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Byron Shire
April 16, 2021

Following the rail trail

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Ian Gow, New Brighton

Been following this ‘debate’ with interest. Started out pretty neutral on the topic but to me, it is blindingly obvious that Byron Bay has seen its last ever train – light or heavy. Not a plot by the government of any persuasion, just a fact of life being replayed in smaller, remote communities all over the world.

Even if a Sydney Brisbane rail line were to resurface, it makes little sense to build it via Byron Shire or stop here. So, why not use the existing rail corridor for something useful!

The light rail push seems very light on with facts to me but in any event, their case collapses as soon as you ask what they think would be a reasonable light rail fare from say Byron to Murwillumbah, as I have. The range of responses is $2 to $5. Unsurprising but equally, wholly unrealistic and stops their case stone dead.

Which, leads us to a rail trail. Just can’t find any reason not to support it. Zero pollution, job creating, decorative, great fun and a potential lifesaver for all those gorgeous little towns along the way.

I realise that bringing visitors, money or jobs to town is complete anathema to many readers but the debate has to make some financial sense surely.



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  1. I hate it how the ill-informed rail trail bunch try to say the rail supporters arguments are fact less. It is a stupid comment to make as the points they raise are among the most un-thought out!. The above letter is just another fact less assumption. The NBBR (North Byron Beach Resort) has already got a railmotor being restored to its heritage colours at the Lithgow State Mine Railway! Do some research before you loosely make un-factual statements on a newspaper!

    • I agree Ian.
      It’s hardly a debate anymore.
      The Northern Rivers Rail Trail will be a trail blazer on the world map of eco tours.
      Us locals will be blown away by scenery only engine drivers used to enjoy. But we’ll get to stop to enjoy the scenery whenever we want.
      With the easy gradients, families with young kids will flock together on outings and picnics.
      It’s an enormous public space, just waiting.
      Plus, it will be secured into public ownership, safe from any sell off. This is paramount, as the corridor will become an increasingly essential and vibrant piece of regional infrastructure for us to enjoy and help prosper for local small businesses. Our kids will truly thank us.
      Let’s get on board ….

  2. Ian, unfortunately you ahve been brainwashed as most of the Northern Rivers residents,

    This is not a remote area. Ask the 4.5 Million visitors coming to our beautiful region. All over the world there is a revival of regional rail, not what you claim.

    You probably also believe the figures of the government for the cost of reinstating the line. Here is an example. The cost of makimg the section from North Byron to Byron Bay usable is been quoted at $300,000 per km, including the Belongil Bridge. For the entire section from Byron Bay to Mullumbimby the rail study quotes costings of an astronomical sum of $120 Million.

    Not to talk about an orchestrated plan to lead us all down the garden path, is naive at it’s best.

    People, we loose our infrastructure to a cunning mob, if we do not speak up. The rail has a future in our region.

  3. To get people out of cars and into trains it must be faster than a car . The train line and corridor must be able to handle speeds up to 160km/hr (future proofing). If anybody thinks that the old corridor will give us a fast public transport solution then I suggest you must be dreaming. Not one political party has said YES we will spend $1B to reinstate the old line ,all they have said is we want to keep the corridor for future trains.
    The Greens and Labor candidates are fence sitting and have gone very quiet about the rail trail , I presume the shear numbers of rail trail supporters has frightened their ballot box numbers.
    Every public transport study,train study and rail trail study points to a new train corridor that would follow the Pacific and Bruxner Highways with interchanges to bus services. The train line from Brisbane will eventually get to the Coolangatta Airport and from there it would seem natural to continue pushing south following the highway corridor.
    Light rail requires a bare minimum of 250,000 people living in a small corridor to be financially viable or sustainable. The population between Grafton and Tweed Heads is approx 290,000 spread over say 250kms ,far too large an area for a light rail for at least the next 20 years.
    Buses are much greener and sustainable than a train with passenger numbers that would be expected in this area. Do your own research on Buses Vs Train to see that trains are only greener in peak times and high population areas.
    And don’t forget that you will still require a fleet of buses at every train station to get the passengers to their final destination,double handling and double time.

