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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Rail trail a positive for region

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Laura Stapleton, Chowan Creek, NSW

A rail trail from Murwillumbah to Casino will give families something special to do together in this region.  We are not like the city where there are endless possibilities of outings and activities that are advertised and encouraged, we rely on connecting with our beautiful landscape and countryside for entertainment, and that is why most of us live in these areas.

This particular rail trail offers some of the most beautiful landscape in the region and generations of families can come together to enjoy its beauty. Australia is known to have one of the greatest obesity problems in the world and offering rail trails show that we value our health and we are supporting people to overcome this problem. Health problems stemming from obesity are one of the heaviest financial burdens that this country incurs.

Imagine also how amazing this would be to encourage tourists to this stunning region.  The rail trail will surely stimulate economic growth right across its corridor and encourage local people to establish businesses and create employment, something that rural areas struggle with.

As the Byron shire becomes more and more popular, we need to offer more tourist attractions around it so Byron itself does not become overloaded, and as its neighbours we can also reap the benefits of its popularity.

The route has already failed as a train route, resurrecting it will do no more than appease those that are holding onto the memorabilia of old times.  As a mother in this region, I can imagine I would take this pleasant train route maybe once and only to Byron, but if it was a bike track we would enjoy it as part of our exercise routine as well as quality time and thus use it several times a month.

Other than on the coast, there is no where else that I know of that is safe for me to take my children bike riding, an activity that most of us enjoyed when we were children but struggle to now because of all the cars and trucks on the roads.

Thank you for taking the time to read my submission.  Many of us feel very excited about the idea of enjoying a rail trail in our much loved region and I thank you for supporting it.

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  1. Laura, very beautifully said. So many of the schools, both primary and secondary are very close the the rail trail. During peak school times, so many people, students and accompanying parents could leave the car at home and go by rail trail walking or cycling. Even a grandparent on a mobility scooter could take the kids to school. Anyone dropping off and picking up the littlies from school will get quality family time and quality exercise as a natural consequence. If you can take short car journeys out of the equation, traffic congestion at peak hour will be eased.

  2. What a load of bollocks. How is ripping up the train line going to help meet our regions transport needs now and into the future?

    • James, it is the train that is a load of bollocks, a delusional fantasy propagated by people who don’t seem to have any grasp on reality. Despite two governments saying NO, and repeated statements by politicians on both sides about how modern safety standards and convenience will be the overriding factor for rail services anywhere in NSW, people like you choose to totally ignore the facts and rant endlessly about regional transport and how a 19th century train is the answer to our future transport needs. $900Milion to bring this line up to scratch is pie-in-the-sky. Unless it is a modern electrified twin track that is sahe and efficient, it will never happen. Get informed if you want to say something constructive! A 21st century train will get here in about 25 to 30 years time and it will be connected to Queensland, that be a modern solution to population growth that can be measured and verified before we spend huge amounts on money on this train to nowhere folly! Honestly James your expectations are absolutely outrageous and out of the question! Get used to the bus, there are plenty of empty seats.

  3. Different issue James. It will create active transport opportunities but we obviously need to look at improving bus services.

  4. Rail trails supporters stop brainwashing people! It won’t solve the problems as you mentioned. Gosh! Stop being so conservative and permissitic about trains. Stop talking about “it won’t happen because it too expensive”. Rail trail is making our region into a ghetto. We need money!

  5. James, How is retaining a train line that misses the main centers of population going to solve our transport problems? Unless you think Byron and Murwillumbah and Lismore are going to go to populations of a few hundred thousand each, then a commuter rail is just a white elephant. Or perhaps you think we all should pay millions to maintain a rail line so that Splendour can use the it to ferry people from Byron to its isolated location once a year?

    Perhaps a decent route off the roads will compensate for the complete lack of integrated bikeways that we have in the region and encourage a truly environmentally sound method of transport. Not to mention the thousands of people that will come to ride this particular trail – and who are not going to be adding to the traffic issues in the Bay.

