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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Mayor pushes for retaining rail lines

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End of the line? The railway bridge across Lismore Road at Binna Burra has recently been demolished. Photo Chris Dobney
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Hans Lovejoy

While proponents of rail trail continue to spruik repurposing the region’s disused railways, Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson (Greens) is calling on ‘potential providers or users of the rail line for proposals and plans that utilise the rail corridor in Byron Shire, while not removing the tracks.’

He’s organised a meeting at the Byron Community Centre, on Thursday July 17 from 6.30pm and says it’s a chance for the community to come and hear what other options may exist for the rail corridor, ‘aside from a far away train return, or the track-removing rail trail proposal.’

The call follows the second government-funded study on the region’s tracks; the first explored the plausibility of returning rail, while the latest released mid-June examined the possibility of rail trails.

And while that report recommended the track’s removal to accommodate rail trail, it also spruiked a possible $200 million per year injection for the region.

Cr Richardson said, ‘Whether it be festival sites seeking ways to bring attendees to a site via public-transport rail-line options, or developers seeking to establish housing clusters along the line, it is also important that possible users of track-based transport options can outline their vision.’

MP ignores light rail

But that view is not shared with local state MP Don Page (Nationals), who recently told parliament that he is ‘keen to see a rail trail established on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line,’ and has been lobbying to have the rail trail funded from the $110 million Regional Tourism Fund.

Interestingly, Mr Page failed to tell parliament that the 2013 independent report into returning rail did not include the potential use of light rail.

According to Hansard’s transcription from June 19, he said, ‘[The report] indicated that any combination of train services on the line would not meet the public transport needs of the region because two of the three largest urban areas – Ballina and Tweed Heads – would not be serviced.’

He said that Treasury and Infrastructure NSW ‘are currently examining the [current rail trail] report to verify the consultant’s cost-benefit analysis and after this is done I am confident further announcements regarding funding for this project will be made by this government.’

Meanwhile the mayor says, ‘It is time now for the community to join the discussion of how best to provide transport options for our community, especially our youth.’

‘It is time for all those who have formalised or well-considered ideas or projects that utilise the rail tracks to come forward and share them with the wider community.

Meeting for rail corridor options

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson is calling a public meeting to table rail corridor options at the Byron Community Centre on Thursday July 17 from 6.30pm.


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  1. Excellent idea from the Mayor. The whole issue regarding the North Coast rail line seems to stem from a mindset where certain people who are in a (current) position of influence, have been unable or unwilling to look beyond either their vested interests (who will vote for them), or the future needs of their local communities.

    It’s a real tragedy that while good ideas have been floating around the north coast for some time, there’s been this attitude of “well we’re not smart enough to get our heads around something that’s different or unusual and our fallback position is always going to be what we assume will win votes”, rather than being prepared to carefully examine how the return of a local railcar passenger rail service might be successfully run (and where other examples exist around the world).

    It’s not difficult to see through the smokescreen put up by those vested interests where the Government releases a report which laughably assumes the costs are going to be $900 million. People simply aren’t that stupid to believe such rubbish. What is obvious is that the reports (both of them) are designed to “fit a scenario”. That being the rail trail. You only have to look at the railtrail’s web presence to see it’s a slick, confident “we’ve got this issue sorted, we’re the winners here” which to some people, seems very attractive.
    That kind of propaganda does beguile some people.

    Look at how they successfully got Tim Fischer as patron of their cause despite him saying he supports the return of a localised community responsive passenger service.

    TOOT and other supporters who have justifiably been outraged at how cynically the lies, the arrogance and the backflips have been played out in the belief being currently promoted that “it’s all now a done deal”, should understand that now is the time to really get out there, get the numbers and prove that common sense and democracy can actually work. Community rail works too.

    Everyone knows that the future needs of the community are about having a reliable rail service that connects with Coolangatta airport. History will judge those who were too stupid to figure that out and instead opted for short-term politically lazy options that embraced selfish vested interests as dumb culture. It’s not about the interests of old-fashioned players like trucks, roads, the oil industry and buses. It’s about how communities will respond to the costs of basic energy changing to solar and renewables and thus making oil prohibitively expensive. It’s all coming to a community near you.

    What is most offensive about this current situation is that in an area pioneered by alternative countercultures who have been warning about peak oil and other sustainability issues for years, we now have blinkered ham-fisted politicians who can’t see the forest for the trees in regard to what’s going to happen in the near future where people who want to travel safely, are denied that opportunity because they (conservative politicians), were unable to think outside the square.

