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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

Rail trail process flawed

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Thank you, Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT), for explaining the flawed process that delivered the massively overblown costs put forward by Don Page for reinstatement of rail.

No consideration of light rail. No discussion of the potential for a combined public transport/tourist service. Real benefits dismissed in a few words.

The potential to improve the woeful level of public transport across the region, relieve traffic congestion in Byron Bay and promote sustainable tourism and economy have been given up on.

Let’s look at some of the costs of the rail trail. Most obviously, a rail trail would be unable to use all sections of the existing track without significant adaption to ensure safety. There will need to be diversions built at cost around some geographical features. All this will need to be maintained annually. Far more maintenance than is carried out now will have to be paid for each year to ensure vegetation doesn’t take over. There will be no revenue from fares to offset these costs.

What benefits justify such costs? The number of people prepared to walk or ride a bike along a rail trail to work, school and services would be substantially less than fare-paying commuters on a train.

That leaves the supposed tourism bonanza. Rail trail proponents claim that there is a market of 750,000 adventure tourists that would use the trail.

Let’s be clear. Only a very small fraction of these visitors currently visit our shire. The rail trail will only work if there is an increase of several hundred thousand visitors to Byron Shire, adding substantial load to our overstretched roads and infrastructure. Ratepayers will have to pick up the costs.

Shame there isn’t a train to help relieve the impacts.

Cr Basil Cameron, Goonengerry


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  1. Dear Editor, I endorse Cr Basil Cameron’s letter for rail travel a majority of people need convenient, safe transport. Bikes, walking and horses are not transport. That ‘claytons’ rail corridor study used information from 2002-2003, 2004 but those figures were ‘ suss’ too because population has increased considerably as stated constantly on the Northern Rivers and Tweed by Councils, Destination Tweed and businesses. The million dollar question, “Why use out of date information for 2013-14?” Also passengers (including from Sydney) were told they could not get off the train at Mullumbimby and the other attack on our Crown Land Rail Corridor use by train, was the times were changed to night. Consequently, day tripper numbers could not be counted. Also the XPT carried half the number of passengers the Motor Rail Carried. Jillian Spring

  2. Don Page’s so-called study completely ignored the 7,000+ people in the north of Byron Shire where a few bus services on weekdays is the only public transport available. This large population is close to the Billinudgel railway station and a commuter train would provide much needed transport. But this community’s transport needs are of no concern to the local MP.

  3. Don Page’s should be ashamed of his so-called study which completely ignored the 7,000+ people who live in the north of Byron Shire where the only public transport is a few buses on weekdays only. This large population is close to the Billinudgel train station and a commuter train service would provide much needed transport. But the transport needs of this community is of no concern to the local MP.

  4. Our railway has been vandalised through neglect by successive governments who promise anything to get elected then sit on their hands so that the cost to rejuvenate our important infrastructure blows out.

    It would be a done deal if someone finds coal in Byron Shire.

    Perhaps those in the festival industry could help by lobbying Don Page and The O’Farrell government harder, to address our mounting traffic congestion problem in The Shire, by insisting that our train line is too important to allow to become a “fun park” and stations at Tyagarah and Yelgun would cut vehicle usage and generate a valuable income stream to the state through assured usage by festival patrons as well as general tourism and most importantly, our communities along the rail line.
    The money for infrastructure is there. I heard The Treasurer say so after The ACCC knocked back the sale of our power stations.
    A rail trail will be a pointless, costly excercise that will burden our underfunded councils forever more with maintainance, insurances and repairs. A rail system will relieve traffic on our rapidly deteriorating roads further saving money for Council
    The Department of Planning and Infrastructure should back up their approval for North Byron Parklands by insisting on expenditure for our rail line, based on the increasing patron numbers that will flow on from Parklands and The Blues festival sites success, over time.

  5. It seems that TOOT supporters will continue to refuse to do any research on the benefits of a rail trail. No, best to remain ignorant if you are determined to pursue a train with bloody-minded determination, free from any facts that might get in the way. If Basil or Jillian has any real knowledge about tourism motivations and behaviours they would know that day trippers (the oft-mentioned hoards from the Gold Coast) are low value tourists who use community resources but contribute very little in return. They would also know that backpackers wouldn’t touch the train, they prefer camper vans or youth oriented transport such as Oz Experience where the journey is part of the fun. If TOOT supporters really believe tourists would use a train to visit Lismore or Casino, I can only ask, what planet do you come from?