    • Buses are greener and sustainable? In what terms? You mean the LNP’s values of ‘economical suicide’?

      Your research is incredibly far less factual and narrow-minded. A rail trail in one of world’s most popular tourism region is a great way to fix everything up for our communities? Our buses network and organisation is at a sorry sad state because it not meeting the needs of our communities and the tourists. That why people are more driving cars, creating a massive traffic congestion and, destructive environmental and humanity threats.

      If a rail trail go ahead, without choice of light rail as you are dwindling on it with lesser than an expert knowledge of regional economies – our buses will be a same as today and the roads will continually get worse and worse.

      If there no trains – that mean people can’t use it as more sustainable option. Yes I mean the actual meaning of sustainability. Not the LNP’s and Tea Party values of sustainability.

      Greens and Labor are silienced by the rail trail idea because they do not want to get involved. Both parties have public transport values. They determine to bring back the trains, that will solve the issues. The campaign is still yet underway.

      I am an expert environmental management person with four years experience of academic research and community connection. I do understand the needs of public transport and it have influences to improve our socioeconomics. A rail line with options – creates jobs. Where people become more accessible to where they go. This brings stronger economic development. Tourists will easily displaced. This will bring jobs to local rural villages and other small towns.

      Under the Greens’ plans of resinstating public transport we are also involved with buses. We are trying to put trains back first and establish a network with local buses. We want to replace large buses into mini buses where they take out to more rural destinations. Like dropping off or picking up people at Alstonville railway station to Summerland House Farm, Teven, TAFE and shopping centres etc.

      There are so many ideas that what a public transport with sustainability and triple bottom line approaches. It will improve our community wellness and health by leaving their cars in their garages. Cycling is another option to this. TOOT and related campaigns recently want to collobrate with the NRRT whose has been ignoring about the multi use modal corridor. It far much better idea to use both trains and cycling. That will be twice more affordable and many times more accessible for all aspects of our communities and tourists.

      From my perspective the NRRT organisation and their campaigns is only focused on people joining the BUGS-like group. It does not attract everyone as in same way as the people mostly want an intergrated public transport network. A rail trail idea is more like of unconsultated ark arty idea in Woodlark Street.

      Think about before what you all NRRT supporters do. A rail trail without trains, won’t change our regional’s health, education, economy, crimes and tourism overall. It not a mainstream society purpose!

  4. Great letter Ian. This is from someone who is neutral on the topic making a rational decision based on the facts. If a rail service was found to be viable and needed on the current corridor it would have been done by now. It is over 10 years since the last train ran and the rail is the best thing to happen to the corridor. Why wait another 10 years while the corridor deteriorates even further? So not everyone would use a rail trail but then again not everyone will use a train.

    Geoff’s reply makes perfect sense – build a new fast 21st century rail connection from Coolongatta rather than trying to connect to the existing 19th century aligned corridor built for steam trains.

  5. Gee some really weird comments on here by the pro trail groups. This area is becoming more and more populated and visited and (as we all know) congested) and you wont a trail so a few can ride bikes and walk on? That’s pretty laughable to be honest. What a waste that would be. The traffic will just get worse and worse and we already have the rail in place, WITH stations. How short sighted are you people?

    • Jess, do you mean to say Byron is becoming more populated and congested? Other small communities and villages do not have congestion and would greatly benefit from the economic benefits that a rail trail will bring. Sorry but Byron is not the center of the world. Who apart from residents in Byron cares about the congestion. Personally Byron is over-rated and there are much nicer beaches along the coast.

      A mostly single track railway line designed from 1800s steam engines is not a 2015 public transport solution to congestion in Byron. Please let go of your short sighted view that trains will magically solve Byron’s congestion and look at the big picture.

