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Byron Shire
April 16, 2021

Bridges demolished on north coast rail line

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The railway bridge across Lismore Road at Binna Burra has been demolished. Photo Chris Dobney
The railway bridge across Lismore Road at Binna Burra has been demolished. Photo Chris Dobney

Chris Dobney

A NSW upper house MP yesterday tabled a petition to return the Casino to Murwillumbah rail service but the call may have come too late after two bridges on the line were demolished this week.

The removal of the historic bridges effectively severs the old north coast railway line and erodes hopes it will ever be reopened.

Work commenced on the first of the two bridges, at Woodlawn Street, North Lismore, last Sunday.

Crews were this morning mopping up the work at Binna Burra, where a second bridge crossing Lismore Road was demolished yesterday.

Greens NSW MP and transport spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi yesterday tabled a petition containing more than 1,300 signatures in state parliament calling on the government to provide regular commuter train services along the north coast rail line using diesel railcars.

On Tuesday TOOT spokesperson Basil Cameron called on government to scrap its plans for a rail trail along the old route.

Mr Cameron said the costs of a rail trail had been underestimated in a recently released study, while an earlier study on the cost of returning a rail service had been inflated.

Ms Faruqi meanwhile said the government could start ‘repairing the track from Lismore to Casino as a priority’.

‘The $900 million [in costs] estimated for reinstating the Casino to Murwillumbah line is over-inflated with a massive 50 per cent in “contingencies” added to the cost’ Ms Faruqi said.

‘Regional rail in Victoria has been reinstated at much less cost per km. Even the new Darwin to Alice Springs railway line was completed at a much smaller (seven times less per kilometre) cost than the estimates for the Casino to Murwillumbah line.

‘People in the northern rivers have also lost out in the 2014-2015 state budget as there is nothing allocated for regional public transport at all.

‘Effective and efficient rail services are crucial for building regional NSW and to connect a major centre like Lismore to create more employment and tourism opportunities.

Ms Faruqi said that locals and visitors alike had signed her petition for the return of the railway.

‘In just a few months, the northern rivers community have collected more than 1,300 signatures from locals and visitors who are demanding a return to a much needed rail service in this area.

‘This petition highlights the lack of effective public transport for the use of residents, business people and tourists, and calls on the government to provide regular commuter train services on the railway line using diesel railcars,’ she said.


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18 COMMENTS

  1. The Rail Transport Study advised that these bridges would need replacing anyway and that was factored into the cost of the line’s repair bill. So the bridge removal does not put up a further barrier to the reinstatement of rail. It will mean however that new bridges would have to be constructed to accommodate rail trail needs and then these bridges will then have to be replaced once the line is repaired for trains to resume services. A lot of waste of public money due to a long time lack of valueing and maintaining the infrastructure and a lack of perception of what the real needs of the people are now and into the future. But it’s not the end of the line with the bridges being taken down.

  2. Hmm why did they have to go and demolish them on a sunday afternoon and a wednesday evening while the state of origin was on, did they think people would go and try to stop them destroying the bridges? unfortunately they bridges were rotting etc and would need to be replaced for trains, but what is going on with the road works near this binna burra bridge? Are they going to upgrade the road and take it straight over the rail corridor???

  3. This really shows the quality of our political representatives and the whole political system, it just doesn’t deliver democracy ! It really doesn’t matter what the cost of reintroducing an economic and more sustainable public infrastructure is.
    Does anybody think that the cost of the new toys for the air-force is going to have any effect on the decision to buy or not ? I think not! The fact is these cowboys in government choose their options according to their political expedience and then have a standard list of excuses that would impress a twelve year old.

  4. Can’t say that I’m sorry to see the Binna Burra bridge gone – never drove under that without wondering whether it was going to collapse on the car! I agree with Garth, the old bridges had to be replaced if the rail line is to be reinstated anyway. I would encourage light rail supporters not to give up, and to support the tireless TOOT (Trains On Our Tracks) activists. I hope that one day we’ll all see a light rail service for the Far North Coast operating beside a safe and pleasant rail trail through the area – remember that there’s absolutely no need for the two to be mutally exclusive, and all those too young or too old to travel by bike, or physically incapable of riding, or just needing to commute to work in other towns regularly and safely, will benefit from the reintroduction of our rail link.

  5. How sad to see the bridges taken down. Apparently they were all repaired and in great shape just before the government closed the line. Since then the termite treatment on the bridges has been discontinued so that over the last ten years they became termite ridden. I would like to call for an investigation into the closure of the train. With the predicted cost of the train being hugely overinflated by the government and the obvious neglect of the corridor we have to start asking who’s making money out of this? Is Obeid involved? Sinodinos? It’s incredible how many politicians have been found to have acted corruptly lately. When the train was originally closed I trusted in what I was told because I believed my govt to be made up of honest people. Now I don’t know whether it’s possible to trust anything the Liberal and Labor parties say.

