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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Rail trail won’t cater to our diverse transport needs

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A common theme of pro rail trail letters last week was a question of whether rail is justified until such time as existing bus services are ‘overflowing’.

The issue of patronage is critical, but care needs to be taken in observations of the numbers of people using the current bus services. Let me explain.

There are numerous bus services in just about every town within the region. These services move in, out and around each of these locations, but importantly there are no effective public transport services that link these centres so that people can travel between these towns.

If regular services existed between towns, then the isolated services around each of these towns would greatly expand the travel options for residents in these towns and increase the numbers of people using the local services.

Until such time as these services are linked, the numbers of people using local services will be limited and mean that such services operate on the margins of viability.

The great value of the rail line is that it links all but one of the major towns right across the region.

There is no doubt a significant unmet demand for public transport. This has very real impacts on our families. Young people (and others) are restricted in their ability to attend regional education, training and employment that ultimately restrict the economies and resilience of our communities.

Add to that the cost of congestion, pollution and delays and the lack of regional rail services clearly disadvantages all towns across the region.

With 4.5 million tourist visitors moving across the region, the ‘viability’ of rail is quite different than any other region, yet the potential of tourism visitors subsidising a rail services has been expressly excluded from existing patronage studies.

Let’s not spend $50 million to rip up such valuable infrastructure for a walking track that can not possibly cater to the diverse transport needs of our region.

Spend the money on a regional rail link and watch the numbers of people using local bus services expand greatly.

This happened in Perth where patronage increased by 13 per cent across the whole of the suburban network within six months after a southern rail link was completed

Cr Basil Cameron, Goonengerry

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  1. Spot on Basil. Let infrastructure exist for the highest good/convenience of the community and its taxpayers.
    The latter money to aid also students, aged etc. I offer a simple example. A professional person who lives in Byron Bay and teaches in Lismore had the misfortune to have car problems. The car needed a lot of work. This meant that she had no Transport out of Lismore. Her work required that she leave at 5pm. The last bus back to Byron from Lismore left at 3.30 pm. So she could get to Lismore but not out of it!

    This type of issue must plague many students. I see these people teachers/students/workers plus those requiring medical attention as extremely discriminated against. Not everybody exists in the Tourist economy!
    Bring back light rail.105

  2. Thanks for the passionate advocacy on our behalf Basil.
    I do have a minor correction to your letter though. You note that a “common theme of pro rail trail letters” was the current neglect by commuters of bus services.
    Firstly, this was not a common theme. It was mentioned by one correspondent, me.
    Second, my letter was not “pro rail trail”, it was agnostic. I hope for a more nuanced debate and think that you must recognize the major elephant in the room – the bus.
    If you are serious about public transport then you really must look at where you are likely to have success. As my letter suggested, in the current political climate I really think you stand a better chance of obtaining funding to enhance the existing bus services rather than the considerably more expensive option of the railway.
    I admit that such practical suggestions as I make sound weak. And there is an extremely strong sentimental attachment to the train. But you must realize what you are up against.
    (And if you were wondering if I use the bus – no – I cycle. That is the real sustainable transport option that is right here, right now.)

    • Dave Lisle,I am fed up with this bit about we who are for trains, is just sentimental! Totally wrong!!! The actual reason as has been stated over and over and over, is practical!! Those Qld buses to which people are forced to endure travelling on, to the Casino Railway Station are discriminative! To climb(which you have to do) on them is not easy,for families,elderly,people who have had knee ops,hip ops and so squashed. No leg room. Going through Lismore is a nightmare. Most people are driven by car as they will not go on those buses,or cannot!! I have been on them when passengers have called family to pick them up at Bangalow, they had had enough!! The bus to Tweed & onto Brisbane is usually or close to full,the others 6,8,10,3 & on the way back;4,6,after Lismore could 3,2 & a few times – 1 – me.From top of StHelena to Billinudgel – 1hour!! Bike tracks are needed but so are trains and the rail corridor is the ‘spine’of the whole area & onto Tweed Heads it should be as the ARUP Study said, that should be investigated and maybe needed to be kept for future connection to Qld! By the way,all costings were not included in the RTrail Study either!Yet,all we hear is the cost is $75million so much less than the dubious cost of $900million for the rail!Something ‘wrong in Denmark’so the saying goes! Discrimation is the word,denying people train travel for local needs and/or tourism,tourism for visitors.Jillian

  3. There have been many letters about the empty buses. Buses carrying a handful of passengers stuck in traffic for hours burning dirty diesel are not sustainable public transport.

    Compare those empty buses with the rail motor train brought up here in 2004 which ran regular services from Mullumbimby to Byron Bay and Bangalow for a weekend. The old train was full with standing room only every trip. It took ten minutes to get from Mullum to Byron, much quicker than the people stuck in traffic on Ewingsdale Rd. It’s obvious how popular a new, fuel efficient, air conditioned regular train service would be.

    Byron Beach Resort management has reported that restoring the line for their proposed shuttle train service into Byron will cost $300,000.00 per kilometre. That means the cost of restoring the Casino to Murwillumbah line will cost little more than ripping it up for a cycleway.

    It’s outrageous that politicians can find endless sums to destroy public infrastructure but can’t find the money to provide the services we need.

  4. Some issues that people may not be aware of is that bus services anywhere have a designated area that they are allowed to use ..Some of these areas may have changed but not by much…….Blanches services go from Ballina to Mullum stop. Brunswick go from I think Byron to Ocean Shores stop Sunshine buses to the north only go to Kingscliff stop. they are not allowed to go over into another bus companies area, so saying that the bus system is working is the greatest furrfy I have ever heard. Light rail with a bus on rail would certainly get people around the communities, and be used by thousands and saying that you can only have one going in the morning and one in the afternoon is ludicrous. You can have them every half, one hour or what ever they deem possible. There are sidings along the track as they pass each other one pulls into that area etc. It can be made cheaper to travel and buses can pick up from stations and drop of to areas. We have got to stop the traffic congestion and as we are going to be turned into the festival capital of the East coast plus.. major developments… this is the answer… rail trail can operate next to light rail ….but lets get this straight..at the presentation night Byron .. the fancy rail cars that they where going to be used for tourists from Bangalow to Byron where so expensive for a one way ride it was unbelievable…. everyone had an ideas for parts of the rail ….for TOURISTS…..we need a whole light rail (buses on wheels) for our youth, aged, families, school children, sports days, visitors, growing population an festival goers etc. some lateral thinking would be great. It may seem dated to some but for many it is the answer and as we are not an LNP shire and are surrounded by LNP ministers would this have something to do with no money, to expensive ……just saying ………


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