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October 17, 2021

Rail trail to cost $75 million, report says

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A report released today predicts that it would cost $75 million to build a rail trail between Casino and Murwillumbah, as opposed to $900 million to bring the train back.

NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said the study, commissioned by Ballina MP Don Page when he was north coast minister last year, had assessed the economic, environmental and social benefits of the project.

The north coast community was outraged when the rail line was closed in 2004, and has been lobbying unsuccessfully to have a train returned.

Instead, a feasibility released last year predicted it would cost more than $900 million to do so, which is why the rail trail study was commissioned.

Mr Stoner said the rail trail study included cost estimates and an engineering assessment, potential funding sources, stakeholder consultation, preservation issues and the legislative requirements for such a project.

‘By considering the economic benefits of the project, the report also acknowledges the value a rail trail could potentially bring to the local tourism industry,’ Mr Stoner said.

‘Following the release of the final report today, I have asked Infrastructure NSW to assess whether this rail trail should be considered for some level of government funding.’

The report indicates that a rail trail would attract up to 97,100 visitors, with at least 34,800 visitors for the project to break even. With an average of 88,300 people expected, it would take four to five years to pay for the project.

The report also suggests that construction could start at Byron Bay, extending north to Mullumbimby and west to Bangalow, as these areas attracted the highest number of visitors.

Both Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council have indicated support for a rail trail, however neither have ruled out the return of light rail.

‘The north coast is a major tourist destination and the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Study identifies that a rail trail could draw even more tourists to the area,’ Mr Stoner said.

‘Of all international overnight visitors to regional NSW in the year-ended March 2014, nearly half visited the north coast region.


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  1. Seems like a lot of money to turn a lot of low-priority rail track into bike track. How much would it cost just to do the most popular bits (eg. around Byron Bay)?! I dont think it needs to be an “all or nothing” project.

    • Gee James, I thought people were joking when they said people in Byron think they are at the centre of the universe. The rest of the northern rivers also has something to offer, the Tweed has amazing landscapes and a better quality environment than Byron, for instance. Lismore is also a worthy destination in its own right…

    • How typical of the small minded attitudes, that have allowed this situation to occur !
      What is the economic potential of a proper rail link from Brisbane To Sydney via the scenic route ?
      If these small minded people had their way people would still have to row across Sydney Harbour and the Snowy Mountain Hydro would have been down graded to supply enough electricity for Kosciuszko village.

  2. Don Page was on ABC North Coast radio this morning singing praises to the Rail Trail. I don’t know how he can even hold his head up as he betrayed the rail supporters, promising that once in govt they would bring back trains. This was watered down to conducting a feasibility study on rail. This rail costing of $952 million included 50% for contingencies – therefore the already over inflated cost was doubled. I noted that the contingency factor for Rail Trails was 15%. How easy it is to produce skewed reports. There was an invitation to comment on radio and I rang up but was screened out by the ABC producer because I wanted to say this did not offer any real transport solution for our region. The producer said they’d had those arguments, the world had moved on, it was all about tourism now. I wasn’t able to comment on radio, nor did anyone else.
    It’s very difficult to comment on the study when you can’t access it. I have searched on line this morning to no avail. The media obviously have received it but the average person like myself cannot find it. How can we fairly comment?
    We will be descending on mass to Don Page’s office at 9am next Wednesday, June 18th – the day before the Rail Trails Bill is due to be tabled in State Parliament. I hope to see a lot of rail supporters there.
    The $70 million Don talks about in funding the Rail Trail would actually pay for the restoration of the Casino-Lismore section of the track and bring a direct rail service back to Lismore (to Brisbane). If the government can find money then it needs to be spent on providing a proper public transport system for the people of the Northern Rivers not a silly snail trail that caters only to tourists.

