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Byron Shire
September 24, 2021

Rail trail group off the tracks

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It’s sad that some people are saying TOOT (Trains On Our Tracks) are not supporting a rail trail. This could not be further from the truth.

TOOT has been supporting a Rail Trail beside the tracks, with a light rail commuter service. I live 3kms from the Mullum train station, so I’d love to be able to ride my bike to the station and jump on a train.

While some rail trail supporters are saying they are not ‘anti-trains’, one look at the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Group and Casino Murwillumbah Rail Trail Supporters Group Facebook pages paints a very different story indeed.

There are people who are anti-train for their own agendas. The creators of these pages are removing all comments that are pro-train, and not answering our questions about their intentions. This is creating tension and preventing a community discussion on the issue.

The whole community should be very worried about the rail trail group trying to change the status of the land. Even though the main intention is to preserve the rail corridor and keep the land in public hands, this is not the way to do it.

Dismantling or covering the tracks with a path is not preserving it. And removing the rail’s protected status will allow for other land uses, not just a rail trail. No doubt, developers are keen to buy the land and the government would be keen to make money, even sell the scrap metal. This will make it impossible to preserve the track for future train services.

In 2009 a Rail Trail Bill was abandoned because of lack of support from the Greens and Nationals. Thomas George said ‘This is infrastructure vandalism which we must fight to the last breath,’ and Greens MLC and transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said ‘It is already possible to create rail trails in NSW. Many exist in the Hunter and an Act of Parliament was not needed for them to be created. The premise of the legislation is fundamentally flawed.’

With Byron Bay being the biggest tourist destination in the region and the continuing debate about the traffic and the bypass, not to mention climate change, our high growth rate and the highest road toll in NSW, light rail services on this line should be a local priority. We should protect the corridor for rail, and begin maintaining the tracks and stations as soon as possible.

We can use light diesel railcars, which can be converted to bio-fuels or solar in the future. Having rail services as part of an integrated transport plan that includes connecting buses and bikeways, will lead to a sustainable future with less deaths on our roads and more opportunities for the youth and disadvantaged in our community. It’s been 10 years and there is still a lot of community support for trains here.

Angie Burgler, TOOT, Mullumbimby

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  1. Unfortunately wanting something doesn’t always make it happen so we may need to move on after 10 years.
    Dismantling or covering the track for a rail trail preserves the corridor – not the railway line (which would need to be redone if trains came back).
    “Rail Trailers” want a trail trail – they are not necessarily anti-trains, but they are not campaigning for trains. If trains can happen with bikes – fantastic. The feasibility study will tell us more.
    The murwillumbah to casino rail trail face book supporters page is for people to share ideas about rail trails.
    Questions that are able to be answered are answered. There many things we don’t know the answers to yet. The feasibility study will tell us more. If “discussions” on facebook become volatile then sometimes they need to be ended – as these only create more unrest in the community. We need to stay calm and try to think what is best for the majority and what is possible politically. The scenario Angie paints would be wonderful but there is not the money to finance it.
    The rail trail in the Hunter region is not owned by state rail so does not come under the legislation.

  2. Marie Norton brings up a few points which demonstrate,where the rail trail supporters stand.
    For a start she believes that she is talking for a majority. This is defenately not the case. How could it be the case, when the elderly, the young, the mums and dads, and holiday makers without biking desire are not pro rail trail.
    Secondly people have a right to be distrustful of process in relatoion to feasabillity studies, especially, when they are made behind closed doors, detailed costings are not published, arguably overstated and the outcome scewed , as it was the case with the recent rail study.
    She comes clean with the rail trail position, that they are planning to dismantle the rail tracks (with the blessing of the feasabillity study ). There will be no plan to ever again allow a rail on the track, once it has been dismantled. Railbanking (preserving the corridor, a concept from the US has seen very little success in reinstating rail, against strong opposition of rail trail groups)
    She is also right, that the political will to finance a rail is currently absent. This only demonstrate shortsightedness of and an opportunistic attitude.
    The communities deserve better for the sake of our traffic issues, social and environmental concerns.

    Jens Krause

  3. In a perfect world there would be trains and buses running like spaghetti thru all towns and cities but at what cost? The Gold Coast has only just got a Light Rail at a cost of $500M for 13km and for a population of 550,000 people and 4.4M visitors.Byron Shire has a population of 39,000 and 1.5M visitors.Will a government spend a vast sum of money with figures like this? I think not and we the voters/tax payers would be screaming.Bring in a good bus service like the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast that will provide a more “to the door” service or a train line following the population corridor from Tweed to Pottsville to Ocean Shores to Brunswick Heads to Lennox head and Ballina.An interchange at the new Ewingsdale hospital.Trains must service hospitals and university’s to be worthwhile.Look at least 30 years into the future and not just what we want now.What we do now will be a legacy for future generations so choose wisely.

  4. at what cost? well the government’s $950million figure was 50% risks and contingencies, so it would be reasonable to say that the cost would be less than that, and it would definitely cost less than the cost of road accidents which costs the Northern Rivers $750million per year. it would also probably cost less than the $526million per year Byron and Lismore Shires collectively earn through tourism, but most of this tourism revenue is currently lost on maintaining roads and infrastructure is under pressure because buses cause more road damage than cars. in a few weeks we will all have to deal with the traffic caused by the buses and trucks going to the Blues Festival , which is right next to the rail. people don’t like catching buses and getting stuck in traffic, they want trains.
    its true that we need to Look at least 30 years into the future and not just what we want now.What we do now will be a legacy for future generations so choose wisely. thats why trains are the smartest option. in 20 years our population and freight will have doubled, The rail will open up affordable housing. i dont think people will be riding push bikes to get to work and places.
    Why shouldnt we be aiming for the ideal transport system now? just because we have been trying for 10 years is nothing, other infrastructure like the Alstonville Bypass, the Pacific Highway Upgrade, they all took over 20 years, and we are thinking about the future.

  5. The cost of turning the rail into a bike path, and then wanting trains again 30 years in the future will be WAY HIGHER than the cost of repairing the line now. do you really want to keep passing on a bigger cost to the next generation, your children to deal with?


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