    It’s time for the protests to return and if people are reading this and agree, then they should get out there and make their voices heard. (shameless motivational plug).

  2. Wow, it looks like Simon Richardson has a cool $450,000,000.00 up his sleeves to get the tracks and bridges up to scratch. What a hero . .
    This is getting very Monty Pythonesque. I can see that medieval knight again, fighting the good fight with all limbs severed, still yelling “Come on you cowards, scared of a fight are we?”
    Oh dear . . my fear is the NSW government may well be holding on to our cash now, with all this ongoing self-inflicted ridicule. The next step may well be the selling off of our rail corridor.
    Is it too late to save the corridor? THAT’s the question. The line is stuffed. There’s NO question about that. Go and have a close look at it. We’re ALL train lovers, but some of us are economic realists as well.
    Are you too?

  3. May all economic rationalists or those superior souls who think they are go to hell in a basket. What a bleak unfair planet it will be if they get the upper hand. Down with the dullards

  4. This is not an either-or issue. Rail-trail and TOOT are on the same mission, to save the corridor. We need rail, and we can use the same corridor to create a bike / walking / horse trail. Our regional ethos is not about entrenched oppositional camps arguing, but about coming together to create excellent solutions. Get it… together.

  5. Was it you, Tim, who told us that the Harbour Bridge was a crazy idea (Pythonesque indeed), that would send the state bankrupt? Or perhaps it was you who announced that the Brisbane – Gold Coast Line was “stuffed”, and convinced the Gov’t to sell off the rail reserve cheap. And then, where were you when the new, existing line was planned and built?

  6. In response to Milton re Tim Fischer: Mr Fischer is the Patron of Rail Trails for NSW, a small body of advocates trying to lobby the Government to support the conversion of disused rail corridors across the whole of NSW into rail trails where it is a viable proposition. He is NOT the exclusive patron for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

    There is over a thousand kilometres of such real estate scattered across NSW, most of it with little likelihood of being returned to rail services in the foreseeable future. Many of the communities which host these lines can see the economic viability of utilising these corridors as active recreational areas by using them as paths for runners, walkers, horse riders and cyclists as has been done very successfully in Victoria and other States.

    Rail Trails For NSW has been successful in generating widespread interest in the concept in NSW and has received expressions of interest and support from communities across the whole of NSW from Broken Hill to Byron Bay and Casino to Corowa, sparking active conversations on their merit from supporters and detractors. Should that discussion see the rail being reinstated or converted to a Rail Trail, then the communities involved have won in either case.

    Many of these lines will never be returned to rail and are currently sitting idle, rails rusting and sleepers rotting. They provide valuable corridors for flora and fauna in many areas and if not utilised in some way may be sold off to adjacent landholders in rural areas or developers in urban areas. Should rail make a resurgence in the future and these corridors have been sold off for development, then the Government would have to go through the costly process of compulsory acquisition to buy back the land.

  7. The dream of a train back on those tracks are gone. It is over.
    Give the rail trail a chance. If not we will end up with nothing it all.

  8. The tracks should be left! Ballina may not be serviced but Lismore (which surely employs many more people with the two hospitals, university) and many staff who come from as far as Casino and Byron to work there. The number of youth who I see hitchhiking on the Lismore Rd saddens me due to lack of any public transport. Rip up the rails if a bus service is implemented but not until then. And who’s to say it can’t be extended from Murwillumbah to Tweed. Imagine if we could one day join up this line up with the line that goes all the way to Brisbane (will miracles never cease). While as a community we keep talking about environmental issues, everyone up here seems to be a two car family due to no alternative (especially if you live outside of Byron, Ballina or Lismore).

  9. My understanding is that there is a legal issue involved. While the train tracks stay something in the relevant Act gives some protection to rail services for the future but if the rail trail is adopted that protection is gone. Also, one has to wonder who in their right minds would want to walk from Casino to Murwillumbah? And, who living along the lines would want strangers invading their privacy. It’s quite different when people are on a train. They aren’t knocking on your door needing to use the toilet. And where are the people who try it out going to sleep? There would be a lot of very unsafe places for them too, tunnels that are filthy, bridges across rivers etc. Which transport Minister was it that had uncontrolled mental illness? Plus, we need trains!


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