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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Diesel train plan for Byron Bay meets opposition

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Residents in Byron Bay’s Sunrise estate say they have significant concerns with plans to run a World War II heritage diesel train from the North Byron Beach resort into Byron’s CBD.

Among those concerns is that it will be an exclusive service for the operator’s patrons, owing to only a two-way station being constructed.

The soon-to-be restored train will be operated by Elements Of Byron, a new boutique villa resort which is being developed on the North Byron Beach Resort at the end of Bayshore Drive.

The rudimentary website for Elements Of Byron claims the resort will be Byron’s ‘first world-class beachfront resort.’

The Echo previously reported that the 3.4km railway project will come in just under $1m, according to the resort’s manager Jeremy Holmes.

At the time he said the 100-seater two-car currently being restored is, ‘Technically not light rail, but is regarded as lighter than normal rail.’

A one-way passenger fare will be approximately $3, and the project is expected to be completed later this year. In December 2013, Council voted unanimously to support the project, which is under state government jurisdiction. It also gained the support of Trains On Our Track (TOOT). And with the physical work expected to start in August, Elements Of Byron recently posted a letter to residents in the area.

Frequency of service yet to be determined

It stated that frequency of the service is yet to be determined; however, will be based around demand.

They wrote, ‘Once we start operating we encourage residents to contact us to suggest operating times that would be suitable to them.’

Some fencing of the track will be undertaken, and the train will be ‘relatively quiet at the speeds it will operate… There will be a suburban whistle used at Kendall Street level crossing.’

Project manager Jermey Holmes confirmed with The Echo that pollution levels were not submitted as part of the DA to the state government, and that a storage facility for the diesel fuel, ‘is yet to be determined.’

He says the train will travel ‘between 10 and 60km/h [as there will be] different speeds at different sections of the track.’

No formal submissions

As for public submissions for the overall project, Mr Holmes said, ‘There was not a formal public submission period as a part of our state government application.’

‘We understand that consultation is a two way street. Our public information sessions – private site tours for the general public – were extensively advertised in July and December 2013. The community came and met with me and Peggy, asked questions and gave us feedback, both written and verbal.

‘Our newsletters and website make it clear that we need to hear feedback to improve our operations. Our contact details are readily available, as are we.’

Residents’ group formed

Meanwhile Lee Cass spoke on behalf of a recently formed residents’ group which aims to inform residents about the rail.

‘This train service will affect everyone,’ he told The Echo.

‘There may be problems with diesel particulate contamination, owing to the old technology 1940–1970 diesel motor.’

Also Mr Cass claimed that contrary to the resort’s claims, the frequency of operation has been indicated to him by management as two trips per hour, 8am to 10pm, seven days per week from Sunrise to Byron.

‘This equates to 48 trips per day,’ Mr Cass said. ‘This is quite different from two trips per day in total, prior to the track’s closure in April 2004.’

‘They certainly didn’t take a survey to ask residents what use of a train they may need because there has been very little community consultation.

‘That is the proof there has been little community consultation.

‘Any business that was providing “public rail” would have pages of consultant’s findings on the viability of a rail system. Usage and then a timetable would be high priority. They have not done this because the rail is for transport for the resort and bistro customers, not for residents of Byron Bay.’

The Elements Of Byron have, however, provided to The Echo a community consultation ‘log’ of newsletters, media releases, an advertising schedule, public meetings and extensive media coverage.

But Mr Cass remains unconvinced.

‘There will be noise from steel wheels on steel tracks, noise from braking on steel wheels, noise from horn warning every 15 minutes at the Kendall Street crossing and noise from the diesel engines. The dirty diesel will have to be stored somewhere too.

‘There is no mention of EPA rail operations guidelines in a current DA which is only about rail platforms and buildings.’

He also says that community consultation has been inadequate. ‘The meetings held were just to tell us what they are going to do and were not about giving feedback. This is being marketed as community transport; however, this is actually about transporting patrons and guests from their private property into town.’

Won’t relieve traffic

‘There are only two stations planned: one their end and one in town. I can’t see locals using this service as the distance is too short, and the price will be too high for families to use.

‘This won’t relieve Byron’s traffic congestion one bit.’

As for the recent letter to residents, he says many likely to be affected didn’t recieve it from the resort.

‘Many people don’t realise what is being planned,’ he says.

To get involved with the residents’ group, email [email protected]

And to give feedback to the rail project, visit http://www.northbyronbeachresort.com.au or call 6685 6561.

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  1. Is the service available and open to public usage or not??? Your article is ambiguous on this important matter? If not then this service is a negative and deal breaker! If yes then it is a positive amenity for the community even if the residents group have some (seemingly?) minor objections.
    Diesel pollution concern is a distraction as it can surely add very little to existing transport system load? Not sure i understand the reasoning of Mr Cass, regarding two stations. People will use it to get out to the beach from town, i would have thought? Does he want a station in the middle and if so, who would pay for this amenity’s construction and operation? And more importantly it is well understood that noise and pollution are dramatically increased at stopping and starting for rail transport! So you cant have your cake and eat it too. Add a station and you add to noise and pollution , both of which are sighted as issues of concern by the residents group. Less stopping and starting means less noise and emissions. Finally $3 per use doesn’t sound like a lot to pay and i would pay it. The big positive that i see coming out of this is that the rail system will be in use again for it’s constructed purpose and thus much less likely to be carved up and leased or sold to developers! The rail trail proposal , by contrast is much more likely to encourage that kind of future for the rail corridor!

