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Byron Shire
May 14, 2021

Rail trailers are part of Don’s plan

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When a rail trail on the Casino to Murwillumbah train line was first mentioned I thought it would be a good idea, but not if the line was to be ripped up. There’s no need, as the 20-metre wide corridor alongside the rail could easily and inexpensively be used for a trail. But the rail trail proponents have shown they are not interested in working with the community for any compromise that would see a rail trail and train service as the best outcome for all.

Despite all the studies to the contrary, rail trailers continue to regurgitate Don (We’ll Get The Trains Running) Page’s ridiculous cost for repair of the line, which was invented to justify not honouring a decade of promises. Do supporters of a rail trail really think that repairing the bridges, removing the large trees that have been allowed to grow on the line, fixing the washaways and repairing the drains, then ripping the line up and concreting it all over, will cost less for a rail trail than for a train service? Or are they just part of Don’s plan to justify not getting the trains running in order to sell the very valuable corridor?

Rail trailers obviously don’t have any concern for the cost to thousands of low paid north coast people who have to drive long distances to work every day. Or the young people who have great difficulty getting to Uni or social activities, or the seniors who are unable to access necessary medical services or even get to the shops, regardless of how close to a train station they may live.

No matter how hysterical the bikers get, we all know a bike trail cannot provide the same social, economic or environmental benefits to the community for the same cost as a train service. When rail trail supporters denigrate well informed train supporters and have no interest in the best outcomes for the whole community, I like many others, am very suspicious of their motives.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores

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  1. We are being highly promoted by the tourism board of Northern Rivers and NSW. We already get over 1.5 million guests here and we have now become one of the most highly promoted Mega Festival Shires on the East coast. It seems only rational to put trains back on the tracks to cope with the amount of traffic that is being generated by 35,000 people for Blues and 15,000 to 35,000 people for North Byron Parklands at Yelgun over the next 4 years with 4 festivals. Trains are the only way to to move people around our now over utilized roads that are a sham since the state governments with drew there financial support. In fact I’d go as far as to say third world country roads. Louise is correct we need trains back on the tracks to move the enormous amount of people of our roads and back on train lines. This also generates employment for our youth in work on the trains and in the industries that will follow. The train line should run from Varsity Lakes to Byron and then out to Lismore, Ballina to connect all the areas that have such a diversity of Tourism. For goodness sake state governments get over yourselves give the rural areas the infrastructure that they need to move all the holiday makers you are sending us. Take some responsibility

  2. As usual Louise raises the most sound points for pushing for trains to service the community. And the community have every right to continue demanding this sustainable mode of transport. The Ratepayers need to understand that they too have a right to stand up, as their resources into the community need accountability and vision. Does it surprise anyone that the Byron Rates are far higher than those paid in Sydney? And the best respite from congestion and road danger in “the Big Smoke” is the availability of trains. Why should the Byron Shire continue to suffer road congestion, social isolation, impossible choices for youths wishing to seek work/education? Time for the State Government to become very transparent on this most urgent matter. The community is deserving of better.

  3. I hope that the pro train people had the pleasure of getting woken early in the morning by the freight trains travelling thru their towns.I remember the banana and cement trains waking me during the early hours of the morning going thru Byron Bay,warning bells warbling,diesel locomotive noise and smell,clunkety clunk noise from the tracks.I hope the pro train people live within 500m of the track like I did so that they will be woken every night when the freight trains or the normal passenger trains taking home the hordes of Gold Coast party people in the wee hours.I can’t wait to see the security fences being installed thru all our towns ,like has been installed thru all the suburbs on the Gold Coast to ensure the safety of the public and to only allow pedestrians to cross at a few places.So a passenger train every hour between 6am and 2am going north and the same going south ,only 20 passenger train movements a day and say 6 freight train movements between 2am and 6am? I can you tell from experience of living in Byron Bay since 1964 that the existing train corridor is not suitable for trains,yes it would be fantastic to have trains but not on the existing corridor.So looking forward to the throngs of Gold Coast (600,000 population) and Brisbane (2.2 million) coming down for a party weekend or night .I believe that you must look and think hard before saying yes to freight and passenger trains being linked to the Gold Coast.

    • Backward and negative thinking here,( to justify self interest) who would want or enjoy the prospect of walkers and bikers and Yobo’s in their back yard anyway.
      The trains were there a long time before you. You can always move out..

  4. A study commissioned in 1997 by the NSW Transport Minister recommended a line be built from Byron to Ballina and across to Lismore to provide transport for that large section of population and reduce traffic on our terrible, dangerous roads. Nothing has ever been done of course.

