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March 1, 2021

Campaign rolls on for regional rail trail in Tweed shire

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A meeting at the Murwillumbah railway station was held to ramp up the rail-trail campaign (l-r): Ben Reddin (CEO for Regional Development Australia), Tony Zuschke (president Murwillumbah Chamber of Commerce), Tweed Cr Barry Longland, Geoff Meers (secretary NRRT), and Vaughn McDonald (Richmond Valley Council). Photo supplied
A meeting at the Murwillumbah railway station was held to ramp up the rail-trail campaign (l-r): Ben Reddin (CEO for Regional Development Australia), Tony Zuschke (president Murwillumbah Chamber of Commerce), Tweed Cr Barry Longland, Geoff Meers (secretary NRRT), and Vaughn McDonald (Richmond Valley Council). Photo supplied

A new campaign to establish a rail trail on the northern rivers, focusing on on a section of the  disused railway track from Murwillumbah to the Tweed Shire boundary at Crabbes Creek, has been ramped up.

This week, a group of representatives from government, business, the cycling community and the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc (NRRT) met at the Murwillumbah railway station to discuss ways to secure funding to convert the Tweed shire section of disused line into a trail for hikers, cyclists and other non-motorised transport.

Earlier this year, a bid for a slice of $50 million funding on offer by the government, for a northern rivers rail trail on the Casino-to-Murwillumbah line failed, with the state government instead choosing to put its seed funding into a rail trail project on the Tumbaruma line in the state’s south.

Minister for regional development John Barilaro said that decision followed an independent assessment of 12 rail-trail funding applications, including the one by the NRRT.

Spokesman for the northern rivers group, Geoff Meers, said that while the local bid for funding the full length of the Murwillumbah to Casino rail corridor failed, feedback from the evaluation process gave NRRT advocates a lot of confidence for a revised proposal.

‘We were encouraged  that a revised proposal  covering a smaller section of the corridor and involving only one local government area, will be treated more favourably, Mr Meers said.

‘Once we have the Tweed section started, the completion of the whole trail from Casino to Murwillumbah will be only a matter of time,’ he said.

Tweed shire’s Cr Barry Longland said the revised NRRT campaign would ‘focus even more closely on the business and regional development opportunities the trail would generate’.

‘While the feedback we’re receiving from the business community demonstrates considerable excitement and impetus, this campaign will have a strong emphasis on documenting this potential and examining ways to build it further,’ Cr Longland said.

He said that closer participation by the business community, through the Murwillumbah and District Chamber of Commerce, and the involvement of the region’s new Regional Development Australia CEO Ben Reddin ‘will be essential in strengthening our case’.

Mr Reddin told this week’s meeting that he was ‘100 per cent behind the campaign’.

Business chamber president Toni Zuschke said the rail trail would be ‘an excellent way to channel more visitors into the Tweed, including tapping into tourism in Byron Shire’.

‘This fits in perfectly with the Green Cauldron’s recent selection by Tourism Australia as one of Australia’s iconic tourism destinations,Ms Zuschke said.

‘The rail trail would be the ideal way for visitors and locals to explore this iconic location.’

The Tweed’s initial pilot rail-trail project involved a $1.2 million funding bid to convert the track from Murwillumbah railway station to the town’s regional art gallery, a distance of just over a kilometre.

The revised project is for the rail trail to run from the railway station all the way to the Byron shire border at Crabbes Creek, around 10 kilometres.

Cr Longland suggested a state-appointed trust should own and operate the rail trail ‘independently of council’.

The rail trail plan is a divisive issue on the north coast, with lobby group TOOT (Trains on our Tracks) campaigning to preserve the railway corridor to restore train services for public transport and tourism needs, while others favour rail trails.

Some farmers in the Tweed shire are reportedly not happy with tourist rail trails running through or near their properties.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. When three people is a crowd we have nine people, a 200 percent increase on the trail at Murwillumbah Railway Station.

  2. This is very exciting news for our corridor, which is becoming markedly more derelict as the years roll on.

    The only divisiveness on this issue, is between TOOT’s fantasies, and the hardcore reality that no rail service over the full length of the corridor, is likely, at least for very many decades to come, and that if ever, will most certainly require full replacement of the existing single track, with a dual track, and enormous realignment in many areas to trains can travel faster than 40kms/hour around the many existing bends.

    Quite simply, the cost is currently ridiculous, even though at $900 million, it works out to only one seventh the cost per kilometer, than the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale highway upgrade.

    So, the sooner we all realise this, the sooner we’ll see that Tweed Shire is ahead of the game and truly cares for our corridor and wishes to get stuck into developing a wonderful piece of passive infrastructure that is usable for an enormous number of locals, whilst creating Green jobs along the way to cater for Green tourists.

    Adjoining farmers will relish the opportunities, and warmly watch the nature loving travellers meandering quietly through our gorgeous hills and valleys.

    Well done Tweed, for your vision and ongoing dedication.

  3. A regular train service would encourage and enhance “business and regional development opportunities” much more than a walking/cycle trail, or could co-exist. In 6 months of North coast heat who would use the trail except for the very fit.

  4. Great initiative from the Tweed Council. As for farmers not being happy – it seems that rail trails around the world have proved to be a positive rather than a negative for farmers close to the corridor. As far as I know, the rail trail will not go through private land, but may go close to private property. This should not be a problem for farmers. People riding rail trails tend not to be vandals and there is nothing to stop trespassers now accessing these properties.

  5. How pathetic !
    The infrastructure of this country is being destroyed and this bunch of urgers are happy to cannibalise the remains.
    The rail corridor was built by Australian taxes and belong to the Australian public , not the Tweed nor Murwillumbah council nor indeed any ‘trust’. Eventually the government will come to it’s senses (though probably not through foresight or rational planning, but plain necessity )
    As rail is THE most cost effective method of transport ,after shipping ! and the North Coast can ill afford to discard this wonderful legacy that has been provided, thanks to a much more intelligent and insightful generation.
    When proper planning does again become necessary, and the rail line connecting this backwater to the developed world is re-opened, I anticipate there will be scant praise for such petty planning designed to facilitate the Hobby Horses of the self-centred, short sighted few.
    G”)

  6. Well, there’s no surprises here, The tragic Rail Trail lobby predictably will try and make friends with anyone who they think will buy their short-sighted plans. Of course, roping in something or someone that suggests “improved business activity for the region” will inevitably beguile some folks, but more intelligent people now understand that if improved business activity or economic development is to occur in the region, a properly functioning passenger rail service will deliver far more (and longer lasting) benefits. Like a bacterial infection, the NRRT will just keep popping up in different places until the NSW Government applies the antibiotic result that a vast number of Northern rivers residents have been crying out for for the last eleven years. Let the train run and the healing begin.

  7. Congratulations to this group for having the vision to back this groundbreaking proposal. When the Tweed rail trail is done then it is only a matter of time before the trail is extended to Casino.

  8. The councils can support it all they like but it all comes down to the govt in the end – and so far they have only been turned down. Such little benefit (only a small handfull of very fit residents would use it) for such a high price is just a waste of money when we could be having a much more useful and future oriented rail service for half the price. I don’t see many families riding 10ks from Murbah to the middle of nowere then back in a day (only daytrippers would use it) – it is just to long to acctually work.

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