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April 18, 2021

$50m rail trail funding announced

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NSW Nationals MP John Barilaro and rail trail advocate Cameron Arnold at the $50m announcement in Bangalow. Photo Jeff Dawson
NSW Nationals MP John Barilaro and rail trail advocate Cameron Arnold at the $50m announcement in Bangalow. Photo Jeff Dawson

Hans Lovejoy

The NSW government announced Tuesday that $50m will be allocated to help establish rail trail pilot projects in an effort to ‘boost tourism’.

Sections of the disused Casino to Murwillumbah and Rosewood to Tumbarumba rail corridors will be open to expressions of interest (EOI) from councils or business and community groups, the minister for small business and regional tourism, John Barilaro (Nationals), said.

He signalled the funding with Thomas George (Nationals) local retiring member Don Page (Nationals) and his aspiring successor, Kris Beavis, at the Bangalow railway station on Tuesday morning.

The funding is part of the $110m Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which was announced in the last budget.

Public transport solutions needed

But other candidates vying for the seat of Ballina all questioned what the government’s public transport priorities were.

Labor candidate Paul Spooner told The Echo, ‘What our communities need is transport solutions, not a bike track.’

‘Does the current government seriously believe that building a bike track while residents and visitors sit in ever-growing queues on Ewingsdale Road trying to get into Byron Bay makes good planning sense?

‘This is particularly insulting to the local community given the decision last year to give zoning approval to the West Byron housing development. Rather than splashing cash before a state election in March, what makes more sense is for the state government to work in partnership with local councils to address the ever-increasing transport difficulties in the region.’

Independent candidate Matthew Hartley told The Echo, ‘The first step is to have a public vote on the issue.’

‘We need a fixed debate period, with positions for and against posted on YouTube and in the press, and we should decide as a community by a ballot. I want to see the alternative options proposed for rail access in future.

‘Rail is going to have to come back to Byron and Ballina shires. That’s a technological reality.

‘A secondary safe use of the corridor makes sense, but the corridor equals trains, unless the magic money fairy is expected to buy us a new corridor, presumably by selling off more state assets, or hospital patients’ kidneys.’

Meanwhile Greens candidate Tamara Smith told The Echo that while she welcomes the investment, the government has failed to meet the need for public transport.

‘I support a multi-modal use,’ she said, ‘And this decision will not get cars off the road.’

Councillor Basil Cameron, a Trains On Our Tracks spokesperson, said, ‘This is a disgraceful waste of public money. The National Party ought to be ashamed for pouring tens of millions of dollars into ripping up our tracks while the region desperately needs public transport.

‘Local Councils can be expected to wear the shortfall in funding and maintenance at the expense of roads, public toilets and parks elsewhere in the Shire.’

Barilaro replies

The Echo asked minister Barilaro if he would promise to not remove the tracks, considering a light rail project appears financially viable at the North Byron Beach Resort.

He replied, ‘We are happy to consider proposals that involve retaining or using the rail infrastructure, but which meet the general principle of activating the corridor for recreational and tourism uses other than regular passenger services.’

The Echo also asked if the minister would have liked to see a light rail costing so the community could have weighed up the pros and cons.

In reply, minister Barilaro referred to a press release by transport MP Gladys Berejiklian from April 2013, which supported the Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study findings.

However, Ms Berejiklian’s press release fails to mention light rail. Additionally, the transport study was widely criticised at the time for inflating figures, only examining a small percentage of the track and ignoring light rail as an option.

EOI guidelines are available at www.trade.nsw.gov.au/rtif.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. I hope there will be the funding available for security fencing for us rural residents who will have this rail trail run close by our homes.

    • Hi Les,
      Locks only keep honest people out, regardless of whatever the corridor is used for !
      Rail Trail people are typically decent types, that go to the effort to plan their rides for maximum enjoyment and lowest environmental impact.
      I’m sure that many corridor boundary property owners will lean over their fences and attract the occasional conversations about their beautiful surrounds.
      We’re all on a winner here.

    • The fencing beside rail lines has always been the responsibility of the adjoining landowner. Why should that change?

      No other rail trails have security fences, so why should this one?

      Years ago railway fettlers were ‘known to borrow’ items from landholders without approval. Nothing changes.

      It is time to move onto construction of this rail trail and work towards a practical rail line down the coast from Gold Coast Airport via Ballina to Lismore.

      Revival of the now defunct rail line is a dream of impractical people.

    • unfortunately the rail trail study puts the whole cost of fencing onto adjoining landowners. residents who are not happy to do this need to speak up !
      The rail trail study also excluded the costs of toilets, water taps, and rest areas. Rail Trails for NSW assumes that local residents will see profit in setting up their own rest areas and water stations for these cyclist fanatics, as if there is really going to be enough cyclists on the trail for people to set up businesses like that. they really dont know what our area is like.

