Plans to run an old, diesel-powered railcar between Bayshore Drive and the Byron Bay township by this summer are facing greater opposition, with Shirley Street residents and businesses now claiming they may be adversely affected.
But the manager of the Elements Byron Bay resort, which has received approval to provide the new service, says the company is already looking at options to convert the diesel engine to solar-generated electricity in the future.
The newly-formed Shirley Street Collective includes affected landowners, residents and businesses along Byron’s renowned accommodation strip, whose properties/premises back directly on to or are near the track.
The group claims the ‘World War 2 Era’ diesel locomotive, now in its final stages of restoration, is not ‘light rail’ and is not in keeping with Byron Bay’s ‘environmentally-progressive’ reputation or direction.
The group’s key concerns centre around safety and environmental impacts, noise and privacy invasions, diminished amenity for existing accommodation providers, proposed increase of rail service from two trips per day (when rail was last in use in 2004) to up to 56 trips a day, between 8am -10pm, seven-days a week, lack of engagement and meaningful discussion with impacted stakeholders and fairness and precedent.
Submissions close today
A development application (DA) is now before the Byron Shire Council for the construction of platforms and shelters at the Bayshore Drive and Byron Town termini, with public submissions closing today (May 19).
Members of the Shirley Street Collective have written to council to object to the construction on a number of grounds, including perceived flaws in the DA.
The group says, ‘the heavy, diesel train is an out-dated, environmentally-unfriendly and politically incorrect project, which benefits a few at the expense of many.’
The collective adds the council should not be seen to be supporting the ‘use of public infrastructure by a sole private operator for individual, commercial gain’ without proven/tested public benefits.
‘Tourism is a large part of Byron Bay economy and we welcome and support the Elements development but not at the expense of other operators,’ a spokesperson said.
Solar in future?
Meanwhile, development director at North Byron Beach Resort, Jeremy Holmes, told The Echo, ‘While getting the rail motor restored and on the track is our first priority, we have also been looking at solar conversion since day one.
‘Along with our railway engineers in Lithgow we have been in discussion with multiple solar technology companies with the intent to one day convert our train to solar power.
‘The outcome of our initial investigations was that this is possible and with the advancement in battery and solar panel technology it’s becoming more realistic. We will continue to develop this concept, but our first priority is to get the train service on the line,’ Mr Holmes said.