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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Keep our valuable rail asset on track

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Despite the thousands who rallied on stations, 8,250 signatures on petitions and promises of train services and funding from state and federal governments, we now face the significant threat of legislation being passed in state parliament this week which will lift the protection the rail corridor has under present legislation and allow the 132 kilometres of line to be ripped up, despite around 50 per cent of the line being in reasonable condition.

This will pave the way for the state government to potentially sell off the very valuable rail corridor to developers for a quick profit. Even though 85 per cent of the population of Byron and Lismore local government areas live within 5km of the line and have easy access to a train service, this will mean the end of any chance of the northern rivers community ever getting the trains they have been asking for.

The story we are being told is that this change to legislation is necessary to allow a rail trail to be built and that this rail trail will be the greatest thing since sliced bread for the northern rivers economy! Well, we know there’s no way a rail trail can provide the economic, social or environmental benefits for the same cost as the train service the community wants and needs.

It has been reported that initial estimates suggest a rail trail will cost $18m for the Murwillumbah to Byron Bay section and $38m for the complete trail from Murwillumbah to Casino. That is, $38m+ of taxpayer money for a piece of infrastructure for the exclusive use of a few bike-riding enthusiasts.

In contrast to the cost of a rail trail, studies have shown that the Casino to Murwillumbah line could be restored for less than $30m and that a commuter train service would be well patronised. The Victorian government’s ‘Reviewing the Last Decade of Public Transport Infrastructure Projects in Australasia’ survey 2011 shows the cost of restoring similar lines in Victoria is between $0.124m and $0.265m per kilometre. Even at the higher figure of $0.265m per kilometre the cost of restoring the 132km of line from Casino to Murwillumbah would be less than $35m.

Does the state government really believe that this community will sit back and allow this very valuable public asset be destroyed (or worse, sold off) for the dubious benefits of a rail trail which could easily cost taxpayers much more than the train service, which would not only benefit the whole community but also the 1.5m tourists who visit every year?

If so, they must also believe in the tooth fairy.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores


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  1. Once the tracks are gone, the rail line is lost FOREVER.

    To all those wellmeaning railtrail suporters, who believe, that the rail corridor is protected, with something called railbanking, a concept from the USA.: unless we have sone mining interests wanting to use the rail line for freight, it won’t happen. It doesnot happen in the USA and it will not happen here. Why would the public then need a protected rail corridor?

    Why should we be content with such a second class option, which benefits a few, such as horseriders, developpers, some landowners, a section of the tourist industry, the odd local, when with the right appoach we could have something so much better. Where is the common good in that?

    The longterm dammage through the FOREVER lost opportunities will be immense. Wake up and ask from our elected representatives more.

    Jens Krause

  2. You appear to both be very dismissive of the benefit to the region of the tourism drawing power of a rail trail through one of the more beautiful regions in Australia, as well as the number of locals who would make use of the facility.

    There is also a line of thought that the possiblity of the line being used again for rail purposes is a pipe dream, and that it is better to have an asset would be used and enjoyed – by a lot of people in my humble opinion – than an asset that sits there unused and becomes more rundown every year.

  3. The spin about a rail trail saving the Casino to Murwillumbah line is just another con by our local politicians, who are experts. In fact that’s all they do well. They don’t seem have any understanding of what their job is-that we pay them to provide the infrastructure and services the community needs.

    A rail trail could possibly add another dimension to tourism on the north Coast, but claiming it could provide the same economic, social and environmental benefits as train service is way over the top. Why are they destroying the line when there’s no need to?

    What is happening to the Northern Rivers region is the same as If you engaged a builder to do major renovations on your house and you agreed to the work and paid the money up front. Then that builder, instead of doing the renovations he was contracted to do, bulldozed your house!! Just to rub salt into the wounds, he then used your money to build a house for someone else which you could not use, even though you had paid a lot of money for it.

    That is what has happened with our train line. The builder would go to gaol, but politicians are able to get away with it. Why?

  4. In the 1940s my father would catch a steam train from Byron Bay to Mullumbimby Agricultural School.He would have to walk about 2km from his home in Byron Bay to the train station ,regularly in the rain.In the 1960s,70s and 80s we would travel by double decker bus to Mullumbimby High School.The buses would travel on a route within 500 metres of our homes.Can you imagine school children,elderly,shoppers having to walk say 2km to a train station ? How do you get from the South Lismore train station to say the Base Hospital or Southern Cross University,would you walk 5km or would you alight from the train to then have to get a bus/taxi to these places? Or would you prefer a bus that travels within 500 metres of your home and drops you within 500 metres of your destination?
    The people in Ocean Shores will have a beautiful long walk to the Billinudgel Train Station of approx 3km in the rain,humidity or sweltering sun.
    I suppose it will drop the obesity problems .
    The train line followed the population corridor back in the 1880s but it is not a suitable or financially viable route now.Spend your energy pushing for a train line to follow the present and projected population corridor .


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