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March 4, 2021

Rail trail launch gains traction with pollies

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At Wednesday's Rail Trails for NSW launch at Parliament House, (L to R): Steve Martin (NRRT), Marie Lawton (NRRT), Damion McCrohan (President Rail Trails Aust), MP Don Page and Steven Kaye (RT Aust).
At Wednesday’s Rail Trails for NSW launch at Parliament House, (L to R): Steve Martin (NRRT), Marie Lawton (NRRT), Damion McCrohan (President Rail Trails Aust), MP Don Page and Steven Kaye (RT Aust).

More than 100 people attended the official launch of the group Rail Trails for NSW at Parliament House, Sydney, on Wednesday.

Members of  Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc (NRRT) were joined by Tweed mayor Barry Longland and Lismore councillor Glenys Ritchie, among others.

They got a positive reaction from environment minister Robyn Parker and transport minister Gladys Berejiklian as well as local MPs Geoff Provest and Don Page.

Minister Berejiklian told the group, ‘I am a personal fan of rail trails and can see how positive they have been in Victoria’.

NRRT president Pat Grier said, ‘this level of attendance from the northern rivers shows the commitment and enthusiasm in the region for rail trails in general and the Casino to Murwillumbah rail trail in particular’.

‘I’m excited at the number of people from across NSW who attended this event and are actively supporting rail trails in our state.

‘Over 100 rail trails have been built in Australia, mostly to encourage economic growth in rural communities and for the health benefits of activities such as walking and cycling,’ Mr Grier said.

‘It is time for NSW to join the rest of Australia in gaining the significant benefits of rail trails,’ Mr Grier said.

Ballina MP Don Page was particularly enthusiastic about the potential for a northern rivers trail.

‘Ours is a branch line, with a village every 16km, which is very handy! The train could no longer service the area, particularly as the line does not go through Tweed or Ballina,’ he told the group.

‘This regional project would service lots of villages, is very picturesque, would be accessible all year round and is more likely to take off quickly because of the high tourist population we have already.

‘The gradients are nice and smooth, making is possible for most people to use the trail for walking or cycling. I am very optimistic we have a lot of community support and am confident the feasibility study will be positive.’

But it seems politicians from both sides are supporting the plan, with shadow minister for the north coast Walt Secord saying he will support a vill introduced into parliament yesterday that would encourage the creation of rail trails in NSW.

The Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails Community Management) Bill was read yesterday in the NSW Legislative Council by Regional and Rural Affairs Shadow Minister Mick Veitch.

Under parliamentary rules, other MPs will have an opportunity to speak on the Bill in May.

The feasibility study for the proposed Northern Rivers Rail Trail is due to be completed next month.

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  1. Death of the rail
    We are about to commit one of the largest mistakes in the Northern Rivers. Killing off the rail. All indications are, that it will happen.
    It is super convenient for the politicians, not spending any money, but being seen to do something for the region. A puffed up rail trail concept, which has been deceptive from the start. Overblowing benefits, making people believe it will coexist with rail (as it should). Make no mistakes. the rail tracks will go, bills are prepared to parliament. A bike path will be it’s replacement.
    We will hear, that they can be reinstated, when and if the needs arise. This will never happen. It has happen, called trails to rails in the US, but only where strong commercial interests needed the rail track back. Never for the public interest.
    Politicians and special interest groups want to make us believe, that Rail trails is a great idea, that there is a strong support in NSW for it and it’s time has come. Our region is thrown into the mix with disused freight rails lines out south and west, which may be suitable for such projects. They could bring a real benefit to their region.
    Here, we have a thriving region, which is growing and living here is desirable. The need for public transport are immense, the traffic issues are comparable to larger cities.

    The cyclists minority of the Rail trail enthusiasts should divert their energy to improving the cycling conditions on our roads.

    Death of the rail. Don’t let it happen!

  2. What Jens said. We need the train back. The idea of losing our rail permanently (because that is the reality) for this minority interest and for commercial gain is just so wrong.

  3. Northern Rivers should secede & become part of Queensland.

    Then this ‘http://www.communityrun.org/petitions/queensland-rail-to-casino’ would be a natural.

    Imagine, hourly electric trains Casino to Bris, two international airports, Lismore, Mullum, Murbah, Tweed, Gold Coast – all solar powered by Condong Cogen!

  4. There is a traffic jam into byron everyday and a train line that sits idle.
    Backpackers come in on buses, not nearly as romantic as my day when you arrived by train.
    Locals from surrounding villages are forced to own cars.
    Don’t waste a good train line. A cycle way could be built anywhere.
    lets get some light rail servicing all those villages.
    You’ll never be able to afford to build another rail line, but bike paths can be and are built all the time.