    I’d like to thank Mehreen Faruqi from the NSW Greens for her support for our campaign to bring back the train to the Northern Rivers. These bridges might have been taken down but we don’t have to give up on getting our train back. The cost of replacing them is a drop in the bucket when you look at 27 billion on fighter jets. It’s all about priorities. Last week an article in the Herald stated that Sydney has a second rate public transport system which is seriously going to effect the NSW economy in years to come. Why aren’t our politicians listening? We need to take a stand and vote these people out of office. Mehreen is listening more to the needs of this community than our own local politicians and I’m grateful for that.

  6. This rail line is an invaluable part of our area’s social heritage. An amazing, brilliantly engineered transport corridor created for our current generation by our predecessors who obviously had greater long term vision and commitment to the social fabric of our society than today’s weaselly bunch of spineless creatures that have parasitized and taken over our places of public discussion and administration (town halls and parliaments). The people of the Northern Rivers need to take back our heritage from these fools before they destroy it completely with their narrow minded, corporate-driven zealotry. We need to take it back the same way we took back the Disputed Plains of Bentley in the last few months – with People Power!

    What if every protector – everyone with an interest in preserving this rail corridor – “adopted” a section of it, maybe 200 metres or so (depending how large our protector population is found to be)? We regularly visited it, tended it, maybe grew gardens and flowers around it, treated the wood to prevent termite infestation on it, painted and maintained the steel and concrete sections of it, camped on it, held rituals and ceremonies on it, joined with neighbouring sections to generally protect and preserve it, and when a section became subject to attack by one or other of those weazels who want to destroy it, we came together and stood together against the bulldozers to protect it with our lives??? That, I believe,is how we can ensure this unique piece of our social heritage can be preserved and enjoyed by future generations of our Northern Rivers tribe.

  7. Obviously it will take a very long time to sort out any type of transport / train option on these lines at the rate things are going.

    In the meantime, there are an enormous number of walkers, cyclists and horse riders desperate for decent, SAFE tracks. As JM has said, there is no need for rail trails and light rail to exclude each other. Try riding a horse, or even a bike, on many local roads which are frequently narrow but tarmacked from one side to the other. Totally lacking anywhere to escape cars and trucks traveling at the highest possible speed with drivers who have no consideration of courtesy or legal obligations to any other form of transport.

    As a walker, cyclist and horse rider I can only say please at least get a rail trail happening. I could ride a horse or bike from my home to work in about as long as it takes to drive, with considerably less stress, carbon footprint and expense. Also, a great boost to fitness and health! (and yes – I could park the horse at work!)

    I have observed rail trails in remote areas of New Zealand and Victoria bring new life to the economies and societies they pass through. In Southern NZ the rail trial has been a wonderful innovation, reviving many small towns, enabling construction of infrastructure, economic benefits and the chance to tell their stories and histories.

    Whether or not you are an avid supporter of the return of rail to the line, a rail trail at least would be a brilliant shot in the arm for many towns and villages in our region.

    • WvM, I read in your letter, that you support rail and rail trail. So I imagine to hear your outrage, if the rail trail would be built at the exclusion of any future prospect of any train service.

      Once the tracks are gone and the rail trail is built on, opposed to next to the existing line, we have lost a rail service FOREVER.

      I trust you agree.

  8. There is a very vital point that should never be forgotten & that is not all people are able or want to drive a vehicle on our increasing traffic gridlocked roads. They want trains, for easy, safe, convenient enhancing community & I do not have to name all the commonsense needs/wants WHY PEOPLE WANT TRAINS! Now be honest, politicians & other rail trail supporters, you know very well, bikes, horses & walking cannot meet the majority of ‘the peoples’ need. You all know this but continue to just push the tourism barrow. Now just think, in pouring rain, on really hot days, cyclones, blustery winds & will it really be safe for children riding on lonely stretches of track, what happens when there is an accident on a lonely section of track, how will horses, bikes, walkers actually mix? There is no way a rail trail can compare to train travel times. How ridiculous people riding to work, women, in their office skirts, straight skirts, jeans etc, Come on now, are they really going to do that? Of course not. For the few who want to ride to work, do they have a shower & freshen up at work? Do their hair after being all scrunched up under the helmet & put their make-up on at work? The majority of workers just laugh at the thought of all that & say, come off it, ride a bike to work, I wouldn’t have time anyway. There’s no way I’m riding over a rail trail to work. What about dropping their children off at daycare? ON BIKES?! Another thing – how come trains are frowned on & nothing whatsoever to do with tourism by our politicians? You are actually all becoming a laughing stock I’m afraid to say but you all continue on your merry way – the same as all the people smiling sweetly & praising the Emperor in that story, supposedly parading along boasting about his new clothes he was supposed to be wearing even though they could see he was not wearing any outer clothes, definitely not new ones! The little boy thought the people were all ‘mad’, he just could not understand them. Councils admit they cannot even keep up with road maintenance! Destination Tweed are pushing for the rail trail yet they continue to praise the increase in population numbers, advertising airports & road travel for everyone to their destination. Jillian Spring