  2. We should be fixing transport here. Not making it worse by eliminating all options and selling them to tourists!
    Where is the common sense?

  3. More tourism infrastructure, just what this region needs. How about investing in infrastructure projects that benefit residents?

  4. Our ten years of defunct rail service, sits on a 125 year old designed corridor, which falls very short on potential as a train public transport option, but is simply wonderful for our increasing future use as a non-carbon, transport arterial infrastructure.

    Trains struggled for many decades, failing more and more over time, as increasing maintenance costs and declining patronage sent its deaths knell.
    It’s “over” for trains, on this corridor, that meanders through wilderness.

    This is exactly what makes the Rail Trail so compellingly attractive.
    We have some of the best meandering wilderness on global offer.

    Governments get some things right, and some things wrong.
    On Rail Trails, they’ve got it right on.
    The Labor and Greens will continue to shoot themselves in their electoral ballot boxes on this non-issue.
    That’s their problem.
    The Rail Trails will live on, long after they quit politics.

    Public transport is actually another issue, and we should remind ourselves that the State Rail Authority finally, and well and truly gave up on that one, a decade ago.

  5. The rail trail concept has worked in other areas bring tourist and employment which is much needed in our area.
    Please think outside the box and the overall good of the community.

    Regards James Collins

  6. I am appalled to think that 50 million dollars can be set aside for a bike track when our region desperately needs a rail line. Surely that amount of money would go a long way towards repairing the old line and restoring the railway transport system back to our shire. What are they thinking??

  7. Great news for business and increased employment in the northern rivers region.Congratulations to the volunteer supporters of the Rail Trail.The continued push by some political commentators for rail indicates that they do not understand the economics of public transport, the seeming lack of public support, via ‘bums on seats’ for the current SRA alternative, and the need for alternative 21st century strategies such as a rail trail project.

  8. simply put, you speak absolute rubbish mr tim shanasy! rail failed because of politics and subsidies that went into all forms and levels of road transport, plain and simple. now we live in a world where we have passed peak oil and there is no viable option out there for replacing road transport, despite the fact that oil is in decline and will run out in a generation or two depending on who’s projections you rely on. mass public transportation WILL necessarily become viable and in fact mandatory again (in a short period of time, as far as infrastructure development goes.) IT IS SIMPLY MADNESS AND INCREDIBLY IRRESPONSIBLE , OF GOVERNMENT AND THEIR VESTED INTEREST GROUPS TO BE CONSIDERING A MOVE SUCH AS THIS!!! This is carpet bagging politics at its worst. this money could be much better invested in infrastructure projects that will benefit the whole community and not just a very small group looking for personal gain!

  9. It’s great to see some money allocated for the rail trail. I’m looking forward to an early start to this project that will bring recreational and health benefits to tourists and residents alike. I support a modern train system but not on the current corridor. that would not service all the growth centres of the north coast.

    cheers

  10. Wake up and smell the roses, folks !
    Two things are known,
    – the real-estate, this potentially game changing public transport avenues now occupy, has an enormous monetary value.
    – the politicians, both state and local,are legendary in their capacity for corruption/incompetence.

    Do you feel that hand in your hip pocket ? No … that’s just the transference of public assets to private… suckers !!
    G”)

  11. Where and when to spend taxpayer money is always debatable, but I think many would agree that each Gov Department has a responsibility to expend its approved budget within its portfolio. The funding for the Rail Trail comes from the Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and is therefore not related to public transport. As far as tourism goes, I cant think of a greener and more sustainable venture than this Rail Trail. In terms of social impact, it is the antithesis of the late night drinking culture that Byron residents are concerned about. Rail Trail users are the kind of tourists we need more of, especially in our hinterland, which usually misses out.

    The Rail Trail will however also directly benefit locals. Riding a bike is a dangerous pass-time in the Northern Rivers. Taking your whole family for a bike ride on our rural roads is for many out of the question. The RT will provide free, safe and easy cycle way access to thousands of families, young and old. Within many towns and villages, the RT will link schools, sports fields, shops and residential areas.

    Public transport is undoubtedly a need in the Northern Rivers. Like all low-population-density areas, public funding rarely satisfies the varied needs of the community. Its not just about what it costs to build the infrastructure, it is mainly about the recurring cost of keeping it going. This is what stopped the trains. This rail corridor was not built for commuting. It simply does not connect enough people in the right places.

    We need to lobby government for a new method of funding local bus services. Currently, this is done around school bus services. In return for a license to transport school children, bus companies are required to provide a minimum number of services for which there is little or no funding. A viscous cycle ensues, where a lack of choice in the timetable turns off commuters, thus further eroding the possibility of putting on more buses. We need a public transport system that directly funds bus routes to create timetables that actually meet our needs to travel to work, university, Tafes, hospitals, airports, and growing populations in Ballina, Lennox, Ocean Shores, Goonellabah, Wollongbar, and the Tweed coast. This train line cannot do this.