  6. How fantastic that the Tweed and Byron Shires are going to enjoy the same success as the rail trails in Cornwall and Northern Victoria (only two of many). I was a resident in the Tweed when the old rail line was running. It was not useful as a local transport option because it could not sustain the number of services required. There was one train coming through to the north each morning and one train through to the south each afternoon. If you wanted to go anywhere south of Murwillumbah, you had to stay overnight. If you needed to be in Murwillumbah before 10:00am, the train was useless as it rolled in very late morning.
    “Restoring” the train service would be restoring a service that was useful for long distance travel before budget airlines brought the costs of flying down.

  7. I would suggest everyone read “Urban Public Transport Today” by Barry J Simpson from the Civil Engineering Dept ,Aston University UK. This 220 page book looks into the viability and best solution for public transport solutions for varying population and density regions.
    Take the rail trail out of the equation and ask yourself is the old train corridor the best solution for now and the future?
    The legacy we leave must be better than an 80km/hr winding slow train for the next 150 years.
    I am an expert electrical management person with 32 years experience in my field but read books and journals from around the world on public transport solutions. From this is would appear that you must start with a bus system until the population base reaches a critical mass of at least 250,000 (in a compacted region ie Gold Coast) before light rail will be considered.
    From reading Matthews reply it would appear that a major boost in population growth is on his agenda and the population growth will be along the old corridor. Is this how Expert Environment Management People work ? Seems a strange way to protect our beautiful green valleys by filling them with brick and tile housing estates like the Gold Coast.
    The existing building corridor and population corridor is not along the old train line .
    Maybe we do need to slow down and the old train corridor will certainly do that ,might be time to invest in a horse and buggy.
    Our region deserves the best,not a slow train .

    • As you are so widely read, why not have a look at this website http://www.ferroviavalvenosta.it/de/554.asp, There is an english translation for it. It shows what can be done. The line in question is in a region similar populated than ours, Thwe line was closed for 15 years andf reopened in 2005. Since then it breaks all records, and is being hailed as one of the best integrated transport systems in the world in a regional setting.

      They had the same fights back then as we have here, but people with a vision have prevailed. I have been studying that line, visited it,and spent two weeksd on their train system.

      By the way, it has a rail trail next to the line and is a wonderful experience. I have cycled it twice.

    • Slowing down process on things such as rail trail opportunities and high cost of living will damage the social and economy factors severely. That what LNP is doing lately. Cutting community services, slowing down hospital and GP visit times and so on.

      We are NOT expert on train engineering, but it up for those experts to do the job. It not about slow trains!

      Please stop patronising like those typical extreme tea party and LNP idiots so. Just leave our communities alone. It making things worse. We need money!

  8. It’s amazing how some uninformed people can take a thought bubble and claim it as fact. While ignoring the real facts.

    Like the dodgy politicians who wasted $2m on a study which is full fiction and did not include the needs of 4.6m tourists who visit the region each year-more than the population of Sydney-the cyclists also choose to ignore reality to argue that many more millions should be wasted destroying a valuable piece of public infrastructure.

    It’s costing taxpayers many billions to replace the Gold Coast rail line which dodgy politicians ripped up in the 1960s and then sold the corridor to developers to build high rise. Even if there was a remote possibility of any government building a whole new line on the North Coast, no matter how many billions are spent, a new line would not serve as many local towns or, the very busy major east west transport corridor from the coast to Lismore. Or reduce traffic congestion in Byron Bay. If they won’t build the 22ks of line needed to connect our line to Coolangatta and the airport. there’s no chance of them ever building a complete new line.

    ‘Winding slow train travelling at 80ks’. Suburban commuter trains do not travel at high speed as they’re continually stopping. How fast do buses travel over winding, dangerous roads, or stuck in traffic for hours on Ewingsdale Rd?

    Queensland people have just thrown out a government who threatened to sell off public assets. NSW people will no longer tolerate politicians who sell off, or destroy, valuable public infrastructure.

