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Byron Shire
November 29, 2022

Close Byron vote on rail trails ‘not a green light’

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A NSW Greens MP says Byron Shire Council’s close vote last Thursday to support a rail trail thereby weakening protection for the railway corridor is not a green light for the controversial $75 million Northern Rivers Rail Trail proposal.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, the Greens’ transport spokesperson, says the closeness of 5-4 vote (progressive councillors Simon Richardson, Duncan Dey, Basil Cameron and Paul Spooner against) not only weakens the corridor protections but jeopardises future public transport for the northern rivers.

Ironically, Greens defector Cr Rose Wanchap voted with the pro-development faction.

‘The government has said that it would only pursue a rail trail if it had broad community support and the closeness of the vote shows that this is far from the case,’ Dr Faruqi said.

‘To say that a rail trail would preserve the rail corridor is incorrect. The reality is NSW already has the strongest protections for rail corridors of any other state.

‘The $70 million earmarked to rip up the rail line would be much better spent on real transport solutions for this burgeoning region.

‘The community rightfully want commuter transport that connects large regional centres to other cities and towns.

‘Converting the Casino-Murwillumbah line to a rail trail would be a death knell to any hope for public transport solutions that are desperately needed in Byron Bay and the northern rivers region.

‘Rail trails can be great for recreation and tourism purposes in some circumstances, but not at the expense of essential regional public transport services.

‘We should be reinstating regional rail services as a priority and building rail trails alongside them,’ Dr Faruqi said.

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  1. The fact is that there IS a $75 million offer, likely on the table, for a Rail Trail, NOT a multi-modal 11th hour dream-up, that would be I suspect, readily fraught with a plethora of concept complications and safety issues and cost blowouts.
    TOOT has never been anything but a dream, as the reasons for rail’s closure in 2004, have become exponentially exacerbated over time. TOOT is held together by their collective sense of purpose and identity, and for politicians caught up in their own spin, a vote collector from the remaining ill-informed electorate. The Greens should ask themselves if their blanket public transport platform is worth pursuing in the form of a prohibitive 1890’s rail system reconstruction, with massive ongoing costs to boot.
    As a monthly Greens donator, I would be pleased if they showed a little more concern for their public’s purse on this issue.
    Yes, public transport is very important, but be very careful indeed, that even light rail, as the gold Coast has just bought for over $1,000,000,000 for only one tenth of the length of our Casino to Murwillumbah corridor, is a recipe for massive population growth, in an attempt to sustain it.
    And who are all these people that want all the ugliness of that wretched Disneyland to our north???
    Not me. THAT’s for sure.

    • Trains are not a dream, and are far from one, North Byron Beach Resort is well on their way to having the track from Byron Railway Station to Bayshore Drive re-opened for a tourist shuttle.

      With tracks and trains, the possibilities are endless, as you can operate shuttles, commuter trains, sightseeing or tourist trains, or even just the regular passenger train, but with rail trails, you are strictly limited to just Bikes, Horses and nothing else really.

  2. Agreed that a rail trail will not necessarily increase the protection of the rail corridor, but it is alarmist and dishonest to say that the rail trail will weaken the protection of the corridor for any future imaginary train.
    I don’t see the problem of a majority vote in favour of the rail trail, even including the vote of an “ironic’ Green “defector”. This is what is known as democracy. Heaven help a Green not toeing the line on a highly unlikely rail project.
    A rail trail will not sound the death nell for public transport in the Northern Rivers. Any number of other more realistic and achievable options could be pursued without the distraction of a “never going to happen’ railway.

  3. Very well said Mehreen. WE NEED TRAINS!!!!!

    I’d hate to think what would happen if we let this trails bill pass, it would destroy all useful regional infrastructure, not preserve it!!!!

  4. I think “rail-trail” is the wrong word and is confusing (on purpose?) What we are talking about are “bike-trails”, where the trains used to go.

    I ride a push-bike but see no sense in putting bike trails where our trains will surely need to run in the not so distant future.

  5. Merheen is being misleading when she says the rail trail will be a “death nell” for any hope of public transport. Why is that so? The corridor is not going to be used for trains, but it will be used for walkers, bikes, wheelchairs, electric bikes, horses and soft wheeled transport. What could be greener? Obviously we need to look at improving our bus services and community transport as well.
    Please stop focusing on the run down train track as the only means of public transport.

