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Byron Shire
September 22, 2021

We don’t have to spend $50m to rip up rail line

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Byron shire Cr Basil Cameron, also a TOOT spokesperson, and Jeff Johnson, Ballina shire councillor and Independent candidate for Ballina
Byron shire Cr Basil Cameron, also a TOOT spokesperson, and Jeff Johnson, Ballina shire councillor and Independent candidate for Ballina

The $50 million proposed by the coalition to rip up our rail line is unacceptable while the need for improved public transport grows.

I am 100 per cent against ripping up the rail line and replacing it with what is essentially an expensive bike/walking track.

We can have a rail service and walking/bike trail as happens in many parts of the world. I support investment in a commuter and tourist light rail service in the northern rivers.

The state government’s proposal to rip up the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line is a very short-sighted decision.

There are so many more positives for our community if the government invests in an integrated public transport system than there ever will be from an over priced bike track for tourists. It’s time the government had a long-term sustainable vision for our area instead of pushing for urban sprawl and increasing traffic congestion

The state government’s ‘scoping study’ was a con that greatly inflated the real cost of transforming the rail line (built for heavy rail) into a light rail line for commuters and tourists.

The Liberal/National government, if re-elected, is proposing to spend over $10 billion on motorways and new rail lines in Sydney, yet we have a rail line that remains idle.

In terms of funding, the state government’s proposed highway deviation through Ballina’s largest and most significant wildlife corridor will cost over $700 million.

If the existing highway corridor were used for the upgrade it would save approximately $300 million, avoid a nationally significant koala colony and over 30 other threatened or endangered species, and result in a highway that was 2.9km shorter.

If the money saved was reallocated to local infrastructure projects, such as restoring our rail line and developing an integrated public transport system, that would provide a huge boost to our area, relieve some of the traffic congestion, and allow those without a car to access services such as Southern Cross University, TAFE, Lismore Hospital, etc.

Extending the line to Coolangatta airport would allow the growing number of day-trippers from our north to leave their cars at home, and visa versa.

The government (federal and state) is spending the money in our region, except their vision is for more cars rather than investing in the infrastructure and services to cater for a growing and aging community.

Some facts:
* The northern rivers has a population of over 230,000 people and it is one of the fastest growing regions in the state.
* Over two million tourists visit our region every year.
* The Byron to Lismore road is already over crowded and dangerous
* Traffic congestion from SE Qld (Brisbane/Gold Coast) to the northern rivers will only increase
* The Qld government is extending the rail line from Varsity Lakes to Coolangatta
* The $50 million allocated to the ‘rail trail’ will predominantly be used to rip up the rail line and convert it into a bike track (rail trail)
* There is no funding for facilities such as toilets, tourist infrastructure, ongoing maintenance, etc.
* Local councils have not allocated any funds to provide the facilities that would be needed or ongoing maintenance.
* More tourists would visit the towns of Bangalow, Mullumbimby, and Lismore if there were a light rail service than they will via a bike track.
* There are plans and grants available for a coastal cycleway between Ballina and the Gold Coast and beyond that would promote ‘cycle’ tourism without ripping up the rail-line. Part of this cycleway has already been constructed.

Jeff Johnson, Independent candidate for Ballina.

photo – Basil Cameron – Byron Shire Councillor and TOOT spokesperson, and Jeff Johnson, Ballina Shire Councillor and Independent Candidate for Ballina

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree. It is criminal to invest $50 million in ripping up our existing rail line for a bike path. The state government needs to be held to account to reinstate our rail network, and give us back this vital public transport service. I also agree that more tourists are likely to use the train to get to towns like Bangalow than a bike track. Can’t imagine anything more hideous in the height of summer cycling up there from Byron Bay, especially with kids. A nice train ride though through the country would be lovely and much more practical for families, especially if they’ve done some shopping at the market. The Bangalow-Lismore road is a complete death-trap and being able to commute between the two locations by train again would be a huge win for our communities. For workers, uni students and school students in particular. Imagine how many cars and buses we could get off that road if people had the rail option back again. I won’t vote for any party in the Ballina electorate that supports implementing a bike path at the expense of ripping up the rail line.

