An aerial survey by helicopter of the entire length of the disused Casino to Murwillumbah railway line will be undertaken on Friday in a bid to prove the line is in a much better condition than the state government purports it to be.
The survey, starting from Casino at 11am, is being organised by community organisation, the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG), which backs the introduction of a regular commuter train in the region with the railway line extended to Queensland.
The cross-border link, they say, would be a massive boost for the flow of tourism both ways as well as help people get to work.
The survey is being funded by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who will visit from Canberra to take part in the helicopter journey.
The Australian Greens’ official policy is to return trains to the corridor.
NRRAG spokesperson Beth Shelley said ‘we will be undertaking an aerial survey of the line to prove that the line is in much better condition than the state government would have us believe’.
Ms Shelley said the group believes ‘our roads and highways are already congested with cars and trucks and people without cars are unable to access the transport they need.
‘NSW governments have been telling us for years that we can’t afford a train while they continue to spend billions on highways: NRRAG believes it’s affordable and essential for our future and our community,’ she said.
‘The ARUP study (2012) stated that before the track was closed in 2004 it was considered to be in a fair condition, with the exception of some timber bridges.
‘The last eight years have seen little maintenance on the line, and as a consequence further deterioration has occurred.
‘The study went on to say the overall cost of reinstatement of the line would be $953 million which, over a 130km track is around $6.9 million per kilometre, which is ridiculous.
‘The cost to establish a privately owned diesel rail shuttle service from the Arts and Industry Estate into Byron Bay is around $300,000/km, the 3.4km railway project planned by the North Byron Beach Resort will come in just under $1 million, according to manager Jeremy Holmes,’ Ms Shelley said.
Local ex-railway worker Phillip Hill said ‘if the rail trail legislation gets through parliament, the current protection of the line will be removed and large areas of State Rail owned land at Byron, Bangalow etc will be open to property development’ .
NRRAG member Chris Manserge said footage from the survey will also be used to create a documentary film ‘that will capture the beauty of the landscape and terrain that the railway passes through’.
‘In addition to its enormous value to commuters and travellers as irreplaceable public transport infrastructure, it has great heritage value as an amazing example of 19th century civil engineering, and should be preserved for use by future generations as this region grows,’ Mr Manserge said.