  3. – A different methodology has been used to make the rail trail version more feasable, than a rail option.
    – Implementation of Rail Trail on trecks will not secure future transport options for rail. Trail to rail has
    only ever happened, when freight lines wanted to reopen due to changing economic circumstances
    – local rail services will enhance the region socially, economically and environmentally
    – a local rail service will improve traffic congestion issues in our Shire and beyond
    – A local rail service can provide economic stimulus to the coastal hinterland, which has not been explored
    at all by any interested party. Examples in Europe show, that local economies in smalll towns along a
    regular rail service are thriving.
    – Our car obsession is partly if not largely due to a lack of alternatives
    – successful models have trails along railway lines, they offer transport options, which tourists, locals and
    commuters desire.

  4. You should cycle the Otago Rail Trail and see how much fun you can have over five days at around 30-40 kms a day. Casino to Murwillumbah – bring it on. x

  5. As much as many in the National Party would like to ignore it, climate change is really the single largest issue that we’re dealing with. It will be a humanitarian crisis with the greatest impacts felt by the poor. Not really a surprise from these climate deniers like Page and his coalition mates. They pretend to say it’s a problem but when there are solutions ignore them. Limited thinking.

    Transport accounts for around 15% of CO2 emissions in Australia. Transport today is mainly by car, truck and plane. Trains transport people more efficiently per passenger km with less CO2 emissions. Rail uses about 75% less in greenhouse gas emissions than single use vehicles. Yes in Europe they realize this. In the Netherlands, all electric trains will be wind-powered by 2018, cutting carbon emissions to zero. That’s not altruism. It springs off a development deal for the Netherland’s largest offshore wind project, the $4.1billion, 600MW Gemini scheme.

    The train ride from Casino to Murwillumbah linking to Gold Coast light rail would be far more interesting and exciting for tourists particularly the older people who are less likely to be riding bikes. We could have an upmarket ‘Bangalow’ Express’ serving high quality local foods and cocktails like an Orient Express.

  6. The heartbreaking thing about this issue is the complete inability of politicians to look forward 50 years or so., Not only do we have a shameful reversal of position from Don Page, it appears there’s a tragic cluster of minds who cannot see that connecting with Coolangatta airport will become a necessity in the future. History will not judge foolish people like Page kindly as we witness that Queensland rail is moving ever closer to the border while NSW can’t (or won’t) get its act together to connect.

    Don Page will be long dead when communities realise that it was monumental folly to tear up extremely valuable infrastructure because stupid people were (briefly) able to influence what happened on the North Coast if the local rail service isn’t reinstated.

    If it’s gone, it’s gone forever. I take this opportunity to implore local constituents to do whatever it takes to make their disgust heard through media (including Sydney) and implore communities to banish apathy and fight for what is the intelligent thing to do for future generations.

  7. Having seen the intensive and exacting research carried out by the amazing Karin Kolbe and TOOT for some years, I find it difficult to believe that all the calls to re -examine the re -instatement of the railway have failed to penetrate the thinking and planning of NSW State Government Transport ideology.
    Much as I love the idea of a railtrail, it’s clear to me that the benefits of a rail option outweigh the potential joys of being able to walk and cycle through our beautiful countryside.
    It is possible to imagine that trains AND recreational walkers and cyclists could use the rail reserve corridors although building both would require some farsighted funding for extra bridges and pathways. The most expensive part of this corridor already exists, thanks to far sighted folk in the past- the acquisition of the land.
    The report above mentions what appears to be cost recovery……………..how can this be estimated when use of the railtrail would be FREE ?(Obviously beancounters are rubbing their economic hands together with increased visitor traffic et al)
    Importantly, passengers and freight PAY for the privilege .
    Let’s not give up! Continue to lobby for this vision for our future in any way that you can!

  8. So Don Page estimates it will cost $900 million for the Casino to Mur’bah rail upgrade. Yet the brand new Alice Springs to Darwin rail cost only a little more for a vastly longer route – Alice Springs to Darwin line- 1420 ks of line, 90 bridges in very difficult and isolated terrain cost $1.3b! They’re claiming 130ks of our line would cost as much to restore!!
    Methinks we are all having the wool pulled over our eyes and I have to wonder why???

  9. If businesses made detailed promises/quotes for work and quoted ridiculous prices for that work they find themselves in court very smartly and most likely end up in gaol.

    Why is it politicians can do exactly the same thing and not have to face the same laws of accountability?


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