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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Why rip up our valuable train line?

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There is no conflict over the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line. The state government was sent a clear message by voters at the last state election-people do not want millions spent ripping up their valuable train line – they want a  train service.

The Greens won the long held National Party seat of Ballina from the Nationals who had campaigned strongly on their plan to rip up the line and replace it with a cycleway.

The population of the north coast is equal to the population of Tasmania, and growing fast.  Over 4.6m tourists visit the region each year.

The Casino-Murwillumbah train line goes through the centre of eight out of 10 of the major population centres.

Local roads are not coping with current traffic volume, let alone the tsunami of traffic expected as the population and tourism continues to grow.

There is never enough money to build and maintain the roads needed to keep pace with the inevitable growth in traffic.

The congested six lane Gold Coast highway, where traffic crawls to walking pace in peak hour, is a perfect example of this.

Just as the Queensland government has had to spend billions rebuilding the Gold Coast train line (which was ripped up in the 1960s), the NSW government will be forced to repair the line and get a commuter service running.

It’s appalling that this fast growing region, with 4.6 million tourists, does not have a train service to link local towns, or a rail link to Coolangatta Airport and Brisbane.

Over 15,000 people have signed petitions to get Trains On Our tracks.

Trains are the only economically and environmentally sustainable way of getting people to and around the region.

Only a train service will deliver substantial economic, social and environmental benefits for the region.

There’s plenty of room for a cycle way on the corridor as well.  So it’s a win win for everyone.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores

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  1. Strongly agree Louise. You hit the nail on the head.
    Perhaps if the rail trail was placed beside the tracks it would already be open…

  2. Yes, exactly right. We do not care how much it will cost to get it all working again, find the money over a 10 year period, tax the festivals more, do whatever it takes. I see the rail lines working all the way down south from Coffs to Port to Taree all the way to Sydney.

    It was only what 15 years or so ago that we could get the XPT through byron and mullum etc. All the platforms are still there. Just fix the rail lines, the bridges and tunnels. Surely it is not impossible.

    As outlines in Louise’s letter it is so needed for the Shire and surrounds the traffic is insane, the amount of people is always growing and something needs to be set in concrete to start the ball rolling on this.

    The government can allocate billions to get certain parts of the pacific highway upgrades done so why can’t they commit to fixing up the rail lines over a 10 year period.

    No way to a sill bike track thanks, we wont trains back.

  3. Louise,
    So 4.6 million tourists visit this region annually. Do you know what that represents? That figure is 20 percent of the whole population of Australia. Where does the money go that they brought here?
    It seems there is no trickle down affect. The Local government have no money in the area and the NSW government have no money in this area and the unemployment rate is high. And we have no train as it costs too much, says the government.
    What is going on? Who is getting the money?

    • The answer to that is 2 things Len, Sydney and huge pacific highway upgrades that cost billions as Terry has said – That is what takes a significant amount of money from here. The great train robbers also live in Sydney (The politicians)

  4. Yet another letter from Louise with wild assertions, generalisations and assumptions! For a start I would argue that the CSG mining in the northern rivers was the real reason the nationals got dumped and not the trains. There is actually no train and nor has there been one in Ballina so it does not make sense that the nationals got dumped for this reason.

    Also just to carlify the 4.6 million tourists in ‘our region’ is spread between over the 600ks betwen the Great Lakes and Tweed heads according to the destination NSW website. Some of these centres already have a train service (xpt) and only 1.4% of visitors used trains to get there. This low patronage is exactly why the train service was discontinued from Casino in 2004. While the train sounds like a lovely idea, the demand does not simply exist in 2015. This also aligns with the findings of the 2013 feasibility study done on reinstating the train sevices on the Casino to Murwillumbah.

    Are you also able to list the 8 out of the 10 major population areas that you claim the current corridor serves? The current corridor does not serve the growing population centres: Tweed Heads, Kingscliff, Cabarita, Pottsville, Lennox Heads and Ballna.

    It really is time to accept the findings that the train is not coming back on the current corridor. It there was a demand and it was feasible it would have been done over the last 12 years by one of the state governments.

    Do we really want to wait another 12 years for this corridor to be sold off or to detoriate into oblivion when it could be used for a world class rail trail? Like them or not rail trails have been hugely sucessfull interstate and overseas and have injected much needed economic stimulus and jobs into small towns and villages. As for building a trail beside the rail, yes that has been done in other places however given the narrow mostly single track corrdior and rugged and inaccessible terrain in our area this would essentially require duplication of the corridor. The costs would be huge and all for a train service that is no longer viable. The Murwillumbah to Casino railway was described as the ‘train from nowhere to nowhere’ even in it’s heyday.

    • I think you will find that the reason they cancelled the Casino to Murwillumbah XPT was NOT because of a decrease in patronage…rather, the NSW government at the time did not want to pay for the upkeep of a line that was only seeing passenger traffic. Even up until the end of the service, over half the people on the train at Casino travelled onto stations between Lismore and Murwillumbah, and/or one of the connecting coaches to places like Ballina, Lennox Head, Tweed Heads etc which didn’t have direct train access.

