The plan for a rail trail through the Casino to Murwillumbah rail-line corridor has a powerful new ally after receiving the thumbs up from the Northern Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) yesterday.
While throwing themselves behind the proposal, the five mayors within the group are adamant it should not be a substitute for a rail line on all or part of the route, ‘that would utilise existing local infrastructure on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line’.
NOROC president, Tweed mayor Barry Longland, said the improvement of public transport systems across the northern rivers was ‘a priority for NOROC councils, and the development of a rail trail should not compromise this’.
‘The Byron council is confident local rail services can operate within its shire, and that this form of public and group transport could co-exist with the development of a rail trail,’ Cr Longland said.
He added that the rail line was seen as a ‘vital transport link for the whole region’.
But he said the development of a rail trail along the corridor would be a way of ensuring the land remains in public hands.
‘The northern rivers is a scenically diverse area and the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor cuts through some of the most stunning parts of the region,’ Cr Longland said.
‘NOROC is now awaiting the release of the ARUP report on the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Feasibility Study and we look forward to reviewing and commenting on the report,’ he said.
Echonetdaily understands the feasibility study has been completed and will be released to the public shortly.
The peak council group covers five local shires, including the four in which the railway line runs.
Meanwhile, more than $2,000 was raised for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc (NRRT) at last Saturday night’s fundraiser dinner, held at the Byron Bay Entertainment Centre.
Association member Marie Lawton told Echonetdaily, ‘Rail trail supporters gathered together for a fun night of circus acts, music and dinner, with a guest appearance from The Space Cowboy with his miraculous spoon-bending and unicycle feats’.
‘[Local NSW MP] Don Page also made a guest appearance and spoke eloquently on his vision for the northern rivers with the potential building of the rail trail.
‘Mr Page is very optimistic that the result will be a positive one. Mr Page also said that he will remain committed to the project even though he will be retiring as the local member for Ballina next year.’
Ms Lawton says money was raised through a raffle and a silent auction from donations made by local businesses in Byron and Lismore.
‘Businesses have been very happy to support the fundraiser and Circus Arts have been amazing with the amount of work they put into making the night a success,’ she said.
The plan for a rail trail along the corridor first surfaced after a proposal to return rail to the line was deemed too expensive by a study commissioned by former local government minister Don Page in April last year.
Then, last August, he announced an investigation into the use of the corridor for a rail trail, which is still to report its findings.
Meanwhile, local rail-trail enthusiasts met with politicians in Sydney, including transport minister Gladys Berejiklian, in March this year to launch the Rail Trails for NSW group.