    Those who make unsubstantiated assumptions that Trains On Our Tracks would not be used could not be more wrong. The study undertaken by SCU showed clearly over 90% of people would use the train if connected to the Queensland line at Coolangatta, which must be done. A more practical demonstration of the popularity of a train service occurred in 2004 when an 80 year diesel train was brought up and did several trips a day from Mullum to Byron and Bangalow and return. So many people were trying to get on the train many were left behind. Those that did get on were packed in like sardines. While the old train had a maximum speed of 80ks the train trip was quicker than driving and there was no need to drive around for ages trying to find a park. Which is another point people seem to forget-our towns cannot provide parking for all those who choose to come by car.

    It’s easy to see how popular modern, comfortable, airconditioned trains would be.

  5. I lived for a short time close to the train line (which operated from 1894 to 2004) in Mullum and the noise from trains, even in the middle of the night, did not disturb anyone. I’ve been in houses backing onto the line at Belongil when the trains were going past and people hardly noticed. The party people from the Gold Coast/Brisbane are already here. They boose up in pubs and clubs then drive on our roads. They’ve been coming in their cars in increasing numbers since the highway was upgraded. Some people are inventing nonsense which has no relation to reality.

  6. Congratulations Louise for a well-informed and thoughtful letter, and responses. I, like you, am one of many who would also like to see the return of trains to the Northern Rivers for all the reasons you have outlined. I also view the motives of the rail trail group with a healthy degree of skepticism – it’s about business – not about long-term benefits to the wider community that a train service would offer.

  7. another well written letter from L.D. i question the motives of rail trailers and even the ‘grab the rail for a bypass’ group, because for a rail trail to happen, the status of the rail would have to be changed. As Mayor Simon Richardson said this week; the rail corridor is protected by legislation for the exclusive use of rail, regardless if the corridor is used or not.The Act would need to be changed to first remove the protected status, which in turn may allow other uses for the land to be considered, and then subject to development and agency approvals etc.This however could see the rail corridor open up to many potential uses, not just transport purposes, and would presumably also attract market rates whether for lease or sale. As it is located in Byron Bay, it would likely be considered high value real estate.
    I feel that people supporting rail trail & changing the status of the rail are only concerned about their own property interests or possibly developing the the rail land, and are not at all concerned about “Preserving the Corridor as a public asset”, and they certainly do not care about the disadvantaged people in our community who need public transport, and how we can use the rail service to market our regional tourism.

  8. “Do supporters of a rail trail really think that repairing the bridges…will cost less for a rail trail than for a train service?”

    Yes, for the obvious reason that people weigh less than trains. Dozens of rail trails have been built across Australia in the last decade, and the costs are now pretty well understood. Rail trail bridges are expensive (a single bridge on the Warburton-Lilydale Rail Trail cost $3.5 million), but are still a fraction of the cost of a heavy rail bridge. Rail trails don’t need ballast, they don’t need regular safety inspections, switching equipment, level crossings – let alone the cost of maintaining rolling stock and staffing stations. They can also be built in sections, providing value to local communities before the whole thing is complete.

  9. Good discussion here. However the people I have met who support the idea of the rail-walking-cycling trail are simply trying to do something to really benefit the region-thats all. The key benefit is that rail trails bring heaps of new jobs and boost economies. Rail Trails around the world show this. This region faces a huge need for new jobs just for us to remain stable and they allow us to pay for all the other things we need in the community.
    There are no ulterior motives-for goodness sake-can’t people accept that some people just do things for the good of the community? And central to the concept is preserving the corridor, in public hands, for use in the future. Rail trail supporters also are concerned about transport issues, but recognise that using the corridor in this way allows tourism to spread without undue impact on road use.
    Supporters have come from all walks of life, they are not just bike riders or walkers-they recognise the considerable benefit that rail trails bring to the community demonstrated already in numerous rail trails.

  10. To Geoff Bensley:
    What you say is absolute rubbish, Geoff! If you want to live in complete isolation, go and live on Easter Island.
    6 freight trains per day is just wishful thinking, since all freight traffic dried up before the line closed.
    Trains are the best way to move people and avoid the road chaos in Byron Bay, which you seem to prefer.
    I am sure that the traffic in Jonson Street makes far more noise than any train (diesel railcar) would.
    Your rail-trail will NOT provide any public transport for the region and, as Louise says, will cost a fortune to install.
    Louise is a great letter writer! ….. and she can analyse things well!


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