      Since the cancellation of the XPT, passenger traffic has fallen to only just filling two small coaches for the trip between Casino and Murwillumbah, and beyond…because people preferred the train journey. Going by my own journeys from Sydney to the Far North Coast…in 2002 when I travelled on the XPT up to Lismore, nearly a carriage load of people disembarked at Lismore. In 2008 when I travelled up to Lismore, only about 20 people got off the XPT at Casino, transferred to coach, and then got off at Lismore. Less and less in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014…to this years journey, where ONE person got off at Lismore.

      The patronage has fallen BECAUSE of the cancellation…rather than the train being cancelled because of a fall in patronage. Re-instate the line to Murwillumbah, extend it to Tweed Heads and the Gold Coast Airport…and the patronage will be there. Heck, there was even talk a few years ago about the Queensland government looking at purchasing the line from the NSW government, and running their own service from Brisbane down to Casino…but the NSW government was not interested.

      And finally, in regards to a rail trail beside the rail line…as someone who has travelled on the line many many times over the years before it was shut, with only a couple of exceptions, there IS plenty of room beside the line for a rail trail to be built all the way to Byron Bay at least.

      • Robert, there is more to the story. What you say about the parentage falling after they cut it is true, however the patronage was falling while the XPT was still running. However, before anyone jumps to conclusions, note that patronage of the Gold Coast Motorail was such a huge hit (see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPB88IeVDb0), another service called the Pacific Coast Overnight Express was implemented to cope with the huge demand, now these usage levels fell because the timetable the XPT ran on, nothing more – The XPT only ran once at night, whilst the Gold Coast Motorail ran 3 times a day, morning, midday and afternoon. So the XPT was pretty well rendered useless for the majority of people such as day trippers and tourists.

        The government set the XPT up to fail, therefore creating an excuse to let the line fall into disrepair.

  5. Damon..
    You do have a valid argument in your reply. I do however need to point something out that has been missed.
    First. The reason that the line has not continued all the way into Brisbane is due to NSW & QLD not being able to come to an agreement over multiple issues ranging from track gauge to maintenance and everything in between.
    Also railway lines with stations are very profitable if done right and that is definitely the case here. I do also need to point out that there is a section that will be reopened in 2016 for a Hotel who will be operating a railway service in the Byron Bay area using restored vintage railmotors’.
    If the bickering could stop for long enough and both the Cycling and railway groups could get on together they would be simply unstoppable.

    The simple fact is that there isn’t enough demand for just a railway or just a rail trail to warrant the huge amounts of capital that would be needed for any of the work to take place. The advantage for the railway line option is that it can be used for freight and passenger services.

    If you get two State Premiers who could agree on duel gauge of the railway line to Armadale then you may find the demand for the line would increase because Gold Coast and Brisbane Airports are a very easy train trip and much closer than Sydney.

    Work together to get a win for all.
    Good Luck to both groups.

    • Thanks Julian.There is already a current working rail link between NSW and QLD that carries freight and passengers into Brisbane. The line from Casino goes to Kyogle then over the border into QLD. Hmm not sure what frieght would need to go by rail from Casino to Murwillumbah. Nor do I think the good folk in byron would really want frieght trains rolling through the town!

      Yes I’m aware of the byron elements railmotor (there is only one). Yes for this 3k section of the track you could have a rail trail beside the line. It will be interesting to see if this train is running in a year if it gets off the ground (It is supposed to be opening in Feb next year but has any work actually commenced on building the stations etc?). I believe there was a tourist train on the line but it lasted less than 12 months so it remains to be seen if this service will fair any better.

      Yes it would be great if both groups could get on. However after 12 years, an expert feasability study, a couple of governments train supporters still refuse to concede the train is not coming back. These supportes still continue to make vague, dodgy and poorly researched statements and arguments for bringing the train back. If they just accepted the feasability study outcome then we could all move on and we wouldn’t be writing these letters.

      Finally, it is not possible to have both a train and trail along the whole line. I’ve actually walked the sections of the corridor (if you can find it) between mooball and stokers siding (including a tunnel under the burringbar range) there is no way you could have a trail beside the rail here without building a whole new corridor.

      • Damon, The tourist train you mention is the Ritz Rail Tourist Train run by Northern Rivers Railroad (NRR) from 1999 to December 2002. It operated 7 days a week from Casino to Murwillumbah. The freight traffic on the line until the late 80’s usually consisted of Bananas, livestock, mixed goods etc. Then freight traffic was run primarily by NRR. This usually consisted of fly ash, ballast, cement. This was hauled from the Sunstate Cement facility in Murwillumbah to Grafton (sometimes via Blue Circle Cement at Old Casino) where FreightCorp locos would take over.

        You would be surprised how much potential this railmotor has – It is is easy way out of 45+ minute waits on Ewingsdale Rd in traffic for any residents living in North Byron and surrounding areas. It is also fast transport for guests at Elements, Bayshore Bungalows and more. In fact, some other resorts are aware of the potential huge economical benefits and apparently considering making their own stations. So I doubt it will have a hard time getting off the ground.


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