  9. Another vital bit of info. In the Tweed Valley Weekly & Andrew Stoners speech (which is on the rail trail facebook) is: Mayor Barry Longland welcomed the study, by Arup Pty Ltd, which found the rail trail was ” likely to be viable” , based on anticipated user numbers & the expected cost to create the trail. (Also there are lots of ‘coulds’ in the Arup study.js)
    For reinstating trains on the line would cost more than $900 million, Mr Stoner said. Yet, $110 million for a new tourism infrastructure fund for towns to upgrade airports, develop cruise facilities & build “rail trails” – disused railways that are turned into paths for walking, cycling & horse riding. Funds would “make a difference to the people we represent … we want to leave a legacy of prosperity & improved standards of living for regional people.”
    So – $110 million for all the above fund infrastructure but more than $900 million for our rail corridor! Jillian Spring

  10. 100 years since federation and we still can’t get a rail line over the state border to qld. What a joke .
    Any serious rail trans strat would be mirroring highway upgrades and new works .
    Its not .
    All we will get here is maybe a half assed bike path with road crossings . Mind the BDoulbes there will be plenty more.

  11. Railways are only cost effective under certain circumstances ie: long distances, 100% community reliance etc. They are very labour intensive to maintain and therefore very costly.
    Like ships as transport before rail. Horses before cars etc, there is always a nostalgic feeling when things change. But the bottom line is we can’t afford to have things just because we miss them.

    With all the tax poured into highways it would seem silly to be building a railway just because it is missed.

    • It doesn’t matter if railways are cost effective. They, along with bus and ferry services are SERVICES for the wider community that the government should supply for its people along with schools hospitals and roads. I am outraged that the rail was ever closed in the first place, as our forbears paid for it with their taxes, and it should have been maintained and improved over time with our taxes. This is a very young country, and infrastructure is a must have for our future. Look at other countries like the U.S. rail everywhere. Even road rail systems taking goods in containers from ports via rail to the closest station, then unloaded for road delivery. This reduces truck movements on roads, less pollution, less truck/car accidents.
      Forget the bottom line. We are taxed and taxed again in this country, and rail can be paid for. Leadership and planning is what we need.

  12. Lismore district should be moved to Sydney then you could have new roads, tunnels, train lines etc etc. It’s hard to believe the closed thinking of NSW politicians. They can’t think outside of Sydney. Queensland is bringing their trains lines to the border, NSW has closed most country lines. Why didn’t some bright NSW politician get the idea of taking the line to the border as well. Then people in northern NSW and southern Qld could catch the train to jobs just like they do in the cities. Cost is not a problem as they will be spending billions on building underground tunnels in Sydney, a new airport, ect, – So why is country NSW left out of the spending spree?

  13. There is a very vital point that should never be forgotten & that is not all people are able or want to drive a vehicle on our increasing traffic gridlocked roads. They want trains, for easy, safe, convenient transport, enhancing community & I do not have to name all the commonsense needs/wants WHY PEOPLE WANT TRAINS!

    Now be honest, politicians & other rail trail supporters, you know very well, bikes, horses & walking cannot meet the majority of ‘the peoples’ need. You all know this but continue to just push the tourism barrow.

    Now just think, in pouring rain, on really hot days, cyclones, blustery winds & will it really be safe for children riding on lonely stretches of track, what happens when there is an accident on a lonely section of track, how will horses, bikes, walkers actually mix?

    There is no way a rail trail can compare to train travel times. Jillian Spring

  14. Jillian cont:
    How ridiculous people riding to work – women, in their office skirts, straight skirts, jeans etc, Come on now, are they really going to do that? Of course not. For the few who want to ride to work, do they have a shower & freshen up at work? Do their hair after being all scrunched up under the helmet & put their make-up on at work? The majority of workers just laugh at the thought of all that & say, come off it, ride a bike to work, I wouldn’t have time anyway. There’s no way I’m riding over a rail trail to work. What about dropping their children off at daycare? ON BIKES?!

    Another thing – how come trains are frowned on & nothing whatsoever to do with tourism by our politicians? Councils admit they cannot even keep up with road maintenance!

    Destination Tweed are pushing for the rail trail yet they continue to praise the increase in population numbers, advertising airports & road travel for everyone to their destination. Jillian Spring

  15. Just a few bridges removed certainly ISNT the end of the line for the railway, in fact it makes the cost of re enstating the line HEAPS CHEAPER! It really annoys me that the state Govt doesn’t have any urge to expand outside Sydney. Keep campaigning for trains ITS NOT OVER YET!!!!

  16. The loss of the North Coast Rail , can be totally attributed to “Bob Carr” and the NSW State Labor Government.
    Overspending on Road & Rail infrastructure SYDNEY OLYMPICS “robbed” Country NSW of its operating budget!
    Labor “robbed Country to pay Sydney” it was misappropriation ; this also should have been before the Courts.!
    Remember, that same State Government , was found to be corrupt in the Courts… they cost us in many ways…

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