSW.

‘NSW needs effective, efficient rail services to link up our regional communities and create more employment and tourism opportunities,’ she said.

The motion sates that ‘his house notes:

1. That the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line operated for over 100  years and connected Casino and other northern NSW towns with regional centres such as Lismore, Mullumbimby, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah.

2. That 2014 marks ten years since the then Labor minister for transport, Michael Costa, closed the Casino-Murwillumbah Line, leaving the north coast with no regional rail services.

3. That in 2006 shadow transport minister Barry O’Farrell, now premier, committed to reopening the line should the Coalition come into government.

4. That National Party MPs in Ballina, Lismore and Tweed have in the past committed to reinstating the Casino to Murwillumbah rail services.

5. That in April 2013 the O’Farrell government’s transport study over-estimated the cost of reinstating the 130-kilometre Casino to Murwillumbah line at $900 million, or more than $6.5 million per km.

6. That there is significant community concern about the accuracy of these costings.

7. That the Casino to Murwillumbah line is vital transport infrastructure for tourists and community alike.

That this house calls upon the government to: Reinstate the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line, considering options such as railcars.


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  1. Thank you for some common sense in the onesided political debate.

    Now only the residents of the Northern Rivers can play the part the elected representatives are failing to meet.

    An independent expert study into the benefits is needed, which includes overseas best practice and examples of regional rail.

    Jens Krause

  2. How can anybody justify spending nearly a billion taxpayer dollars opening a now decrepit rail line for a “commuter” service when the region can support a commuter bus service? The ONLY thing that could justify spending that sort of money on reopening the rail line is freight.

  3. Jens I agree with you totally.
    This beautiful region is growing all the time, and with it the pressures of society grows to.
    Good ,reliable, regular, safe public transport off the roads is what I believe is needed.
    Benefiting all people who live here or visit this region, whether its directly or indirectly.

  4. it is possible for economic prosperity without loss of our environment and lifestyles.
    Leveraging the existing infrastructure corridor for some form of public transport seems sensible to me.
    the complete contempt that successive governments have for our region has to a certain extent preserved our pristine environment but progress is happening, just look at Casaurina et el. without transport infrastructure we risk more road deaths and corrosion of our lifestyle simply because roads dont cut it, not environmentally and not economically. Southern Queensland is where our hospitals and tertiary education is located. More please. transport connect us to Southern Queensland too.

  5. How much should be spent on each passenger trip, and who should pay for it? The unfortunate reality is that the cost per passenger was already proven to be too high, in the real world, back when the train was operating. Most of us would love to see the trains return, but the reality is that there were too few passengers to make it worthwhile. Rail trails are not too expensive. They provide a benefit to the entire community, whether the actual users commute by bicycle, or the disabled that take advantage of the gentle grades, or small businesses that will cater to the healthy tourism that will be promoted. This can be a great opportunity for all of us. Let’s not blow it by tooting the impossible dream.

  6. Thanks to the NSW Greens for bringing our train to the attention of the government and media. We’ve been scammed by both major parties who have overinflated the costs of the train in this area. They both seem obsessed with building roads and ignoring rail. There’s some Obeid/Sinodinus thing going on here. We need a whistle blower to find out the truth.

  7. I hope the study also includes looking at a much better corridor.We need a train line that picks up Brunswick Heads,Ocean Shores,Pottsville thru to Kingscliff and Coolangatta.If you don’t live at least 800 metres from a train station then you will need to catch a taxi or bus to a station.Hopefully the Greens will also give support to a train system that covers this existing population corridor and also allows for the projected land release areas in the future .The land releases at Lennox Head and Cumberland needs to be added to the equation.

  8. Not just tourism but all communities along the railway line between Casino and Murwillumbah would greatly benefit from having a light-rail commuter service. I hope common sense prevails and the line will be reinstated. The sooner the better! We desperately need this kind of public transport in our region.

  9. It was not viable 10 years ago so would it be viable now? If someone can come up with believable numbers (reinstatement costs, running costs and paying passenger numbers) and can resolve the traffic issues the trains will create (such as stopping all traffic in the middle of Byron Bay) then push for it.

    The real issue is that the government has said the train is not viable but has not provided anything in its place such as a decent bus service.

  10. The obvious answer would be to link the lismore/Murwillumbah line through to the Brisbane/Varsity Lakes/ line, thereby linking Gold Coast into nth NSW, Southern Cross University’s different campus’, preferably building the new light line as the same gauges the newer Queensland line to eliminate a train change. Surely this would double the clientel and make it very viable, if only our difficult State Governments will cooperate.

  11. You obviously didn’t read the entire article, which clearly states that there are significant doubts as to the accuracy of that “nearly a billion dollars” figure. The report, which was not independent, clearly overstated the costs to convince gullible people like yourself that it’s not worthwhile and justify this broken promise. If you actually read the article you will see that similar projects interstate have not costed nearly that much, and the current proposal the Greens have put forward costs much less and is more flexible than XPT-standard rail anyway.

  12. I can remember the golden age of the Gold Coast Motorail. The sleepers were individual, dinner was had in the Dining Car and you could put your car on the back of the train.

    More and more I am failing to see progress in our society

  13. I see people referring to the issue of the train service (when it was running) was hardly used. To claim that as a justification for not re-instating the railway ignores the reality that the NSW Transport Dept in the last days before 2004, refused to consult with locals and insisted on running a Sydney-centric service that was little use to anyone. They had ample in formation about who would use the service and when. They possibly continued to run the service as a means to prop up their idiotic decision. In the meantime, we now have local MP Don Page, behaving appallingly by using the same language used by the pro-rail people (economic benefit) to apply to the rail-trail lobby. Like, what a rip off! How low can someone go when they have to resort to blatantly stealing the integrity of the “opposing point of view” in order to support their own dubious position? On this issue you really have to ask, “What kind of MP is he when he does a complete 180 degree U-turn on his position in regard to re-instating the North Coast rail link and hops into bed with the rail-trail lobby?”
    It’s very important that an independent review is held into the NSW Transport’s dodgy costings.

  14. an old infrequent service was not viable, but a RailCar set running at regular times throughout the day is most viable! we would start doing the line repairs in sections, the most achievable sections being Casino-Lismore, and Byron-Mullumbimby. the cost of the entire line would be under 1 billion dollars. it would be significant infrastructure, but well worth it, saving many lives and improving the wellbeing of residents. The Byron Council collects $800million and year in rates, and the region also is attributed to a $800million a year Tourism income. The Region also has the highest road toll in the state, with road accidents costing us $750 million a year. so investment in the rail line for the community and tourism makes sense, and would be the cheaper option in the long run.. various routes for the line can be looked at, but new lines will cost more than repairing the old line, and it would be cheaper and easier to repair the original line to connect towns, and then new lines can be built to connect our line to Ballina and Tweed. If we dont do this now, the next generation will be left with all the higher costs, and the roads will get worse and worse.


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