  5. Don Page, I am bitterly disappointed in you. I agree one hundred percent with the sentiment already expressed by Jens.

    Don Page: “This regional project would service lots of villages, is very picturesque, would be accessible all year round and is more likely to take off quickly because of the high tourist population we have already.

    ‘The gradients are nice and smooth, making is possible for most people to use the trail for walking or cycling. I am very optimistic we have a lot of community support and am confident the feasibility study will be positive.”

    Reality: Accessible all year round? During Summer months when nearly every day is well over 30 degrees – during wet season? Really? Accessible to whom, exactly (even in good weather)? Those within a certain age demographic, fit and mobile enough to ride a bicycle – during daylight hours. Parents with multiple young children, people with physical disabilities or mobility problems, elderly people, single women feeling vulnerable, anyone wanting to travel safely at night, or with lugguge – why are we to be excluded? THIS IS SHAMEFUL DISCRIMINATION.

    A rail trail must only be developed ALONGSIDE a reborn light rail system – as has been pointed out many times, the rail corridor has ample room for both. It cannot be developed as an elitist alternative for cyclists. Rail services EVERYONE in our communities, and cyclists can take their bikes on trains!

    Speak up, speak out, make your voices heard before it is too late. Being pro-train does not make us against rail trails, but one cannot be developed at the expense of the other. Don Page, we are ashamed to have you “represent” us.

  6. Those that keep tooting forget that once upon a time, not long ago, we did have trains on the tracks, and very few people used them.

    The choice is not between trains and trails. Ultimately,the choice will be between trails for the public or selling the land to private developers. Time to stop tooting and unite the community behind keeping the rail corridor in the public domain.

    • With a cycle way there will be less pollution and a lot more healthier, and happier people plus environment.
      The community needs to prioritise micro issues over the macro. If we get this right, other opportunities will follow.

  7. When I arrived in Byron Bay in 1997, having a drink at the rails pub in the evening at around 9pm meant to share the space with a few train travellers. That was the time, when the train was passing through town. Not that convenient for anyone.

    It’s allready about private developpers. They are allready part of the anti train, pro rail trail lobby. Tee corridor is not safe with railtrail from sell offs.

    Jens Krause

    • Yes I would drink at The Rails from 1982 thru to 2004 on week nights and weekends.There would be more people sitting in the eating cubicles at The Rails than would be sitting in these trains.In fact I think The Rails “moved” more people than the train!

    • Developers look for railway corridors to turn in residential subdivisions.Governments prefer development next to rail corridors to provide public transport.Rail trails don’t bring residential subdivisions,they bring tourist dollars and jobs.If the existing corridor is returned back to trains then let’s watch Bangalow,Mullumbimby,Billinudgel turn into the same as what has happened on the Gold Coast to Brisbane train line ,jammed packed with houses.

  8. This is fantastic news. The rail trail can be used by everyone, even if you aren’t a cyclist. This region is about health, a beautiful environment and local industries. Lets make sure we have a place to showcase our region!

  9. So if we put a train back on the original corridor with its low population then how do you service the major growth corridor of Kingscliff to Pottsville on to Ocean Shores/Brunswick past the district hospital that will be built at Ewingsdale and on to our southern friends with their huge growth areas of Lennox Head and Ballina.Do the towns of Burringbar,Mooball,Billinudgel,Mullumbimby,Bangalow ,Eltham or Bexhill want or need trains or would a regular bus service be sufficient and give more coverage.We can be gready and just think about what we personally want now but think about what will be required across the whole Northern Rivers and for the next 100 years.Dont forget that the old train corridor was designed and built for what happened back in the 1890s.Dont forget that this is 2014 and the population growth area and corridor has changed.Maybe we should also look at living like they did back in the late 1800s.Yes for a train on a new corridor and yes for a better bus system.

  10. I would suggest first ride a rail trail before you comment.
    20 people from Byron Bay have travelled with me twice to New Zealand to ride the trails and they all spent a lot of money in that country. same story for Victoria. people will travel to ride a rail trail and we have the climate the scenery and the tourist reputation.
    and before you ask, I have no business interest (Im retired) and would derive no benefit other than the pleasure of riding this great area.

