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Byron Shire
November 29, 2021

Shame about the train blame game

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It’s a shame people are unable to do some rudimentary research about the proposed train service from Belongil into Byron before rushing into print with misinformation.

The three-carriage rail motor will use exactly the same diesel fuel as the trucks, buses and 4WDs that currently sit for hours in traffic on Ewingsdale Road. It’s the same diesel that’s used in the B doubles we are stuck behind on the highway every day. The difference being that the amount of diesel the train will use is miniscule compared to the amount being burned by B doubles and other diesel vehicles. Anyone who has actually travelled on a rail motor knows that they are less noisy than a bus or truck travelling at the same speed. Asbestos has not been used in the brakes of any vehicle in Australia, trains included, for decades.

The train, which will not cost taxpayers one cent, will not be for the exclusive use of the rich. All local residents and visitors will be able to use it. Indications are that people will be queuing up to travel into town by train rather than sit for hours in traffic on Ewingsdale Rd, meaning traffic on the road and in the town will be reduced. Most people think that’s a win for the community and the environment.

Approval to run train services on the line is the sole responsibility of the state government; council has no say in it. The pro-development majority of Byron councillors don’t want to see trains running and they support spending $50m ripping up the line for an expensive cycleway for the exclusive use of a few cyclists.

The northern rivers community (over 15,000 have signed petitions) and TOOT, have consistently campaigned for over 11 years for commuter train services on the C-M line and for the 22ks of line built to connect it to the Queensland line at Coolangatta. The community has always supported a cycleway alongside the line, as they are in the Blue Mountains and the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria. The line goes through eight out of ten of the major north coast population centres and is ideally placed to be the spine of a sustainable public transport system for locals and 4.6 million tourists. It was obvious in 2004 that even if the government had been willing to fund the restoration of the line for the heavy (diesel) XPT train that that train would not provide the sustainable public transport service the Northern Rivers region needs to cope with population growth and 4.6 million tourists.

People are fighting for train services to ensure social equity, to reduce carbon emissions (road transport is one of the biggest producers of carbon) and to try and prevent our beautiful region being carved up by six-lane roads, costing billions, which are inevitably filled with more cars, 4WDs, B doubles and their toxic fumes. No matter how many expensive six-lane roads we build, they eventually all grind to a halt. That’s the pending doom we face. Nothing to do with love of trains or romance.

It’s difficult to understand why people would use fear and misinformation to champion the corporate forces behind the rail trail lobby to try and stop a train service that will benefit so many. It’s a small start, but there’s potential to expand services, and it may help prevent the line being destroyed. Only the extraordinary efforts of the community prevented legislation being passed in 2009 and 2014 that would have removed protection from the line and allowed the line to be destroyed and valuable rail land sold off for development. If the state government is now able to get the legislation passed with Fred Nile’s vote, people could find much worse things plonked outside their back door than a small three car, unobtrusive rail motor.

All the above information is readily available from independent sources.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores


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  1. Well said Louise. I, for one, cannot wait for this small step toward a functioning rail service to be up and running. I will never tire of the joy of travelling anywhere by train. 🙂

  2. I find it very ironic that Louise and her TOOT supporters are concerned about people rushing to publish ‘misinformation’! Louise and her TOOT supporters are constantly publishing misinformation in the pursuit of their nostalgic trains on our tracks agenda. As an example the rail trail is not a ‘cycleway for the exclusive use of a few cyclists’, it is a trail for walkers, joggers, horse riders etc.

    A detailed and extensive feasibility study was done by ARUP on re-instating a train service on the Murbah to Casino line. People can google ‘Arup feasibility report Casino to Murwillumbah’ to read it for themselves. ARUP are a well respected international company of engineers and planners. They were aengaged as a key consulting agency on the extension of the London underground tube – they know what they are talking about! Anyway they found that less than half the population in our region would be serviced by the train and a key finding was to improve bus services in the region. They also found that reinstating train services would not be viable nor meet the regions transport needs. Louise and TOOT supporters dismiss this report because it didn’t deliver their nostalgic trains as they’d wished for.

    I really fail to see how one diesel rail motor is going to make much of a difference to transport in Byron and is more of a tourist gimic than a serious transport solution. A tourist train was introduced a number of years ago and lasted less than a year. It will be interesting to see if this rail motor is still going in a year.

  3. It was very obvious prior to the 2011 state election that the LNP had no intention of honouring their promises to ‘get the trains running’. Their so-called study was put together in 2013 specifically to justify that decision. The ARUP ‘study’, without doing any inspections, claimed all 28 bridges on the Lismore to Byron section of the line need to be replaced at hugely inflated cost. They included the cost of replacing bridges on the Byron to Mullum section of the line THAT DO NOT EXIST! The transport needs of 4.6m tourists to the region didn’t rate a mention! Legal action has been commenced against ARUP in Brisbane over losses to investors relating to their traffic forecasts for the Clem7 Brisbane Tunnel. Some serious reasons why the ARUP study is dismissed.