    I used to just shake my head at the lack of reasoned debate on the issues of the whole rail issue, and even have some admiration of the blind dedication of toot and its supporters in the face of reason, but the continued noise coming from the sector is distracting or perhaps even delaying the progress of what will be a great asset to the region.

    • If only the train could be useful at Splendour, that would at least be something. A light rail system would carry around 80 passengers at the most from Byron bay to Yelgun in 30 minutes, longer if it stops at Mullumbimby, then return to Byron Bay almost completely empty 30 minutes later. With a festival capacity of 30,000, eighty people an hour would be totally useless. Even then, this would depend on the train achieving similar speeds to a car and taking no time to unload passengers at Yelgun before the return journey. Of course TOOT supporters “totally think” the train is THE solution, but it is just another example of their constant misinformation.

  6. I actually love train routes and often choose to take the Gold Coast to Brisbane train instead of driving (it’s usually empty btw), but Murbah to Casino just doesn’t have the demand.

    I also think a lot of people living rurally travel between these places to pick up or make deliveries, therefore this route will always be more prone to road travel. I would like to know of any reasearch that has been done on this??

    If the government has $900mil to spare on public transport then does any sane person actually think that a train route from Murbah to Casino is worthy of those resources. Maybe if it also connected Murbah to varsity lakes then it may have some substance, but it’s not so the rail line is useless.

    Using this council land for a rail trail is an excellent idea and will surely benefit the community members and stimulate economic growth in the area, whilst leaving a heap of cash to invest in options that satisfy the real need for public transport in this area, which is to service the many small rural villages, not just stop at the major ones.

  7. Matthew can I suggest you look at the NSW Government transport study for the region between Casino/Ballina thru to Tweed Heads/Murwillumbah. It shows today’s and projected growth areas for this whole region . Most of the old railway corridor is devoid of population that can sustain a train and it leaves the majority without a train. The study shows what should be the route of a future train but until then they talk about buses to fill the transport solution.
    Between Lismore and Bangalow or Ocean Shores to Murwillumbah we don’t have a large population base but between Kingscliff to Pottsville or Lennox Head to Lismore there is a huge and growing population base.
    So do you move the population to live along the old snaking/slow corridor or do you spend that $1B on a new train corridor that will be a transport solution for the next 200 years.

  8. People need to stop putting out misinformation to try and con people.

    People who keep repeating such nonsense that restoring the Casino to Murwillumbah line for trains will cost as much as the brand new 1,400ks Alice Springs to Darwin line ( $1.1b) cannot be trusted.

    They also can’t be trusted when they continue to ignore the 4.6m tourists to the region.

    If the line is close enough to towns and schools for children and old people on scooters to use it, it’s close enough for a train service which can everyone to use.

    We know a train service will be well used as shown when the rail motor, which ran regular services from Mullumbimby to Byron and Bangalow in 2004, was so packed many people were unable to get on. There were no festivals on and it was not during peak holiday times.

    If people are so aggressive about wanting to rip up a perfectly good piece of VALUABLE PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE (a few rail trail proponents do not have a monopoly on the line) for a tourist gimmick to be used by a few, it’s obvious they would never concede to a trail ever being ripped up for a train service, no matter how much it’s needed.

    • Perfectly good valuable piece of infrastructure? Surely that is a joke louise, you and train supporters generally never answer the hard questions! How many of the wooden trestles and bridges (over 100 of them) could safely support even light rail? How fast will this train go and how will it help people commuting from Ballina to Lismore, by far the busiest route on a working day anywhere in the region? How many people’s lives will be put in danger by trains on all the uncontrolled level crossings (trains will have to be fast enough to be practical), what traffic gridlock will be caused by closing the road at the Byron Bay crossing (16 times a day you say or was it 32 times)? Who will insure the risk of death or injury because this 19th century train cannot operate by contemporary safety standards and who will foot the bill to bring it back? Answer some of these questions instead throwing in the usual furphies. The Alice Springs to Darwin line was pushed through a virtually flat and uncomplicated terrain and it only took 2 years to build the whole thing. How can you make this comparison in good faith?