    • I’m a local tour operator and talk every day with visitors to our region, most say they would like the opportunity to travel by rail – especially if it linked up with SE Queensland. I think linking the rail-trail idea with an significant increase in tourism is farcical. If Don Page was serious about promoting tourism then he should do what he promised and re-instate the line from Casino to Murwillumbah and extend it to the Gold Coast Airport. The train option will bring a great deal more dollars, visitors and ease the congestion and pressure on our roads, much more so than a rail-trail (bike path).

  6. Fare paying passengers on the NSW train system only contribute 20% of the total running costs i.e $750 million income to approx $3.5 billion running costs.
    Are people going to walk from Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads to the Billinudgel Train Station.Are people going to walk from Alstonville,Ballina,Lennox Head , Pottsvile etc to train stations? No they need to catch buses.Increase buses for rural areas to cut down on double handling .Sure trains are great in high population areas but we don’t have this in Byron or Ballina Shires.

    • Are People going to walk from Casino to Murwillumbah or Lismore to Bangalow in sweltering heat on our useless bike path? NO! Get real!

      Trains are a much better and easy way of commuting. People dont have time to waste 2-3 hours of their life walking or riding a bike from Lismore to Byron.

      You treat trains like they are only for places like Sydney or somewhere!. That’s not true, there are people here as well, that need transport, not some stupid, pointless pathway or hot buses that are a pain to use on our useless roads

  7. Hi Basil,
    What do you think the annual costs of maintaining a rail trail are? What do you think the benefits to the local economy per rail trail user are? Without even a ball park figure for those two things, it’s not very meaningful to make a comparison with the costs of maintaining a train line – or its benefits.


  8. Light rail from Byron Bay to Billinudgel and Byron Bay to Bangalow can be viable now (other section could be added later). 35 thousand people live in this corridor, Hundred of thousands of tourists visiting this region each year. Large festival sites are situated along the current rail line. Overseas experience have shown, that these parameters add up to a functional, viable rail service. Congestion issues in Byron Bay will be helped, not hindered. Smart bus services and cycling ways in Brunswick, Ocean Shores will service the stations. The end points and inbetween stops become hubs for eco tourism, with cycling stations and other activities. A cycle trail could adjoin the line. From Billinudgel its not far to hinterland towns of Yelgun, Moobal,Burrinbar, Stoker Siding. The tourism industry in the Northern Rivers has put all their eggs into the rail trail basket, it seems. Rail trail on its own is disproportionally using our public rail line assets, where it can be used better, helping the region and the planet .
    Jens Krause

  9. Rather than a rail trail why don’t we widen the more well used rural roads to incorporate marked bicycle lanes. This would be far cheaper than a rail trail and make the roads safer for all users.

    A benefit for both bicycle and car drivers alike.

  10. I have done my research and wholly and solely support the return of trains to our tracks over any other option such as converting it to a commercially-focussed rail trail. Light rail is the answer – and is in line with global trends towards cleaner, more efficient public transport systems and away from reliance on cars. Sometimes, just sometimes, you have to put the needs of locals ahead of tourists and those people who intend to generate an income from any proposed rail trail.

  11. Basil, you really do need to do some rail trail research. Rail trails operating everywhere else are highly successful – even in places that didn’t have a tourist market beforehand. We already have the market. “Active Transport” ie walking and cycling are growing industries world wide. People want to get out into nature and be active! This rail trail will not be used by just a few cyclists. It will be used by thousands – lots of them spending money in our towns – not just Byron, but in smaller towns along the corridor. They will be on bikes or legs, not cars!
    Have you noticed how many people ride bikes and walk in this town? Have you also noticed how many accidents there are involving bicycles and pedestrians?
    Lets do something positive for a change and create something sustainable and beautiful and economically viable.

