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Byron Shire
April 20, 2021

Train activists accuse Lismore MP of broken promise

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Beth Shelley, Northern Rivers Railway Action Group

The Northern Rivers Railway Action Group held a rally outside Thomas George’s office last Friday to protest against the State government’s refusal to reinstate the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line.

Instead the Liberals plan to rip up the railway tracks for a bike path and then the Northern Rivers will lose the train forever. The NRRAG group plans to hold a Community Forum to raise awareness of the need to save our tracks on November 22nd at 2pm at the Lismore Workers Club.

Beth Shelley, spokesperson for NRRAG, spoke at the rally and said, ‘In the past Thomas George passionately defended the need for a train for the Northern Rivers’.

In June 2006 an article from the Northern Star states that Thomas and Barry O’Farrell were informing the public of their plan to have a sixteen train a day commuter service that would cost 1.6 million a year. But since his party won government Thomas George has made a huge backflip in his support for the train.

The Liberal government commissioned the Transport study from the ARUP group who didn’t get any quotes from accredited companies in railway repairs and maintenance.

They overestimated the costs of reinstatement of the railway line to $953 million which is a bit more than 1.6 million.

Apparently the ARUP group are being taken to court at the moment for overestimating figures in the Brislink project (SMH 2/8/14).

We want to remind Thomas George of the importance of the train to our community. We believe the poor, elderly and those unable to drive are entitled to the same services as those in Sydney.

When Michael Costa closed our train he was heard to say ‘there’s too many unemployed people up there’. This makes it obvious he doesn’t understand that looking after the poor and most vulnerable in society is better for all of us.

Creating a caring and compassionate society leads to less crime, violence and suicide. It seems that Thomas George may have lost sight of this understanding as well.

This has been a safe seat for the Nationals for a very long time and yet we’ve lost our train, been threatened by CSG mining and lost many health, educational and community services to our area. How has Thomas George represented the needs of his local community to the current government?

There was $9 billion allocated to rail for Sydney in the 2014/15 budget but nothing for the Northern Rivers community. There’s billions being spent on highways for more cars, trucks and buses that daily increase the amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Tim Fischer in his book ‘Trains Unlimited’ states that 77% of the world’s carbon emissions are from transport. Road is 72% of that while rail is 1.6%. So having a train would not only give us good public transport but also save hugely on carbon emissions.

It’s rather obvious that the Liberal/National government doesn’t care about the risks of climate change or the transport needs of our community so we need to vote for representatives that do care.

We believe the government has lied to us about the cost of reinstating the train and we know they get donations from companies that make money out of roads, including fossil fuel companies. As we stood outside Thomas George’s office we chanted, ‘We want a train. We don’t want climate change’.

Train services remain important to the people of the Northern Rivers, come and show your support by attending the free event: Save Our Tracks Community Forum, guest speakers include Dr Mehreen Faruqi Greens MLC, Senator Lee Rhiannon, Byron Councillor Basil Cameron and many more at the Lismore Workers Club, Saturday 22 November, 2-5pm.

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  1. I notice that NRRAG still isn’t pushing for a new train corridor that will fulfill our needs for the next 150 years or for a bus service to fill the void. Why do they keep pushing for the old nostalgic but useless old train corridor .NRRAG must want to provide public transport trains to the cows and nuts (macadamia type) in our valleys that are mostly void of people.
    The politicians must be sitting back with a smile on their face watching a group pushing so hard for a train corridor that was designed for the 1880s . And our high population areas of Tweed to Pottsville and Lennox/Ballina to Lismore will be fuming if the old goat track gets reinstated.
    Come on NRRAG use your so called majority to give the whole of the Northern Rivers a train system for a public transport that will service the majority and growing population areas.
    But then again at least you will get a vote from the cows and nuts if you do reinstate the old train corridor.

    • It is inexplicable how you can advocate a lonly cycling path for such a public asset and instead pushing for a new corridor for rail . According to a recent parlamentary enquiry into rail cost in NSW a new railway corridor would cost in the many billions of dollars. It makes more sense to make best use of what we have got, as most centres in the region are still in this existing corridor. A rail line can bring around 2 percent more economic growth to a region, where a rail service exists, according to a new report by PriceWaterhouseCooper, as reported in todays newspapers. Rail Trail is for remote areas with no existing tourism, not suited for most of our region as a stand alone option.