    • Louise why do you keep referring to just Byron Bay ,Mullum and Bangalow? The Northern Rivers includes Ballina Shire,Tweed Shire,Richmond Shire and Lismore Shire. The majority of the population and growth areas are not along the old corridor .Surely you can see that the old corridor does not service the growth areas? I have to keep questioning your motives for not pushing a new train corridor that will service the majority in this beautiful area. Are you pushing to have our valleys between Billinudgel and Murwillumbah filled with housing subdivisions or the same between Bangalow and Lismore?

  9. We need more mass public transport, like trains for example! Go walking in the bush anywhere! I can’t believe anyone wonts the rail lines ripped up. It was so much better when the trains went through.

  10. Thanks Laura for a brilliant letter. This is not lies and misinformation, it is how a local people in our area can use the trail trail. The 19th century line between Murwillumbah and Casino does not server the transportation needs of our region in 2014. Rather than let deteriorate for another 10 years building a rail trail will preserve the corridor. Other states and countries have built rail trails that have become very successful and are well used by tourists and locals.

    The only people conning us are the people who want trains back on the line. They base their arguments on nostalgia for trains and little else. You only have to look at their websites/facebook pages to see this. Two governments have found re-opening the line to be not viable and it does not serve the major population areas. Bus services have failed due to low patronage and the fact the majority of us living in this area have cars so why would a train be viable? After a decade the time has come for these groups to acknowledge trains are not coming back on the line and move aside so this corridor can be enjoyed by all and not left to rot.

  11. People who claim spending $75m to rip up the line for a trail for a few cyclists to use will actually preserve the line, are being very dishonest. Ripping up the line means the end of ever having a train service!

    They pointedly never mention the 4.6m tourists visiting the region every year who need transport to and from and around the region. They also choose to ignore the packed train running regular services to places people wanted to go in 2004. That has nothing to do with nostalgia, that’s a reality.

    All the original train lines in our cities are still operational, they have not been ripped up. They have been expanded and added to and provide transport for millions every day. That’s exactly what needs to happen on the North Coast.

    • Louise you can ignore all the data till the cows come home but it will never change the rapidly growing popularity of rail trails here in Australia and around the world. “All of the original train lines in our cities are still operational” is just as irrelevant to this debate as your repeated assertions about the Alice Springs to Darwin line which was built at an average of 2.8 kilometres a day. Train supporters seem to love comparing chalk with cheese. If you were to compare region to region rather than city to region you would be more on the money, but that would not support your entrenched rusted-on position, it would in fact confirm that regional trains have been generally consigned to history. Experienced and qualified persons (ARUP Study) have conservatively estimated more than 88,000 people will use the rail trail annually. “A few cyclists”? May I ask what is the source of your pessimistic assertions, or is it just another one of these “facts” that have been pulled out of thin air?

  12. We know from the 2004 experience, when a small train running regular services on the line was packed every trip, a train service is not only needed, but would be viable.

    Research shows bike trails may work in places with a small, declining population, like Rutherglen in Victoria. Even then the towns aren’t exactly packed with cyclists spending up big.

    This is a fast growing region with 4.6m tourists, as evidenced by the traffic congestion and parking difficulties in our towns. According to the latest research from Tourism Research Australia, the Northern Rivers is the THIRD MOST VISITED REGION IN AUSTRALIA AFTER SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE! Many residents and ratepayers say we have quite enough tourists and can’t cope with any more. Ripping up the train line for a trail will do nothing to reduce the traffic congestion, or, provide the economic or transport benefits this region needs.

    The question still remains to be answered; why are the rail trail supporters so determined to waste $75m of taxpayer’s money ripping up the line when a trail can run alongside a well patronised train service as it does on the Bellarine Peninsular in Victoria?

