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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Butler Street residents weigh into rail trail debate

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The controversial Byron Bay Bypass route.
The controversial Byron Bay Bypass route.

Hans Lovejoy

Despite $50m being splashed at rail trails for the region, the pressure is still being applied by a group of residents advocating for what they claim is a more equitable bypass and transport solution for Byron Bay.

Grab The Rail spokesperson Paul Jones, who represents residents likely to be affected by a Butler Street bypass, hit out at  Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc (NRRT) claiming they have refused to co-operate to share the railway corridor.

Mr Jones says the NRRT’s $50m funding announcement, ‘further secures their claim to exclusive use of the entire Byron Bay rail corridor together with the potential sell off of the large parcel of land forming the old railway terminus.’

But NRRT’s Marie Lawton has refuted the allegations. She told The Echo, ‘NRRT has never said they are claiming exclusive use of the entire rail corridor. It is our policy to be inclusive of all options for the use of the corridor and accommodate where it does not detract from the success of the rail trail, particularly if it adds to the total tourist attractiveness of the region.

‘An example of this is the rail shuttle proposal between North Byron Beach Resort and Byron Bay town.

‘Members of the executive have had meetings with Mr Jones and at no stage have they refused to co-operate.

‘The Byron Bay bypass has been determined by the state government and has nothing to do with NRRT.

‘There will be no sell-off of railway land and the corridor will remain the property of the state government.

Encourage tourists

‘The rail trail will not be focused on Byron Bay, but the whole corridor. The trail will encourage tourists to explore the neighbouring townships by bike or on foot or electric bike or horses in some areas. The rail trail is all about bringing alive a dormant asset for the benefit of all the many communities along its path and above all creating numerous jobs throughout the entire region.’

Further criticism by Mr Jones was  levelled at retiring local MP Don Page (Nationals), who is an advocate for the rail trail pilot program.

‘Don Page has worked tirelessly with the NRRT to ensure the Byron rail corridor is not available for a multi‐model transport usage,’ Mr Jones said.

‘In the 2001 environmental impact study (EIS) the rail corridor was identified as the best location for a road bypass for the town CBD as it represented the best cost benefit, ie it was the least expensive route with all the best features and it was fully approved by all stakeholders.

‘Contrary to this, Don Page found that the rail corridor now was not wide enough to accommodate the rail trail and a road bypass.

‘His claims remain entirely unsubstantiated. Circumstances have not changed.’

But Mr Page hit back, saying that owing to the recent rail trail funding, ‘circumstances have changed.’

He told The Echo, ‘We are now considering three options whereas in 2001, only two options were being considered. The advice from Transport for NSW is that the corridor is not wide enough to accommodate all three proposals ie rail trail, trains and two-lane road bypass.

‘In addition, an EIS done in 2001 did not consider the possibility of a rail trail and a train as well as a road bypass.

‘In those circumstances it is understandable that the Butler Street option is preferred by Byron Shire Council for the town centre bypass.’

Tourism juggernaut

But Mr Jones is unrepentant, claiming the path will lead to an ‘impending disaster,’ from the current ‘tourism juggernaut.’

‘What is extraordinary is that the Rail Trail, a CBD bypass, bus transit interchange, light rail and rail shuttle can all be easily accommodated within the corridor in a location perfectly convenient to town, the railway station and existing services.’


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  1. I truly think we need rail or light rail to be operating in the shire.

    Get more people moved who aren’t on the road.

    The traffic is just going to get worse and worse as more people come here festivals or on holidays or to live and build etc.

    It’s insane there are no trains. Have a rail trail for walkers/runners and riders next to it and both co-exist.

  2. Why doesn’t the State Government want a Train in Northern NSW for the locals, travellers, create employment, take cars and trucks off the road? Why are we so behind from the rest of the world where train travel is on the rise the world over? l have travelled on trains all over Australia for many years and the one i enjoyed the most was Sydney to Murwillumbah. l was shocked to come back to Lismore 4 years later to find out the trains where stopped 10 years ago and now want to pull the lines up to replace a rail trail track for fit weekend cyclists, walkers and horses!!! l wouldn’t walk my children, dogs etc on the train tracks that has been sprayed with poisoned for 100 years!!!!! l don;t trust that the National party haven’t got something up their sleeves and the rail trail is just a carrot on a stick to fool some people in believing what they are promising which is lies,lies and more lies!!!!!! Wake up folks before it’s too late and Lismore becomes a ghost town.

  3. With a bypass from Ewingsdale practically following the existing rail there is no need for light rail when small buses work just fine.

    It’d be more practical to donate the rails to local farms and producers for small-scale practical farm needs on our slippery slopes and steeper places where winches and tractors are the locomotors.

    You want to talk about creating jobs, with hemp-foods waiting just around the corner, and natural medicinal products finding legitimate grounds in the pharmacopeia against disease, and hemp-crete being one of the finest building materials around, we’re at the very beginning of a big boom of organic proportions unseen since the days of the Big Scrub.

  4. I sincerely hope that the 2001 planning document is properly revised. Light rail, walking trail & integration with other forms of public transport (plus canny “urban node” traffic flow modelling) are ALL essential to project success. This is an opportunity to create something wildly wonderful for this region. All perspectives need to be considered & all parties need to debate how best practice can be achieved.


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