  9. I’ve seen regional train services that added enormous value to regions that have then – in Maui the old sugarcane train tracks were converted into local transportation, and they actually turn a profit each year, in addition to providing an amazing attraction. With the rail trail, it just doesn’t seem like there has been much thought put into the details – in the recent heat of summer, and no running water, I cannot fathom who would be out walking out in the sun and heat on a rail trail, with hardly a tree in sight inside the fencing. Then with pelting hail we get in the region, where are people going to get shelter? Are we prepared to have these people finding refuge in neighborhoods – I thought we already we fed up with the camper vans? What is the costs for bathrooms going to be, or are people going to be going anywhere they please? Are people going to pitch a tent along the tracks or in people’s backyards? Emergency services? Just wondering about the specifics, as I haven’t seen any of these issued addressed.

    • I agree Dr.Martin. The rail trail study concluded the trail would cost $75 million, but that study FAILED to include plenty of things such as car parking, toilets, rest areas, water stations, fencing, removal of acidic chemicals in the tracks and more! The real cost is probably something in the billions

  10. Media Release from the NSW Legaslative Assembly,Committee on Transport and Infrastructure, 22/11/12.
    Transit Oriented Development A Necessary Response.
    “Following the completion of its inquiry into the utilisation of rail corridors,the Transport and. Infrastructure Committee has recommended that transit oriented development (TOD) around train stations and along rail corridors should be actively encouraged by both state and local government in NSW.”
    Summary- housing estates should be encouraged along the rail corridor (nice to fill our beautiful valleys with brick and tile subdivisions ! )

    ” The time is now for Government to support TOD as an essential component in both urban planning an urban renewal because of clear social ,economic and environmental benefits such development can provide”
    Summary- Pushing local government to approve development alongside and over the rail corridor.

    “The committee also found that the airspace above and the land adjacent to rail corridors often exist as ‘lazy’ government assets that provide an insufficient return to the state.
    Summary- Being that local government laws don’t apply to rail corridors we could see large multistory development around the Byron Bay and Mullumbimby train stations. (Very nice ! )

  11. AS Don Page, MP for Ballina, told parliament in 2004 when the government closed the train service on the Casino to Murwillumbah line “Approximately 133,000 people use this (train) service every year and it’s termination will particularly affect the elderly and disabled, create approximately 3,000 extra bus movements a year on local roads, cause CountryLink job losses, travel centre closures and more green house gasses”.
    “It is short sighted because the Far North Coast is a RAPIDLY GROWING AREA and this infrastructure is central to our future. We will need more, not fewer commuter services and more tourist trains: WE NEED TO CONNECT TO THE QUEENSLAND SYSTEM”.

    What Don Page said then was spot on and is even more relevant today. We can only speculate on the reasons for his back flip-large donations from the road transport lobby perhaps?

  12. This Merano to Malles train travels 60km in 1hr 17 minutes ,from my calculations this is at a breakneck average speed of 45km/hr. Crikey I can ride my push bike at this speed.
    It reminds of the Dunedin to Middlemarch train in New Zealand ,a lovely scenic ride but not a public transport solution just a scenic tourist train. The same as the Cairns to Kuranda train ,great for tourists but doesn’t really give a public transport solution.
    So please come out and say do you want a slow tourist train and/or a slow public transport train .
    We deserve so much better ,a fast train system that services the growth corridor.I suppose if you want to send cattle or macadamia nuts to the markets then the old corridor is wonderful for that.

  13. Geoff, you state that Byron will not ever get a train..”light or heavy” Havn’t you heard that there will be a Diesel powered train that will take folks from the Flannery development into Byron. As you know Diesel is a highly dangerous product. The cancer producing particles can spread great distances and the effects on the lungs and immune systems of children and adults can be devastating. Plants cannot photosynthesise, animals and trees are affected and of course the first to inhale this toxic brew are the bike riders. There has been no LEP addressing this issue!

    Furthermore, I notice that our councillor Sol (not Soul!) refers to this monster as a “tram”. Our Green Mayor waxes lyrically about this ‘revolutionary’ means of transport. Science has advanced and we know a great more about pollution. We face the 21 st century with dire Climate change. We need progressive light rail to at least lug us into the 21st Century and reduce the emissions from monster highways of cars lined up to enter Byron.

    Onwards with vision.


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