  11. Rail Trails have provided enormous benefit to regions in other parts of Australia and overseas. Yes we have transport issues which need clever local solutions, however the creation of jobs in our many villages and towns is the most important challenge we have ahead of us to prevent the region declining.
    We face an unprecedented situation ahead with regions very vulnerable to job loss, even before we start to think about new jobs. This region needs 16,000 new jobs by 2025 just to remain stable. If there are jobs, there is money for health, aged, police, education and all the other things we need.
    Rail Trails are not about a few minority cyclists-they are used by a huge cross section of the public and bring local benefits to communities and if you look at existing ones they create jobs-lots of jobs locally. People supporting the Rail trail recognise its immediate benefit to local communities plus the long term benefit of creating many new jobs.

  12. Why does it seem that the people in favour of a bicycle trail are against reopening the rail corridor to trains, while people in favour of reopening the rail corridor to trains are in favour of sharing the route with a bike trail? Come on people, this is supposed to be an inclusive community! We’re more than happy for the part of the population ABLE to utilise the rail trail, to do so – but the rest of us, who have been disadvantaged since the train service stopped, have transport needs and concerns which are just as valid.

    Certainly the roads of Byron Shire are horrifically dangerous places for cyclists to travel – this is why we are IN FAVOUR of developing rail trails. We are looking at your point of view. It’s not you versus us. Please afford those within the Shire who choose or need to use public transport the same consideration. And we need to look past the utopian vision of mellow trips by bike within the Shire every day – we cop a lot of extreme weather up here, in which I wouldn’t want to ride. And, realistically, not a lot of commuters of average fitness are going to want to pedal between, for example, Byron and Murwillumbah, or Murwillumbah and Lismore, yet it would be easy for them to carry their bikes onto the train for the trip, and ride on from there.

    Proper public transport increases employment opportunities across the region, especially for non-drivers. Rail gets cars – and trucks – off the roads. I hardly think that the drinking demographic at The Rails has much to do with the area’s need for its rail service to be reinstated. Think about others, folks, please. The train trip was incredibly groovy and at times bizarre, far safer than road travel and a good hour or more faster than now, when you have to juggle your luggage from coach to train at Casino, with a hefty wait in between.

    Don Page gained a great deal of support by purporting to be in favour of reinstating the rail system for our region. He now seems to have gleefully found a much easier alternative, which will benefit only a relative handful of residents. He should be held to account over this. The population up here is in a constant state of growth and without a light rail system the traffic congestion and accident rate can only worsen – I’m sure nobody wants this. Towns without stations could easily be included with a shuttle bus service in sync with the train timetable.

  13. Rail trails have been a great economic boom for rural communities in Victoria, New Zealand and the USA and the Northern Rivers should be no different. The resource is sitting idle and it would be naive to imagine that any government will pay to re-establish the rail link. Regardless of how useful it would be to some locals and how much it might relieve Byron Bay congestion, it would never pay its own way because there would not be enough people using it and no government will foot the bill indefinitely. Government will invest in something where there is a clear need, industry co-investment and a clear exit strategy. If trains in Sydney where there are 4 million people can’t run at a profit, what hope is there that 300,000 in this region will make a train service viable? Re-opening the rail line is a pipe-dream, better to use the asset for something that might actually work and pay for itself.

  14. I like the idea of a rail trail. My kids bike to school and there are no bike tracks anywhere around town. It’s really dangerous on the roads for them. A bike trail through the town will give them safe passage straight to the school gates. And I think it will be fun to ride to other towns in the region – sounds like a great outing! As long as there is a hot coffee or a cold beer at the end!

  15. So do any of you rail supports ride bicycles?

    I commute on a regular basis from Mullumbimby to Byron Bay using the old highway in the morning. I would welcome the rail trail as a safe quick alternative to sharing the road. My main concern when riding in the rain is my visibility and therefore safety so I dont commute in the wet seasoon nearly half as much. Not because its raining,, just becuase I fear for my safety. When this route becomes a viable option for commuters Im sure it will have the added benefit of reducing traffic flow into Byron Bay and reducing driver/cyclist tensions in the area as well.

    Oh, and yes, Im a gluttton for punishment and I commute when its 30+ too.

  16. How will a proposed light rail system get trucks off the road? Are you suggesting the rail line be turned into one capable of carrying freight and passengers and both share the one line? That doesn’t seem feasible.
    Any train line designed to carry passengers will be a white elephant unless it services the areas where the majority of people live and delivers them to where they work. The existing rail corridor doesn’t do that.

  17. Well isn’t this a convenient excuse for treacherous Don Page and his cronies Thomas George and Geoff Provest. The stood with us wearing t-shirts saying “Yes, you can have your train back” prior to winning government. So much for that “non core” promise.

    Page talks glowingly about the track, then condemns it for “not servicing Ballina or the Tweed”.

