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Byron Shire
April 14, 2021

Rail corridor or theme park ride?

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Over Easter I visited a friend who’s spent decades doing her best to protect old growth forests, preserve human connection with nature in the raw and help save our planet from the climate emergency.

Having attended the Simon Richardson transport meeting on Thursday evening I am a little concerned that some of these private proposals for use of the corridor would turn our shire into another Coffs or Gold Coast with a ‘theme park’ atmosphere. Byron Bay particularly is an area people come to relax, surf, walk to the lighthouse, watch whales, kayak and look for places to walk and cycle! They want a natural, adventure or relaxed experience.

I have met many people visiting our area who are disappointed there is nowhere safe to ride and not many places to walk. We need to keep the corridor for everyone to use (especially locals) – not just tourists prepared to pay big bucks to pay an operator to get them to Bangalow or Mullumbimby. This is not a public transport option.

The obsession with keeping the rails has become a deterrent for real discussion on viable transport options in the shire. The rail trail is part of the transport solution – providing a safe, beautiful, sustainable place for people to walk or cycle throughout the whole of the northern rivers region. This is a fantastic, regional project that can share the corridor with the North Byron Beach Resort who have done the work and have an advanced proposal in place. With all of these other proposals coming out of the woodwork now (since the rail trail has become a reality) – there could be a risk that it will all come under the ‘too hard basket’ for the government. Let’s stay focused on keeping the corridor in public hands and not selling out to multiple private enterprise groups that may take away from the real northern rivers experience.

Marie Lawton, Byron Bay


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  1. I agree we must keep to task about the use of the rail corridor. The emphasis must be on what makes sense for residents that can also be shared with visitors.The rail corridor is the obvious place for dedicated walking and cycling spaces, free from cars and trucks. There are many traffic control issues with ‘theme park rides” from moving aside for “theme park vehicles and taking into account the schedules (or lack of them). The trail will need to be wider, the flow managed…all sounds much more complicated than simply having bike or e-bike hire stations and/or battery recharge stations at certain points and managing flow with well known road rules.

    As for genuine mass public transport: the quality and requirements of modern trains may mean that they are better planned as part users of motorway corridors, combined with park and ride plus buses from exits to town centres.

    I have yet to see an integrated plan for transport involving the Shire or the Region: multiple modes reaching across all scales local, town and long distance. Road vehicles and airplanes now fill in for trains and coastal ships and steamers. Walking and then cycling esp from 1900 were important and remain transport options that have no dedicated facilities.

  2. The farce of a cycle way as the only function for the rail corridor has to stop. Repeating how lovely that would be is not enough. The NSW Goverment has to go back to the drawing board. Ripp up the wasted studies, not the tracks and start from scratch. No money should be allocated for this indulgence by a small group of people, who tell one thing and do another. Co-existence with rail? What a joke. The rail tracks are to be ripped up. Light rail is the answer. I have found 15 such lines in all over Europe, where tourist/visitors finance a large part of those successful, regional/ local trains/ trams, which travel around the 70 to 80km/h. The locals benefit is not comparable to this micky mouse scheme, which pollies have adopted. It totally smells rotten, when it comes to due process, integrity and common sense. Let’s hope it can be stopped. The collective regional intelligence deserves better.

  3. One of the reasons the NSW Government is looking at the Rail Trail seriously is that is has been given an economic forecast of the earnings for the region based on the expected tourist numbers that may use the trail, and their expected daily spending.
    The NSW government has earmarked the Northern Rivers as a centre for tourism – both local, interstate and international. This is the agenda the region is faced with. The state government is looking for return on investment through tourism.

    The high cost and low projected returns from re-instating passenger trains on the line have ruled this out as an option for the present. As far as the government is concerned, the only viable option on the table is the rail trail. If we are to keep the tracks we need to get behind another economically viable option – this was the focus of last week’s “Critical Conversations” meeting hosted by Mayor Simon Richardson. Whether you like or dislike the options presented, the importance of these proposals is that they all had financial benefits that could save the railway tracks. Yes, they are attractions relying on tourism, but they would preserve and maintain the tracks for the future, while making money that would benefit the community. And, perhaps most importantly, these ideas would be a part of the tourism based economy that is the government’s vision for the future of Byron Shire, so they have a chance of approval. Dismissing valid alternative uses for the railway tracks as ‘theme park rides’ ignores the benefits to the region that these proposals could bring.

    Why can’t the Rail Trail lobby, TOOT, and private enterprise band together and present a plan that can benefit the community without destroying the tracks. Lets show them we can do this! So many clever people in these organisations should work together.

  4. Everyone has their own opinion don’t they. There is nothing ‘micky mouse’ about the notion of a rail trail. Nor does there appear to be a lack of due process, integrity or common sense for the proposal. I don’t know how many rail trails exist in Europe but I bet it’s a lot more than the 15 or so light rail projects, which suggests they have something going for them. The collective regional intelligence seems to suggest that the benefit of a rail trail outweighs the gamble of waiting for some form of rail to miraculously reappear in this age of dwindling access to funding for anything.

    • You are missing the point, comparing the numbers of rail trails and rail lines. It only requires one comparable successful railline to make the case for the reinstatemnet of a rail service here. At the moment no-one has looked at a tourism and commuter light rail option at all. That is what I call subject failed.

  5. You’d think people would know by now that removing the train service in 2004 had nothing to do with cost-it was purely about dodgy politicians, who couldn’t run a chook raffle, using dodgy numbers to justify their actions. Likewise the dodgy numbers they’ve used to justify spending $75m on commercial tourist gimmicks that will not provide transport for anyone. Talk about lack of due process and integrity!

    There’s nothing ‘high cost’ about a train service that will cost little more than a rail trail. Pollies (and some deluded tourist operators) choose to ignore the fact that our population is growing faster than predicted and tourist numbers are also increasing. Despite many thousands of Northern Rivers people still asking for an affordable commuter train service, we, the taxpayers, will have to pay $75m to restore the line for something most of us will never use and will not take one car off our congested roads. That’s what is high cost and a disgraceful waste of taxpayer’s money!!

    It’s obvious that our transport policy is being driven by the vested interests of the road transport lobby who donate millions to political parties. They certainly don’t want to see everyone using trains, even if it is the most accessible, cost effective and environmentally sustainable form of transport.


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