    There’s no comparison between a daily, regular commuter train providing a service for 8 out 10 of the major population centres on the line and 4.6m tourists, and the big, heavy, expensive Ritz Rail tourist train which only ran once a week and did not provide transport for anyone.

    One train carrying 100 people into Byron could take 50 vehicles off Ewingsdale Rd. 6 trips per day=300 vehicles per day. A cycleway will do nothing to reduce traffic and carbon emissions-it will increase both as people will have to drive to the region to use it!

    The ARUP recommendations about bus services have as much credibility as the rest of their ‘study’. People extolling the virtues of buses obviously never use them. They should try travelling to Brisbane using public transport and see how long it takes. Local buses are empty as they don’t connect people to where they need to go, and, like all road transport trying to get into Byron, they are stuck in traffic for hours.

  4. Damon, since when is it a ‘romantic notion’ to want fair and equitable public transport throughout the Northern Rivers for all? That’s why so many people throughout the community want the train back, not because they harbour some misty eyed view of shovelling coal into an old steam engine. Most people are not opposed to the bike path being constructed but it’s a different matter when it involves ripping up the rail track to help fund it. As a regular walker I can think of nothing worse than having people in Lycra whizzing past me with their ‘king of all things’ attitude to sharing spaces. Your derision for people who want a local train service more than they want a bike track says it all really.

  5. I have put railway maps of the MBah to Casino on my Facebook page ” Northern Rivers Train for Better Transport” to show people why most of the old corridor is not suitable for an efficient and reasonably fast public transport mode.A fair few sections was limited to 40km/hr and a large degree of the bends had a curve radius of under 300 metres. The only useable straight sections are Mullumbimby to Byron Bay and Casino to Lismore.
    Using 19th century alignments with 20th century trams when we are in the 21st century and heading towards the 22nd century is so backward.
    We have Lennox Head ,Ballina,Alstonville,Wollongbar and Goonellabah that is having a population explosion and you want to reinstate a train system in a very low population area between Bangalow and Lismore?
    Aim high like our forefathers did in the 1880s instead of just saying that the old corridor should be reinstated.It would be like asking that Friday Hut Rd (the original main road) should be reused as the Main Highway!
    We on the Northern Rivers deserve a best practice world standard rail system,not an 1880s steam era snaking snail track.

  6. Well written Louise, arguments against rail have degraded to emotional diatribe for a small section of the community. Damon’s claims of multi users is pie in the sky as walkers, horseriders and selfish cyclist’s wont share the same space- I can see the court cases already of riders thrown off horses & kicked cyclists. Trails wont be viable as the insurance will be astronomical & trailers wont pay for anyway

  7. What makes the C-M train line so valuable is that it DOES wind through 8 out of 10 of the major North Coast population centres and is ideally place to be the spine of a sustainable public transport system, especially when the 22ks of line is built to connect it to the Gold Coast line at Coolangatta.

    That’s why thousands of people are determined it will not be destroyed-it cannot, and will not, be replaced.

  8. Louise, thanks for your letter all the way from Ocean Shores!
    A few facts about your misinformation …
    Yes the train uses diesel fuel like most 4WDs, trucks and buses. The point you miss is that modern vehicles are required to have pollution equipment fitted. The proposed train does not. It apparently has rebuilt 50 year old engines – therefore it will emit contaminants within close proximity to residential and accommodation premises.
    Whilst asbestos has not been used in modern trains for decades, neither has this train been operating for decades. Happy for you to inform us what type specifically are intended to be used. No one has to-date despite their dismissive claims.
    Even if the train ran all day, it would have little to no effect on the 18,000 average vehicle movements on Ewingsdale Road, especially at peak holiday times when this increases dramatically.
    There is no approval for any carparking on the Bayshore drive end for ALL the so called users.
    The Sunrise residents expressed concerns to the media as did the businesses on Shirley St. regarding lack of direct consultation, confusion over ‘what is light rail’, concern over diesel emissions and noise impacts on a quite residential area. These are all cause for concerns which are yet to be addressed by the developer.
    Solar for a 56 ton vehicle is prohibitive cost wise, and despite the owners Lithgow State Mine Railway investigating it over the past two years, nothing has been put on the table.
    I can put your mind at ease and let you know it has nothing to do with Rail Trail.
    As Sunrise residents, we are not against trains (as it’s pointed out by TOOT fans we bought on a rail line). However dramatic increase in use, diesel and noise pollution and stations being built 5 to 25m from existing homes and accommodation buildings is not what we want.

  9. If the corridor were turned into a rail-trail it would be very viable to run small public-transport “trains” in the form of golf-buggies towing trailers capable of holding a dozen or so people each. We don’t need trains or tracks if the corridor is paved and widened to accommodate non-fossil-fuel vehicles. From Sunrise or even Mullumbimby, to the Cemetery Rd or even Bangalow, the corridor works as a local by-pass as well, with shared vehicle/pedestrian options in town. Pedal-powered carts are also a fantastic option… lower your ticket price, even pay for it, by pedaling along the way.


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