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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Rail trail group mum on EOI details

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Nick Michaels, Di Campbell, Kristin Michaels, Geoff Meers, Marie Lawton. Photo Hilary Wise
Ride on: rail trail supporters Nick Michaels, Di Campbell, Kristin Michaels, Geoff Meers and Marie Lawton. Photo Hilary Wise

Hans Lovejoy

With the expressions of interest (EOI) on rail projects along the rail corridor now closed, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Group (NRRT) say that the proposal they submitted ‘is an extraordinary opportunity to turn a neglected and deteriorating state asset into a productive NSW tourism icon.’

Indeed, the state government has been very clear in its intention to hand over what was a public transport asset to become ‘tourist only’ facility.

So will this project see the region flourish with even more toursim-related jobs and fit cyclists or will it also see valuable public lands become privatised, as is the agenda of almost all neo-con governments?

NRRT secretary Geoff Meers answered questions surrounding the project.

Now NRRT has submitted its EOI, is your group willing to make it available so the public can assess the merits of re-appropriating infrastructure that was paid for by the taxpayer?

The government is keeping the applications confidential at this stage. They intend to publish a summary of all applications on their website (at some unspecified time).

I am preparing a summary of our application for the NRRT website and will send that to you when it’s finished. Applications will remain confidential until the government decides to make them public.

What is the ‘sustainable and profitable operating business model’, which is included in the Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF) criteria?

The application proposes a government-appointed trust to manage the rail trail. The application makes it clear the current annual budget for maintenance of the corridor (approx. $750K) would be needed by the trust to cover operating expenses (trail maintenance, marketing, management, etc). Please note the trust management model is only a proposal, one which the government may, or may not, support.

The government’s rail trail report was very vague on financial returns. In fact, one of the few suggestions made was investment from mining companies. Councils say they don’t want to fund it yet there will undoubtedly be pressure on them to maintain and supply infrastructure (toilets, mowing etc).

The application is clear that any services to be provided by councils would be negotiated on a cost-recovery basis. That is, councils will not be out of pocket for any services needed by the rail trail.

All necessary infrastructure (toilets, etc) would be part of the construction contract funding and not the responsibility of councils. Councils supported the EOI and the notion of cost-recovery for services.

Is there a land lease proposal within NRRT’s EOI?

The application suggests there may be other sources of funding to support the ongoing operation of the rail trail. These could include government grants, sponsorship (non-CSG!), licensing and leasing of assets (station buildings, etc). These are not firm proposals but suggestions as to ways in which the trust could augment government funding to manage and maintain the trail.

Against what criteria is NRRT measuring its ‘demonstrated community support and engagement’? The Echo reported recently that there appears to be 4,000 signatures either side (Trains On Our Tracks, or TOOT, and NRRT). TOOT claim they and 4,000 others don’t want the tracks ripped up. As I understand it, NRRT are only committing to ‘preserving the rail corridor for any future transport plans.’

The EOI is a proposal for a rail trail in the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor. It suggests, in relation to retaining or removing the rails, that, wherever possible, the rails and other rail assets should be retained.

The decision as to how the trail is constructed is up to the government. In regard community support/engagement, the EOI summarises the extensive engagement with local communities that has gone on over the last two years.

This includes council meetings, markets (over 30), newsletters, establishment of websites, petitions, surveys, community events and forums (over 60), fundraising events, Facebook pages, advertisements, campaigns, letters to editors, surveys and merchandising.

The EOI includes numerous letters of support from across the region. I suggest the difference between rail trail support and that for TOOT is: the rail trail is viable, benefits the region, creates jobs, preserves the corridor and will be built; the TOOT campaign has delivered nothing in ten years.

Will this be a shared corridor?

The EOI is clear that any proposals for the corridor that enhance the benefit of the rail trail are welcome. For example, the EOI includes the North Byron railcar shuttle as a shared use of that section of the corridor and the potential extension of this for a park-and-ride. The EOI also notes the Casino Rail Museum proposal for use of a section of track and that this may enhance the rail trail experience.

The Byron Tramlink proposal and the Bangalow railbike projects are also mentioned as proposals that need further investigation as to their impact on the rail trail.


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12 COMMENTS

  1. The rail trail argument is falling apart around them. More and more people are finally figuring out the benefits on a active rail service and the fact we are in desperate need of one!

    The Government study was nothing but a load of BS! They over inflated prices to the max, and when NBBR (North Byron Beach Resort) did a costing study of their NSWGR 800/900 class rail motor, they did more than put the government study into extreme doubt! https://www.echo.net.au/2014/12/rail-shuttle-costs-way-below-government-estimate/

    Yet again it is being proven over and over we need trains, NOT a silly old bike track that can oly be used by the able bodied!