    • It does make sense to have a rail corridor where large populations exist, such as the Tweed Coast and Ballina. Were the South Coast Line to Tweed and the branch line to Ballina built too early? Do we have to keep pulling up the old because we can’t see the potential in the future? There is no either/or route for a single railway corridor. The Tweed Coast should have a planned corridor with both lines meeting at a Chinderah Junction. The coastal route will provide a quicker way to Byron and beyond and should also have both light rail and freight capacity.
      However, in the mean time, we need what we can get for the remaining 150,000 population who are not on the Tweed Coast, Ballina Shire or Clarence Valley. Integrated road/rail services can be provided for most of the people along the old railway corridor. Getting the land and starting new corridors from scratch are just beyond most peoples (including politicians and engineers) imagination and also into the billions of dollars.
      We have to have our rail connected to the Gold Coast as this is one of the busiest transport bottlenecks there is. A few years back, there was the possibility of 3 railways joining at Coolangatta airport for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and show the world we weren’t backward.
      At least we can push for the Coolangatta to Chinderah portion of a railway as a beginning!

  2. There is a saying that you learn nothing from history. All you do is repeat it.
    In the early 1960s. the Tweed Heads CBD was connected direct to Brisbane by a railway. That railway was built on the slogan “It’s hot in Brisbane but it’s Coolangatta” That slogan was Coolangatta Gold to the Twin Towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads. Ever since that railway was ripped up the powers that be have been worried about the economy of the Tweed Heads CBD. Over the years the Tweed Heads CBD has been revamped, revamped and revamped and so has the town of Coolangatta. The slogan “It’s hot in Brisbane but it is Coolangatta” has been wrecked without the railway to Brisbane. But the railway went and the rails pulled up.
    Since then many grand plans for the business area have been forecast to bolster the local economy. One plan was for a Cruise Ship Terminal at Bilinga. That was sunk. It didn’t float. Anything and everything has been thought of to boost the economy because there is no train from Brisbane to Tweed Heads. Now we have mooted a light rail from the Gold Coast to Coolangatta. It is slowly mooted as it seems to be a slow plan. Yes, indeed they want to put the rail back into Coolangatta.
    It is like putting trams back into Sydney whereas Melbourne flourished and is catching up with Sydney in growth because they did not pull up Melbourne tram tracks. When is the light rail going to get to Coolangatta from the Gold Coast? The answer is in a long, long, long time. Decades maybe.
    Now there is a new plan. To put a District police station in the Tweed Heads CBD. And the police station is to go in a place where there is now a supermarket. So you can see how broke Tweed Heads CBD is. A police station is more profitable than a supermarket. All because we have no railway to Brisbane where we can say “It is hot in Brisbane but Coolangatta” All this political humbug ladies and gentlemen goes on because they pulled the train tracks up and out of Tweed Heads in the early 1960s.
    Bring the Tweed Heads to Brisbane train back and the Tweed area would be prosperous again.
    Go and look what happened to Nerang since the railway was connected from Nerang to Brisbane. Nerang is growing like Topsy
    If a Rail Trail brings in lots of money and was more prosperous than a railway, why not a rail trail from Tweed Heads to Brisbane. Let’s do it. A Tweed Heads to Brisbane Rail Trail. It will bring in the money.

  3. I am not sure what letter or reply Jens is referring to here as the rail trail was not mentioned in my reply. What was written in my reply was yes for a train on a corridor that will satisfy our whole Northern Rivers for now and the next 150 years. At least it is flushing out who wants to use the old train corridor that will not satisfy our needs now and into the future. Crikey Jens you must really want to keep us with a 1880s designed train corridor .With you behind the wheel we could have still been using the Friday Hut Road as the main highway (it was the main road up until 1937). Come on Jens give our future generations a train corridor and solution that will provide a viable transport solution,not a slow and snaking nostalgic train transport. I hope you don’t drive a T Ford as I will know for sure that using the old train corridor is purely for nostalgic reasons and not as a public transport solution.

  4. 1880’s I was catching the XPT from Syd to Mullum and back less than 20 yrs ago and it worked fine. It was great, and it still is great in many parts south of the byron shire, they all use it no worries. Yes it would be expensive to get it all up to scratch, but it would be so worth it.

    I really do not get why people wont a bike path that will be used by not many people really and wont to get rid of the train infrastructure altogether, what a short sighted view. If the governments got together and outlaid the money to fix the lines so the xpt could run again it would be so beneficial.


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