    A rail train proposal is a joke. Oh, it will bring tourists? Really? Wow. Yes lets sacrifice our public transport infrastructure that locals should be able to be using to travel locally so that a few tourists might come and check out our lovely rail trail.

    This rail line should be re-established to make a regular commuter service for locals and tourists. If the train ran, people might be able to get JOBS in nearby towns! I know I’d go to Byron more often if there was the convenience of a train service, but I’m not about to WALK or ride a pushbike there thanks. Are the elderly and disabled going to use the damn thing?

    The line does not have to be reinstated to XPT standards; there are other options which have lower constructions costs and flexibility in matching passenger capacity to demand.

    The Government study on the cost of rehabilitating the line came out at many times more the cost per kilometre than equivalent line rehabilitations in Victoria. This trend of massive overestimation of rail project costs has starved regional NSW of much needed rail lines.

    And I can’t believe LABOR are going to support this idiocy. Well, actually I can. Janelle Saffin could have made it a federal issue but didn’t. She funded another useless transport plan. Is there some kind of conspiracy against common sense on this issue? Is it only the Greens and TOOT who continue to support trains returning to our tracks?

    We only have ourselves to blame, I suppose. So many people just sit back and say “oh the train, it will never happen”. Well NOT WITH THAT ATTITUDE IT WON’T! The line operated for 100 years. It has been inactive for ten and people are prepared to just give up?


  18. I am absolutely disgusted by Don Page, Marie Lawton and Geoff Bensley’s comments. they should be ashamed of themselves for trying to deprive us of a rail service that we have been fighting so hard for for 10 years. we have the highest road toll in the State, but obviously they are severely lacking of empathy for local’s and our youth.Our rate of road deaths and suicide are both higher than the rest of the state. I have literally been to too many funerals of friends who have been killed on our roads, or committed suicide because they were struggling and socially isolated. Our roads are worst than 3rd world condition, and so is the fact that teenagers hitch hike to their courses and at night time. before we start turning our rail asset into a bike path, we should create bike paths where they already are needed around town. Like Main Arm Road where cyclists take up half the road when you try to pass them safely. Cyclists are always wanting motorists to be considerate of them on the roads, so why cant they be considerate of motorists who want public transport ???

  19. Why do TOOT supporters blame the rail trail for the death of the train? The rail trail proposal was first launched in 2008 as a reaction to the then government saying a big NO to reintroducing the train. The campaign was titled ‘Plan B’ and it proposed a rail trail between Casino and Murwillumbah as an alternative to ending up with nothing after 4 years of campaigning by TOOT did not achieve the reintroduction of the train. The original rail service was introduced in 1894 to a community vastly different to today. Its primary purpose was to move freight down to port in Byron Bay. Lismore, the most important station is very poorly located for commuters, the elderly, the disabled or uni students. Over the last 100 years clay has worked it way up into the track ballast and the original drainage scheme has become inoperable due to sediment and soil movement. The track would have to be completely remade from its foundations up and add the 9 tunnels which do not comply with current safety standards and the more than 180 bridges and culverts that would have to be replaced if the train was to achieve a serviceable speed, then you can get a handle on the $900M to fix it. Not to mention the level crossings!

    I am not a train hater because I don’t support the reintroduction of the local train. I don’t support the train because it is too expensive to fix the infrastructure, it doesn’t suit the contemporary demographic and it is not feasible on many other levels as well. The rail trail is not an alternative to the train, it is an alternative to us ending up with NOTHING!

  20. yes i ride bikes, if there was a bike path on my road i would only have 3.5km to ride to Mullum township which i see as quite reasonable as its a flat road. as it is now, with no bike path, its too dangerous so i don’t do it. there is no way i would ride all the way from mullum to byron if i needed to get somewhere, its too far for me. and if i wanted to get somewhere like byron or lismore, (if there were trains on the line and i had a bike path on my road), i could easily ride my bike to the railway station, catch a train to byron, and ride my bike around town & to suffolk park etc, and use my car much less. i agree that a lot of people do cycle between mullum and byron along the highway, which as a motorist i find really dangerous. i really believe that trails beside the tracks is the best option, and the trail doesnt have to follow the rail exactly, it can branch off and then come back to beside the rail etc. a rail trail without train services will mean that too many people are still missing out

  21. Andy G – “A rail train (sic) proposal is a joke. Oh, it will bring tourists? Really? Wow. Yes lets sacrifice our public transport infrastructure that locals should be able to be using to travel locally so that a few tourists might come and check out our lovely rail trail.”

