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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Meeting to consider light rail proposal

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A vintage Melbourne tram such as the ones Brisbanite Peter Finch would like to see running around Byron Bay. Photo Liam Davies
A vintage Melbourne tram such as the ones Brisbanite Peter Finch would like to see running around Byron Bay. Photo Liam Davies

Chris Dobney

Queenslander Peter Finch is hoping to be able to cut through the battle between locals who want to see trains back on our tracks and those who would rather have a rail trail.

The creative media student and vintage tram enthusiast believes a volunteer-run light rail service, along the lines of Melbourne’s Puffing Billy or the ill-fated Zig Zag Railway could work in Byron Bay.

He plans to put his ideas to a community meeting at Byron Community Centre this week.

While Mr Finch readily admits he doesn’t have funding or a feasibility study in the bag, he does believe that Byronians will embrace the alternative to ‘a big, dirty old diesel rail car’, which is one proposal currently on the table.

But lack of funding doesn’t faze Mr Finch, who says he put similar proposals to the Queensland Government in the 1990s.

‘I did a proposal in when the Queensland Government was looking at doing light rail in Brisbane over some of the old rail lines,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘My suggestion was that they could use the old trams that used to run in Brisbane.

‘I met with the minister and also did a proposal for the mayor, and they were very keen, but there was an issue with the gauge of the track,’ he said.

Mr Finch has coined the term TramLink for his Byron Bay plan, and says that if it wins council support he would look at putting together ‘a consortium of people’ who are interested in public transport and ‘something more environmentally sound than some of the suggestions going around at the moment.

He added his option would be compatible with a rail trail.

‘The rail trail could work in with a tram service with trams taking bikes from Byron Bay to Mullumbimby or Bangalow for further exploration in and around those towns, Mr Finch said .

‘The track is not in as bad condition as the ARUP report puts out and the costings are two or three times the amounts that other states seem to go on,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘The total amount of track that we’re looking at is only about 30km anyway and since we’re only talking about light rail, the work required would not be nearly as much as for heavy rail, which would run at quite high speed.’

Mr Finch envisages a staged process that would see a tram operating from the from the Services Club near Browning Street in Byron Bay to Mullumbimby with a stop at Tyagarah to service Bluesfest patrons.

He added that route extensions could also serve Suffolk Park and ultimately Bangalow, which he said Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson was particularly keen on, although he did concede the track to Bangalow would need a significant upgrade to be viable.

Mr Finch said while the state government was unlikely to come to the party given the ARUP report, there were other sources of funding that could be tapped for the project.

‘To be honest I haven’t even got to that stage. Firstly we need to see whether the people of Byron will support it.’

‘Firstly it’s about the people of Byron being able to use it as a viable transport service. Secondly, it’s about the 1.3 million visitors and tourists to the area each year,’ Mr Finch said.

If his proposal gets the nod, Mr Finch would then look at a feasibility study to determine the costs of the various route options, ‘by walking the track to take a look at it.’

‘The ARUP report only looked at satellite images and track that was visible from the road,’ he said.

‘It does need a lot more further study,’ he admitted.

A Critical Conversations forum will discuss options for the future of the Byron section of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line at Byron Bay Community Centre on Thursday July 17 from 6.30pm.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. So it looks like there are numerous groups all pulling in different directions now.Some want light rail,some want freight trains to get trucks off the road,some want a rail trail,some want trains just for Byron Shire,others want the the Gold Coast line to continue down to Casino.
    The government can now just sit back and let us bicker between ourselves without having to do anything.Do you really think the government will spend money on a train line that doesn’t pick up the high population areas between Tweed Heads and Grafton.Go for a drive between Coolangatta and Brisbane to see when a train line is worth building, housing built within 1.5km of a station and in high density.So if you want trains to come back then expect the Gold Coast housing development to follow all the way to Casino.If you don’t believe then look back 30 years when the drive between Tweed and Brisbane was mainly through timber forest.But maybe there are some people who want this influx of housing development to fill up all our beautiful green pastures.I should be wanting all this development as my business relies on the building of houses but I would prefer what we have now.Are we looking for a train system just for to satisfy a few people or should we be looking for a train system to satisfy the population corridor for the future? If it doesn’t follow the Kingscliff to Pottsville,Ocean Shores to Brunswick Heads ,Lennox Head to Lismore via Ballina then it is a total waste of time.Dont put your wants before the better good and a train line that will serve for the next 100 years. Some people will still need to use buses but stop thinking about now and think about the future,The corridor was good when it was designed in the 1800s but it is ludicrous to say we should follow it now. The Pacific Highway was originally Friday Hut Road back in the 1800s but luckily they found a better route and used technology to provide a better route as the years went by.

  2. Fantastic. The tourists would love it. I have always been surprised this has not been suggested before. Good luck with your proposal.

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