  12. The range of pedal/electric transport is growing rapidly, there’s some excellent stuff becoming available. The reason we don’t see it around here is the roads are really unsafe for bikes.
    A bike friendly corridor with gentle grades right through the middle of the shire would probably see this creative community totally redefining personal transport.
    A train would be great and shouldn’t be excluded, but we also need to claim the corridor for the community or the buggers will sell it off.

  13. Ok. Let’s sell the land and be gone with it. The government could use the money. The train will never return to that route. No one uses trains. We are never going to win. There is not the population and where there is population they fly! As tax payers we need to be responsible with our investments. If I can’t have the trains back then the rail trail would be so cool. Environmentally friendly and a fraction of the ongoing costs of rail. The rail will never run again. It’s over.

    • what a great way to waste a hell of a lot of land and opportunities. If we do that, this region is doomed, we WILL be back to the the 1800’s when there was no transport unless you were rich or something

  14. If people did their research they would know that the train from the Gold Coast to Brisbane is usually packed with standing room only in peak hour. People have to drive to the stations as many are situated far from the most populated areas. The original line that did go through the most populated areas to Tweed Heads was ripped up in the 1960s by dodgy politicians who then sold the land to their developer mates. They won’t want to try that here.

    Train services, like roads, hospitals, schools, and universities are what we pay taxes for-they’re not supposed to make a profit. No one complains about the billions being spent on upgrading the Pacific Hwy and it certainly won’t make a profit.

    You would think intelligent people would know better than to believe dodgy figures put out by politicians who have no interest in providing services-all they’re interested in is selling off public assets to profit their mates. A la Eddie Obied.

  15. I for one, would visit the shire much more often, spending my money at your shops, pubs & accommodation places, as would many others around the world, if there was a bike/rail-trail to be ridden,
    That’s the only reason I would bother to visit your area…
    Once the trail was established you’d find the word will quickly spread & visitor numbers will increase…
    As for maintenance of the trail, something could be worked out..
    Cheers !!

  16. Louise, the reason the Brisbane to the Gold Coast train is so popular is because it is a fast modern line that allows trains to travel at speeds of up to 140km/hr thus making it a viable alternative to driving. Not to mention the much, much higher population density in the Gold Coast area. The windy while scenic old line from Murbah to Casino will never be able to carry trains at this speed. If you’re that convinced we need a train why not push for a new straighter route from the gold coast to Byron that will allow trains to travel at high speeds. The bike trail is going to be a fantastic draw card to this region that will provide much needed economic stimulus and jobs as well as providing safe and sustainable travel between towns. I think the vocal minority of TOOT need to let go of the reinstating the old line and give someone else a go.

    • That’s the thing, TOOT is not a vocal minority, If you knew anything about this topic, you would know its only 4 or 5 arrogant trail supporters who actually believe this. Instead of taking a step back to the 1800’s, how about we start improving our Public Transport and become a 21st century Region like we where 10 years ago!

  17. The rail study was a disgrace, the ‘reasons’ were just so rediculous, yet we were expected to take them as fact! People have to drive or go by bus shuttle to catch a plane! To catch the train buses, people have to drive to meet them & often on the edge of a road. Transport is the need, to get off the roads. Will, I have spoken to people – all ages – at the Casino railway, the changeover is a debacle there. People hate it & squashing onto those buses! Yes, I have paid my way many times on the train, as have other passengers – we talk – on the train & on the bus! I talk to people anywhere I go about the train. Funny, they don’t say they want to ride a bike & so many cannot anyway. I have listened & researched much about railtrails.The Rail Trailers don’t seem to care at all about real transport or tourism happening with people coming by train. The mini railway at Casino is a wonderful experience to ride on – yes – that incls adults! People love trains. We often went to Mur-bah just for the train ride from Billinudgel. People who want to go somewhere, cannot drive or have to rely on someone to take them, would be independent, go when they want to go. The Coaltion are showing they do not really care either about all the people who want trains. So, we seem to have to remind them – OUR train line is for trains! Jillian Spring

  18. The Rail Infastructure is there so we need to use it. Once the rail trail is here, there is no backing out, The trail won’t last and will turn the corridor into ‘vacant land’


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