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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Diesel train opposition gains momentum

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The diesel train,  currently under restoration, which is planned to run between Byron Bay and Elements resort. Photo supplied
The diesel train, currently under restoration, which is planned to run between Byron Bay and Elements resort. Photo supplied

Margi Dekker

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.

 


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15 COMMENTS

  1. Why do people keep saying that “council should not be seen to be supporting the ‘use of public infrastructure by a sole private operator for individual, commercial gain” ?
    THE RAIL SHUTTLE IS A NOT FOR PROFIT BUSINESS , the fares will go towards the cost of operating the service and not lining the pockets of the operators…
    Residents along the line who are worried about this should be going to the resort and talking to them, they are open to answering questions. And they can try looking at how these issues can be addressed, like maybe limiting the frequency of services to not disrupt locals, and creating a green boundary between the rail and properties ?

  2. If you bought land abutting the railway line you just need to suck it up buttercups. It won’t be nearly as horrible as you imagine. Talk about a bunch of Chicken Littles.

  3. Wow. I am amazed at the caring responses so far. This is a private operation built by a developer that impacts on home owners. (I am not one of them.) But, if you walk down there as I do, you will see that there will be a private TRAIN STATION built along people’s back fences. I’m reading that the train runs to the Rails, which means crossing the only road into town. Trains don’t cross roads without the cars having to stop to give way. Isn’t there a transport problem getting into Byron? Do you really think a privately run train will let the drunks on at the Rails,? Where have all the wallabies gone from that area? Nope. Too invasive. Too greedy. Feeling bullied.

    • Robyn that’s not true. the station and rail service will be open to the public. And no the train will not be crossing Lawson St and going to the Rails, it is stopping just short of Lawson St, next to first sun caravan park, so not to affect the traffic.

  4. Council must take into consideration that there is public beach access across several points of the railway line and ensure that these are NEVER closed off to the use of residents of Byron Bay, local property owners that pay rates and Visitors alike.

    • Access across the railway line is legally only allowed at Kendal St, Shirley St ,South of the railway station and Cemetery Rd.
      Even without trains running nobody is allowed access across or thru railway land except at authorised crossings.
      The Mullumbimby temporary crossing from the station to the council chambers is illegal and that is why John Holland (administrators for the train line) are closing off the crossing.
      So with a train coming back onto this part of corridor the only legal crossing points will be Kendal St and Shirley/Johnson St.

  5. This rail project has very deep pockets. We met with the project manager, of the Elements, Jeremy Holmes. He told us they have $1million to spend on this with no intention of recovery. Is this what you are referring to Angie? And yes, they are open to meeting but this is a very important project for investors who have very deep pockets.

    The marketing PLOY of a solar train has brought the mayor and others on board but the reality of it is almost zilch. As Jeremy said ‘we have also been looking at solar conversion since day one’ but in over three years they have not found anything. Yet they are so excited to have found an old diesel engine that is currently being restored, using volunteers in Lithgow under the auspices of a heritage train. Can a heritage train be converted to solar? We have been looking but we can’t find one either!!!!

    There is an emotional connection to this project by the investors. They see a heritage train ride for their guests at ‘Byron’s only beachfront resort’ as an unmatchable Unique Selling Proposition. I am certain such a multi million dollar resort will factor this project into the guest tariff.

    While they keep saying this train is for residents, the reality of a $6 return trip from The Sun Bistro into town is an expensive trip. Currently buses run from Sunrise into town, approximately every 80 mins. There are multiple bus stops ie a much larger catchment. I have yet to see a bus half full! Sunrise residents walking up to The Sun Bistro to catch a train into town is yet another marketing ploy.

    Christina, we have been told this train may operate from 8am to 10pm, two trips per hour with a whistle sounding when it approaches the Kendall St crossing. This equates to 56 times per day past our houses. At first, I was charmed by idea of this project but having been made aware of the reality, it is far worse than I ever could have imagined.

    • a $6 return trip is cheaper than a taxi, probably cheaper than the bus too, and its quicker than waiting in traffic. that’s the incentive.

  6. Moan , moan, moan! Seems to be a past time for too many in this community! The rail has been there for much longer than the adjoining houses. The objections that have been raised seem much more percieved than genuine. The operator seems open to discussion.
    Does the group thats objecting actually want the rail corridor operating rail transport again or not? My reading of their objections is that they do not! If this is the case cut the bullshit and state that! If yes then drop the furphy like objections to the current plans and put forward some ideas to move it forward , rather than just complaining.
    Here’s an idea- why not get together with the operator and help them develop something that
    will work, rather than simply turning it into a fight!
    Personally i like the idea of an old recycled deisel plying the route and have heard NOTHING compelling from the objectors to dissuade me.

  7. People with vested interests are never impartial. The railway line was there long before the nimbys (not in my back yard people) moved there.

    • I have stated that I was absolutely in favour of this train until I heard it was 8am to 10pm two trips per hour and the whistle at Kendall St on approach. This is madness.

      • The timetable is yet to be decided and the resort owners have stated numerous times that they are open to negotiation with local residents regarding this. It’s not madness. It’s a bloody inspirational and well executed idea.

  8. I love the idea of a train returning to Byron plus when Ewingsdale Road is backed up (all summer, thank council) I can get a train into town.

    Don’t like trains don’t buy a house on a train line.

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