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.