    I look forward to the day when we will see local families and visitors enjoying our spectacular northern rivers on a safe and green trail. Lets get behind this opportunity. Go to the Northern Rivers Rail Trail website and register your support and interest. We will be needing creative minds and volunteers from every community to make this the greatest of the worlds many existing rail trails.

  12. What are they thinking? Not a lot apparently. Just protecting the interests of the all-powerful road transport lobby (who donate millions to both major political parties) while 200,500 locals and 4.6m tourists, who desperately need decent public transport, can suck it up. No money for trains but plenty of money to rip up critical PUBLICLY OWNED infrastructure. Just as they did on the Gold Coast in the 1960s We don’t need to bring any more tourists here-just need to provide transport for those who are coming. If they continue to be stuck in traffic for hours they will find somewhere else to go.

    Contrary to the government’s dodgy $2m ‘study’, former engineers and workers on the line have been saying for many years that most of the heavy duty line is STILL in good condition and trains could be running on it very quickly. And it would cost little more than they’re planning to waste ripping up the perfectly good line for a few cyclists to use!

    When you start delving into the dodgy way these politicians (and their corporate mates) operate, and the appalling amounts of public money they waste on useless schemes, it’s a miracle anything works in this country.

    We’re supposed to be a first world country but you’d never know from our third world transport system.

  13. Let’s be realistic.We need public transport for the local community AND tourists. Yes, a bike trail is a nice idea but the people who are going to be using it are going to be DRIVING to the area, parking somewhere (where?) and then using their bikes. So is this not just going to compound the issue of cars, parking and getting around our shire?

  14. Rail trails actually drop vandalism and crime within the corridor due to natural surveillance from the bike riders and walkers.
    Rail trails join communities in healthy and safe surroundings.
    Rail trails give farmers extra income from their back gates produce stalls,Accomodation and also social contact.
    Rail trails provide real employment for local children and adults.
    Rail trails are health orientated.
    Rail trails use assets that are not suitable for light rail.

    I would suggest you start reading about minimum requirements for when light rail is suitable ,you will soon see that the old corridor does not and will not fulfill the requirements at all. To get people out of their cars you need supply a transport solution that is faster and better than driving,the old corridor won’t provide this.

    • Quote/ “Rail trails actually drop vandalism and crime within the corridor”

      This may be true around the towns, but not out in the rural areas where most of this rail trail will be. At the moment we have zero or near zero vandalism and crime happening within the rural sections of the corridor, so I’m not sure how it could drop any further. But that’s not what concerns me the most, it’s the crime that will originate from the rail trail.

      Human nature being what it is there will be a certain percentage of people who will use rail trail for malicious intent. Granted the far majority of the rail trail users will be good and honest people, but even if only point one of one percent [0.1%] or one in one thousand people have malicious intent that will still be a few people a week who will think that this rail trail will give convenient and hidden access to rural residents homes, especially at night time. Risk for us from where there was originality none.

      From what I’ve read it seems pretty standard for these rail trails to erect security fencing for rural residents whose homes who are close to the trails.

      This to me seems only fair, and not a big ask.

  15. The ‘old rail corridor’ did used to be a successful transport service. it was called the Gold Coast Motorail. It cost $11 million a year to operate and made and income of $22 million. But what happened to this service? it was closed and replaced with the detrimental XPT service in the 1990 by the Greiner government. Nick Greiner is now the Chairman of Lend Lease Infrastructure who is constructing the $862 million Ewingsdale to Tintenbar Pacific Highway Upgrade. Of course he profited from what he did to our rail line. Even though it was Labor that cut the useless xpt service, it was the coalition who has made a mess of our rail line.

  16. Imagine if we had governments who actually thought beyond the privateers ability to make money out of polluting, ecologically unfriendly tourism which pumps millions of tonnes of emissions into the air every year from planes and automobiles and invested in one of these to run between Melbourne and Cairns? Imagine!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83TVw2CJxhk

  17. Notice Sol Ibrahim’s long spiel? It is supposed to dazzle you. That is how spin doctors work. They carry on verbosely until you basically lose interest and give up so they can bammboozle you even more. Whoever voted for Sol Ibrahim? This guy was a relative unknown before he blitzed the shire with his neoprene ads which were left strewn everywhere for weeks after the election. People should by now have realised this guy and his neo conservative cohorts care very little about the Byron Shire community and its people. Nope, Sol and his mates see Byron as the latest cash cow and they are going to milk it then rape and pillage like Genghis Khan. With him and his mates and the the trojan developer non-Green Rose Wanchap, Byron people must be feeling like they have been taken by a bunch of used cars salesmen and women.

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