    Please do some research on rail trails and the benefits attributed to them. They have been successfully implemented along many rail corridors both in Australia and overseas and credited with breathing new life into the towns they run through/past. Don’t take anyone’s word for it, look it up, I think you’ll find more than a “few” use them.

  22. Angie you haven’t been reading my posts correctly as I do support trains whole heatedly but on a new corridor that will cover the whole Northern Rivers and not just Byron Shire.If you had read the government feastability studies it states that a train line would need to follow the population corridor that is occurring now and into the future,not the population corridor that happened in the 1890s.I posted my thoughts about a completely new train corridor on the TOOTs Facebook telling your members that this would a much broader community suite across the whole of the Northern Rivers but they deleted my post.Dont TOOTs want to ask its members about a much better option? So again I say to Angie that push a train line following a new and much better corridor that will take us into the next century and not back the 1800s designed train line corridor.

  23. What if TOOTs and Northern Rivers Rail Trail NRRT both work on the government to bring back a train on a completely new corridor.This would satisfy all groups ,I hope.While ever we are bickering amongst ourselves on the Northern Rivers then the government can just sit back and laugh at us.
    So yes for a new train corridor and yes for a much better bus system.
    Buses have much the same “end of life” carbon output as trains,they are not as bad as people think,read the Eco Sustainabilty magazines to confirm this.

    • no way geoff, the coastal route rail doesnt benefit tourism and it doesnt include residential developments like Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Bexhill it is just a joke. there are other options and variations of the route that we can look at, but to turn the rail into a trail and then hope for a new more expensive rail line in the future is not a compromise..its foolish. it would cost an absolute fortune for a coastal route compared to repairing the old line, thats why no costs have been provided for it. i think for ballina to be on the rail it would be better to have a shuttle line go from byron to ballina to lismore on the hwy like you are saying , but we do still need the original line for transport between towns. Not everyone wants to go to Ballina, and it would take longer for people to get to Uni in Lismore..you cannot say that the economic & community benefits and heritage appeal of the line dont apply to trains as you say they will for rail trail. people who are older, are mobility impaired or other disabilities actually do prefer trains, because there is more room to move about, passenger seating is more spacious and comfortable; and trains provide access to on-board facilities like toilets and refreshments.

  24. What a wonderful project this rail trail will be. Other regions have had wonderful response particularly in New Zealand. I look forward to seeing all the smaller towns revitalized. You have my support!

  25. The Northern Rivers Rail Trail will provide a fantastic opportunity to see the region from a different angle for both locals and tourists alike. I think it will have a positive impact on the community in that it will support local businesses and the health and well-being of those who choose to use it. It will also put to good use infer-structure that has been left to degrade for far too long. I hope it gains the support and recognition it deserves.

  26. I speak to a lot of people & they are angry, horrified & disgusted that the MPs they voted for are now praising the bike, walking, horse riding & all the ‘other transport’ modes trail over their rail corridor. I agree with Angie. How on earth does a bike etc track meet the transport needs of ALL the community? Reality? No of course. For all types of reasons people are stuck, not able to travel to Byron, Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah, Lismore, Casino or any of the villages along the way; catch a mini/shuttle bus to Brunswick eg from Billinudgel or Mullumbimby station at their choosing; their independance, their freedom! When they want to go, where they want to go. A bike, walking, horse (yes, rail trail say horses), cannot meet those transport needs. This is not just a ‘local’ issue either. Population has increased, we here this repeatedly but Transport Min Gladys Berejiklian & our local MPs say: MORE BUSES – GREAT – ON OUR TRAFFIC JAMMED ROADS! SAFE? I DON’T THINK SO! Oh, ROAD REPAIRS! More buses – more traffic – more road repairs! Have a separate bike track. Jillian Spring

  27. While I love the concept of rail trails and I love riding my bike around town, the reality is we need a train. I do not travel alot these days from Mullumbimby because of the cost of petrol – a trip to Lismore or Murwillumbah is a once in a few months event. My daughter who has just got her license and only works 16 hours a week (and she is fortunate to have that but she is seeking more) has to factor in the cost of driving to Byron Bay before leaving home. Its scary but true when income is low. So would she or I ride a bike to Byron or other surrounding towns? . Yes for an occasional recreational outing but as day to day transport – not likely with heat, rain and time being very obvious factors. Can she afford to take a job on the Gold Coast or in Lismore – the fuel costs make it not viable. Trains are such an incredibly efficient way to get around – my daughter in Melbourne chooses train and trams over driving every day. I do believe that the Rail Trail must be created in conjuction with public transport not instead of. We cant let the government get off that easy – and they will if they can.


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