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.