  2. The stupidity of local councils and planners is legendary, but……… how can any sentient being believe that tearing up infrastructure for horses and bikes isn’t an enormous backward blunder ?
    I suppose the next plan will be to reintroduce the whaling industry to prop up Byron’s dwindling tourist appeal.
    Our children and grandchildren will be asking some very embarrassing questions about our sanity.

  3. The expenditure of $50 million plus of taxpayer funds on a trail, bike path or whatever you would like to call it, at the expense of a railway that should still be operating, is just unnecessary and extreme extravagance. The only rail corridor that the northern rivers area will ever have, is the one from which rail trail advocates want to rip out the track. The suggestion that the State Government will provide an alternative and better rail corridor in maybe 30 years is plainly farcical, it’s just not going to happen!

  4. You must realise that the reinstatement of the old twisting and snaking train corridor will require straightening and diverting major sections of the line. To allow trains to travel at up to 160km/hr requires radius curves greater than 2km.The existing line has many radius curves of less than 800 metres,fixing it to a maximum speed of 80km/hr.On tight curves they need to install lubricators that spreads grease around the and into the water ways. I can just imagine all the people from Ballina,Lennox Head,Alstonville and Wollongbar driving into Station St in Bangalow to catch a train to the Gold Coast.
    Come on political candidates stop listening to your minders and party policies,think about the big picture for the next 150 years.
    The main train line needs to be installed in the existing highway corridor between Tweed Heads to Ballina and on to Lismore.Bus and car interchanges at the highway exit points.
    Branch lines can then feed out to towns like Byron Bay and Ballina.Main lines must be fast and straight,not a slow winding goat track train.
    Put your thinking caps on and look at the best possible public transport solutions for our region,not band aid solutions.

  5. Steam Age Alignment- do your own research on the internet about this subject.
    Dr Philip Laird- read all the articles he has published.
    Taking us back to the 19th Century train line alignments on the old corridor will make us look pretty stupid in 2030. Think outside the box and give us a real public transport train system or we may as well go back to horse and buggy travel also.

  6. People need to read the rail trail study. Apart from the unfunded estimated $75m cost of ripping the rails to build the cycleway, the study states clearly that development ( cafes, glamping, bunkhouses etc) will be needed along the line for a rail trail to be viable. Farmers and people who have chosen to live in quiet rural areas are concerned about the effects on their farms and lifestyle.

    Ballina did have a train line-it was ripped up in 1949. To use that as an excuse to spend millions to rip up the current Casino to Murwillumbah line is more perverted logic.

    Trains can, and have, travelled at over 80ks/h on the current line, which is as fast as suburban trains need to travel as they are regularly stopping. They don’t travel at 160ks/h.

    Empty buses are traveling around the area daily-they’re empty as they’re uncomfortable and don’t connect up to where people want to go-the train line does. Only 22ks of line is needed to connect the line to Coolangatta.

    Road transport is hideously expensive, does immense damage to our environment and is one of the main contributors to global warming.

    Don’t vote for any politician who wants to waste our money on this expensive vandalism.

  7. Once again you are confusing the rail trail concept with public transport!

    There is never going to be a train or anything similar on that corridor for the reasons Geoff Bensley has outlined above. That idea belongs to the last century…and the one before!

    The transport problems of Byron are going to be addressed through the improvement of road infrastructure and fleets of small buses which are already running to airports and tourist hot spots such as Nimbin. But the reality is that its always going to be crowded here!

    International visitors will come here to ride the rail trail over 5 to 7 days. They will not drive cars to get here and will mostly hire equipment. They will stay in B&B style accommodation along the way and revitalise many towns and villages. They are the ideal tourists in every way!

    If and when trains are reintroduced to this areas it will be along straight purpose built tracks. That is the reality.


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