    • Marie, YOU are the one who is being misleading when you continuously say, the rail trail will “Secure the corridor in public hands” but we must realise this statement is far from the truth. Any smart person would know that the rail trail Bill will significantly weaken and erode the strong and very useful NSW Transport Act. of 1988, therefore making the corridor EXTREMELY more vulnerable to being sold etc.

      I don’t know when bikes turned into public transport. If you do some research, you will figure out bikes are not legitimately public transport, as they only have 1 seat and are used for PERSONAL USE, meaning they don’t have a timetable or schedule and are not owned by the Government, Instead, they are owned by 1 individual for personal use. Unless you wanted to make Hire Bikes an option, but that would only benefit the private tourism operator who owns it.

      Ok, yes, horses might have been ‘public transport’ in 1800, but now we are in the 21st century, and the thought of using horses to commute, is a pipe dream. Horses are very expensive to run on a pathway day to day, as you would have to, to make it worthwhile. But yet again, where is all the money going? TOURIST BUSINESSES!!!!! The worst thing about the rail trail, is very little or even none of the money made actually goes back into public assets like Hospitals and Roads, instead, all the $$$$$$ goes straight to the private businesses making endless amounts of money on the trail.

      Please leave Merheen alone, as she is one of the only here speaking common sense!.

      • Gary, you are definitely speaking one of the ones not speaking common sense here. You really believe we should spend almost a billion dollars (and yes I’m sure you will dispute that figure provided by engineers and experts) on reinstating trains on a windy line built in the 1890s for steam engines that doesn’t even serve the majority of population areas in the northern rivers? Wouldn’t this money be better spent on HOSPITALS and SCHOOLS?? The train, that has proven not be viable would be a financial drain on the public funds. If you are truly encouraging public transport why not campaign for better bus services for our region? Or maybe you live in a very nostalgic and romantic past with blinkers on..

        Yes the rail trail will support tourist business who employ locals who spend their money locally! It will also provide economic stimulus to villages and regions outside of Bryon who currently get very little tourists..It’s a no brainier really and makes TOTAL sense.

        Finally, look at Victoria who leads the way when it comes to rail trails. The corridors HAVEN’T been sold off!

  6. People need to understand that the rail corridor is protected by legislation at the moment. If the Rail Trail bill got through which allows the land to be used for recreational purposes, the rail corridor could actually be sold off for perhaps a golf course for example. There is so much land in Byron alone that is owned by State Rail and if the legislation was changed the property developers could make millions.

  7. This golf course sounds like a brilliant idea,the fairways are about 100 metres wide,low gradients ,a lot of bends but trying to hit a ball thru the 9 nine tunnels will be fun.Start at Murwillumbah and keep hitting until you get to the first hole which could be the Mooball Hotel.Have a light refereshment and start hitting the ball again until you hit the Billinudgel Hotel.All works ok unless somebody tries to play the game in reverse.
    It will be a long walk back from the clubhouse at Casino.
    Very inventive misconstruction of the truth about about selling off the rail corridor,the actual fact is the new legislation keeps the corridor in public hands and is always available to be turned back to trains anytime. Please share some more of these furphys as they make me laugh.

  8. Other than possibly a short section of a tram type service between west byron or the industrial estate into Byron township, there is not the populations in our shires to support the cost of the maintenance of a whole transport infrastructure for such a small number of trips. Major cities have to massively subsidise train services, so how could it possibly work between such small population centers. And many of the largest populations are not on the corridor anyway (Ballina, Tweed coastal strip), and most of the population growth is in the Tweed coastal corridor

    The existing train corridor will not support commuter services to Brisbane as they were designed for slow, diesel (or steam) trains, not fast electric trains requiring extra clearances for the power lines or double rail lines.

    Traffic in Byron Bay is not going to magically disappear as a result of train services between Mullum and Bangalow, as the vast majority of traffic is not coming from these centres. And if we did get masses of people using the train, we would then need a massive transport network in the towns to get people around from there.

    Like Tim, as a long term supporter of the Greens (19 years), I share his frustration of the blind following of ideology despite ample evidence of the impracticality or financial viability of a proposal. It seriously damages the credibility of the Greens and allows the majority to dismiss us as a bunch of loony lefties. Sometimes I have to agree with them.

  9. Well anything that helps to ease the crazy traffic situation north west of town is good ,especially with all the expected massive over load from the likely west byron project getting the nod ,just hope they put a few stops in from from the northern end Belongil creek to industrial estate and one south in Belongil to , thanks toot I,ll ride on your train and many more locals &and tourists when they know there,s a min half hr wait in the traffic regardless what solution they propose for the road in .


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