    The NRRAG are setting out on August 10 to find what the real condition of the line. All the RT supporters are in for a jolt!

    https://www.echo.net.au/2015/04/helicopter-survey-to-assess-state-of-disused-rail-line/

    • Anyone that still dreams of a train service on this corridor, has been asleep for 11 years, and counting.

      The harsh reality is that it’s . .

      Rail Trail or NOTHING.

      Even TOOT’s religious style zeal to save the steel tracks on rotten sleepers, is to drop public transport altogether, in favour of a Disneyland style top dollar tourist attraction in the form of a 1929 W class Melbourne 600 volt DC ELECTRIC TRAM !!!

      This means electric catenaries would need to be installed at enormous expense between Byron and Bangalow, and crucify the natural aesthetics in the process.

      The power would have to come from the Grafton coal fired power station too.

      Where are the brains behind this sort of desperate thinking?

      Don’t ask me . . I’m rendered far too incapable in laughter . . !!!

      Sorry . .

      Maybe next time, when I get my breath back.

      • ” a 1929 W class Melbourne 600 volt DC ELECTRIC TRAM !!!”
        ” This means electric catenaries would need to be installed at enormous expense ”
        ” The power would have to come from the Grafton coal fired power station too.”

        HAHAHAHA really where do you get this stuff from, sounds like you guys are pretty desperate! Now I’m the one laughing…

        NRRT are the ones who want to take rail funding and give it straight to the Road Maintenance companies, who according to the Arup study, would be incharge of their own costs etc.

  2. The NRRT tried hard to dress their own commercial interests up as being good for the community. The community has seen right through their spin.

    If people wanted a bike way they would have voted for the Nationals.

    It’s telling that no direct answer was given to the question on numbers of actual supporters of a bike way.

  3. I will donate $2000 to any charity that NRRAG nominates if we have a train on the old corridor between Lismore and Murwillumbah by 2020.
    I will donate $1500 if the same by 2025 and $1000 by 2030.
    Probability will be that my money is safe and secure.
    So no train,no rail trail and a wasted resource.

  4. When you read the above interview, claims are made that Councils won’t have to pay any money for the rail trail. What part of fairyland does this person live in? Seriously. The “chardonnay set” are adept at twisting reality to suit themselves. It’s delusional. It’s a bit like a religious cult.

  5. Far from delivering nothing in ten years, the TOOT campaign has helped stop the controversial ‘Rail-Trail Bill’ twice, keeping the rails intact and safe so we still have a chance to use them. We have also flushed out several groups interested in retaining the tracks for tourist and passenger operations. If It wasn’t for Toot we wouldn’t still have the rails and be talking about the North Byron Beach Resort planning to put a train back on them this year.

  6. You will be waiting a long time for the next train but I will be able to ride my bike. Have you drove to Brisbane lately the the road is just coping with the amount of trucks and cars . A single ticket adult fare one to Brisbane $21.00 this is the same distance as Murwillumbah to Lismore what do you think it will cost for this new improved service you all dream of ? Do you think you are going to end Australia’s love affair with the motor car,by having a rail service. There is 17 million car journey’s made in Australia everyday maybe its time someone gave someone a lift. The people who support the rail trail do so because they have travel and seen what it can do for local economy not beacuse they are part of a “chardonnay set”.

  7. Got to give credit the supporters of insisting this tract of land as a solution to the inadequate public transport in this region. Five out of five for their persistence and lack of listening or comprehension to any logical arguments as to why it just won’t work. But personally looking forward to what will be a tremendous asset to bring tourism to the valleys and provide a place where I can take my kids on a substantial bike ride without risking their lives.

  8. It’s telling that no direct answer is forthcoming to the question about demonstrated community support NRRT have. NRRT have tried very hard to dress up their proposal for ripping up the $6b C-M line for a cycleway as being good for the community as it will ‘save’ the line. The community has seen right through the spin.

    People choose to ignore the reality of public transport services available to some lucky people in this state work very well. Residents on the Central Coast are able to travel by train (on a 100 year old line) to work in Sydney 5 days per week for around $40. They’re not demanding their line be ripped up for a cycleway.

    The reality is we cannot keep clogging up our roads and towns with traffic spewing copious amounts of Co2 into the atmosphere. Apart from destroying our wonderful area and turning it into one big car park, road transport is one of the greatest contributors to global warming.

  9. If the nay-sayers think a rail trail is a financial impossibility, that would mean the prospect of building new bridges, laying new rails and buying new rolling stock is but an infinistesimal speck in the chronoclastic infundibulum.

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