  13. So you ARE talking about a quaint tourist railway then (Bellarine), not a modern commuter service? A trail beside the railway line would be just fine if there was any prospect of the train actually returning, and if you didn’t expect the rail trail to be a beautiful hallmark attraction which would generate business and jobs for our region and if it would ever actually be safe and legal to have pedestrians and cyclists sharing the corridor. This whole argument about the trail sharing the corridor with trains is a con, the purpose of which is to make train supporters look reasonable and compromising! They know damn well it will never happen, stop blaming the rail trail for killing the train, it was already dead. Louise, what do you say to the 3865 people who have signed the online petition for a rail trail then wonder why 998 people who signed for a train claim to be a majority? If they are prepared to sign a paper petition, why can’t they declare their support publicly online for all to see?

  14. Louise, a tourist train running over a weekend 10 years ago is hardly an indication of our regions transport needs. Who exactly needs the train service? How many people commute from Murwillumbah to Byron each day? Are you talking about a tourist train or a commuter train? The Bellarine train is a tourist train only and does not provide a commuter service. Interestingly half that line was ripped up and replaced with a rail trail.

    Where exactly did you get your rail trail research from? Thin air maybe…

    Yes Byron gets a lot of tourists. But you’d be hard pressed to see any of them in places like Burringbar, Mooball, Stockers Siding etc. There is plenty of parking in these places! Train supporters are great at making general and broad statements.

    The topography is very different between our region and Bellarine Penninsular. In most of the corridor outside of Byron there is simply not the room to safely have both a trains and a rail trail. Get out of Bryon and go have a look for yourself like I have.

    The question that really needs to be answered is why are the train supporters so intent on wasting $900m of taxpayers money to restore a train service a) does not serve the major population areas in our region, b) has been found by two successive governments to not be viable and c) was built for 1890s steam engines using 19th century alignment. Let’s not wait another 10 years for nothing to happen. The rail trail HAS been found to be viable and will bring tourists out of Byron into our small villages and towns bringing much needed economic benefits.

  15. Some people need to calm down-have a bex and a good lie down-and stop the personal attacks. If they have good arguments/statistics ( as opposed to assertions and spin) they shouldn’t need to attack people

    Obviously no one wants to talk about the little used Rutherglen rail trail. There’s also a trail BESIDE the train line in the Blue Mountains and it could be done here very easily.

    Permanent, well paid jobs, and apprenticeships, driving and maintaining trains and running regular services, would generate much more economic activity than most casual jobs in tourism do. As well as getting locals and 4.6m tourists around the region, at the same time, reducing traffic congestion, road maintenance and carbon emissions……..the benefits are unlimited.

    Most people know that people sign paper petitions as online petitions can be rigged, are not legal and cannot be presented to parliament-which is what counts. Over 11,000 names on petitions calling for a train service have already been presented to parliament-can’t ignore that-anyone can check;

    No amount of spin will change the reality that a packed train did run regular trips on the line showing how viable a regular commuter service from Casino to Murwillumbah would be. Of course the 20ks of line from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta needs to be built-but if the Queensland Government can rebuild a whole new line to Coolangatta (after some dodgy pollies ripped it up the line that went through the centres of population-down to Tweed Heads- and sold the land off to developers) 22ks should be a doddle for NSW pollies. All that money in brown paper bags……….

  16. Louise, can you tell me where the personal attack was? I’m just challenging you to provide some evidence to back the very broad and general statements you make. You actually can’t seem to do that. It’s ironic in your first paragraph you make the statement “If they have good arguments/statistics ( as opposed to assertions and spin) they shouldn’t need to attack people” then you the make the following assertion in the 2nd paragraph “Obviously no one wants to talk about the little used Rutherglen rail trail”. Can you not see the contradiction? So I want to talk about the little used Rutherglen trail. Tell me more. Where did you hear it was little used, from a fellow train supporter maybe? The Murray to the Mountains is a very popular and well used rail trail. Have a look at the positive comments on trip advisor. No government in their right mind is going to bring back trains on the Casino to Murwillumbah line. Successive feasibility studies have shown it is not viable to reinstate train services on a line that does not serve the major population areas in our region. It’s incredibly naive that you think they can just extend the line from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta (It’s actually 30ks not 20). Do you have any idea who much that would cost in land resumptions through Banora pt, Tweed heads West etc, millions if not billions? These are heavily populated areas it’s not that easy just to bulldoze a train line through peoples houses!


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