  2. The proposed train is by no means ‘Light Rail’. It is in fact a post WWII 660 series diesel locomotive.

    There will be toxic diesel particulate contamination close to residential houses and tourist accommodation.

    Unclear frequency of operation – potentially up to two trips per hour, 8am to 10pm, seven days per week between Sunrise and Byron CBD. This equates to 56 trips per day

    Steel wheels on steel track
    Braking on steel wheels
    Diesel engines noise
    ‘Horn warning’ both direction at Kendall street crossing

    Asbestos was standard equipment in train brakes in these trains

    Safety – there is no provision for lights or barriers at the Border St / Kendall St crossing.

    Pollution from train lights operating at night.

    Lack of privacy for those properties adjacent to the tracks due to frequency.

    No specific community consultation re engine type and frequency of service.

    This train does NOT supply residents’ needs for public transport.

    This service will not relieve car congestion on Ewingsdale Road.

    Rail Trail with need a divider fence the length of the line to separate bikes/train.

    This train contradicts Council’s commitment for a ‘zero emission community’.

    Write a submission related to the concerns of ‘inappropriate use of proposed rail line and infrastructure’ based on the above points.
    Review the current DA – google 10.2015.214.1

    Submissions close 4pm Tuesday 19th May. [email protected]

  3. Oh, isn’t this interesting? Now that there’s going to be a train on that line, out come the armchair critics (who may or may not be wolves in sheep’s clothing) who must pedantically try and organise others in order to dumb down what is essentially a visionary and highly practical transport solution that is capable of excellent things. The concerns expressed seem to be wafer thin – (what if they were proposing to run a heritage steam train?), in the face of the obvious benefits for everyone in Byron. The tragic Rail Trail lobby will no doubt be looking for every opportunity to mobilize – poor things. The times they are changing from the ignorant and arrogant to the enlightened and forward-thinking. At last.

    • Milton, the concerns raised in the article are those of residents of Sunrise and now it seems many other residents and businesses. To my knowledge not affiliated with Rail-trail.
      To your point… using antiquated and heavily polluting engines rather than available non polluting options is hardly being “visionary” and “forward thinking”.

  4. A worthy start on re-opening our rail line to a commuter train service Casino-Murwillumbah and on to the Gold Coast.
    The railway line has always been there, so complaints of noise don’t hold up. Property purchasers near an existing railway line must take cognisance of this.
    Diesel emissions on such a small train would barely match those from popular diesel motor vehicles swarming into Byron Bay down Ewingsdale Road.
    Please, give us the train!
    Eve Sinton

  5. THANKYOU for publishing this article. Although I am a resident and directly impacted by the railway line which borders my home I was totally unaware of how the original concepts of an Eco friendly electric light rail serving all of the communities along Belongil ,arts and industrial and sunrise communities to a boardwalk/ cycle track to connect the communities had morphed into an exclusive heavy rail diesel locomotive serving only the elements development.
    I am stunned that the council has allowed this to progress to the stage it has without proper community consultation ,and would entertain a proposal with so little concrete detail and one which totally contradicts the notion of a zero emissions council.
    I am losing faith in our current councils ability to preserve the soul of Byron Bay which has for years made our town the envy of so many other destinations and served us so well. We are a progressive social and environmental community and need to stay true to our foundations.

    • The socially and progressive Byron community pretty much disappeared over 20 years ago, to the detriment of locals, thanks to the obsessive focus on tourism and the almighty dollar.

      Seems a small group of uninformed people would much prefer this valuable piece of public infrastructure-worth billions- be ripped up for a cycleway which will not connect communities or provide transport for ONE local, let alone 4.6m tourists.

      NO train could possibly create the same amount of noise, traffic congestion or diesel pollution as the traffic stuck on Ewingsdale Rd for hours.

      Over 15,000 North Coast people have signed petitions for trains.

  6. My concerns are
    – what is the timetable
    – why is it only serving one community
    – the old rail line was primarily through an industrial area when it was operating with a much larger exclusion zone
    – the old locomotive would fail the test if evaluated in most economic and environmental evaluations
    – there is little detail on the station facilities being provided and spillover effect
    – there has been little community consultation regarding the real plan

      • Gary, it’s the half left out that are the concern. The DA contains nothing on the train, emission and frequency. Elements are unable to provide information thus far. There are lots of concerns that could/should have been addressed.

  7. What a great thing!

    If open to the public, I can see this being VERY popular. It will offer a frequent public transport to town, open up the A&I and Sunrise areas, allow people to come to the brewery and beaches and shops at Sunrise/A&I and give those areas a real boost. Some shops really struggle at the moment.

    The colour and fun.

    I personally will use it frequently with my family to travel to Sunrise/A&I without having to use my DIESEL car.

    Get on board people!!

  8. great idea, but deeply flawed.
    If, as the article suggests the service will be running every 15 minutes,stop for a moment and think about the level crossing !! 48 trips / day, 48 times traffic will be stopped on the road into town. The light rail option with community connectivity is a no brainer, the problem here appears to be that the council wants someone else to take on the burden of solving the problem , rather than taking responsibility for the project themselves.


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