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Byron Shire
March 20, 2023

Tracking the diesel train fallout

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It is totally alarming to learn that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) concerning upgrading track works for the toy train at Belongil has been avoided by both Byron Shire Council and Transport NSW.

Debate has continued concerning the dire effect of diesel particles which travel large distances lodging in the lungs of living species and residing on vegetation. Twenty-eight countries in the EU have rejected the ongoing use of diesel technology,

Yes, it’s the 21st century and the north coast desperately deserves a train(s) for the most obvious of reasons, but does it deserve a toy train?

We were subjected to Puff Advertising when alerted to its arrival. Despite arriving as a dirty diesel technology we were told that after a period of time (maybe two years according to Elements) it would undergo a remarkable transformation; and finally present to the shire as a solar technology. The full make-over.

The reality is far more concerning. According to expert information by solar engineers, the train is much too heavy to convert to stand-alone solar/electric and would need a carriage full of lithium ion batteries to travel one way only down the 3km stretch of track. Puff advertising always reveals evidence after the fact.

To achieve safe tracks for the diesel train, the Belongil Estuary and waterways will be severely threatened with lethal poisons.

During the clean-up period ‘Roundup’ will be used to clear overgrown tracks. One in three sleepers will be replaced, no doubt disturbing the risk of releasing asbestos and arsenic contained in same and residing in sub soils.

Diana Jo Faith, Newtown


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  1. The irony in the anti-train comments kills me!. The diesel particles in the train are HARMLESS compared the CARS, TRUCKS, BUSES etc. that clog the Byron district every day – the diesel emitted from those is way more harmful than this little train! The fuel chart on North Byron Beach Resorts website (http://northbyronbeachresort.com.au/rail-shuttle/) says it all. Plus the fact that in Australia, road based transport (cars, buses, trucks etc.) account for 77% of our national emissions, while trains account for only 3%. Just because it looks dirty, doesn’t always mean it is. Truth is, the invisible, silent fumes emitted from our car and the motor vehicles is not only far worse than this train is capable of, but is also killing the planet…

    • If Elements were serious about providing a ‘green’ train then they would purchase a state of the art modern electric tram rather than some antiquated heavy old WWII rail motor. Elements really don’t have any idea of what they are doing. First they told everyone the train would be running before Christmas, then by February and now by Easter, seems like they are just making it up as they go! They are obviously ‘out of their depth’ with this project, have lost all credibility and can’t be trusted to run a safe train service.

      Looks like the ‘train’ is not as popular as Gary and the TOOT supporters would have us believe.

    • Totally agree with you Diana!
      There are so many concerns re the train and train line that are going unnoticed.
      Adding to the issue of the cars is not going to help the situation Gary – HARMLESS you say? Well not according to World Health Organisation – this train has NO catalytic converters as is required by ALL modern cars, truck and buses (thats why VW are in the stink). Elements train will have very little effect on the Ewingsdale Road traffic as there is insignificant parking on Bayshore Drive available for the train (50 at the resort to be exact), and NO car park planned – just talk!
      Why not have an EIS?
      Why not convert train to solar (as promised) upfront?
      Why not have reasonable operating hours (9am till 6pm – not 7.30am till 10.30pm)
      What are the proponents afraid of?
      Lets have some due process for the community please!

      • There’s a car park (100 cars) going in across the road from the new railway station. The reason the plans are taking a little bit longer is because the company doing the track work is currently doing another job, fortunately though this project is next up on the to-do list.

        The engine is not ‘antiquated’ – It is fitted with a Cummins diesel engine which is known around the world as clean burning engines. It also uses the same diesel as trucks, buses and 4WD cars do. This engine was installed recently (2014 -15) when LSMR did the refurbishment.

        They sate on their website their first priority is getting the service up and running, then they will turn their attention to solar – this shows they are committed to getting the train up and running within a reasonable time frame. From a technical point of view, the only thing ‘heritage’ about this train is probably the steel work in the body…

        And as for credibility, that is for a rail engineer or the Rail Safety Regulator to judge – all of which have approved Elements plans as safe.

        • Gary, can you provide a DA ref number for the carpark – I doubt there is one? There is only E2 zoned protected land opposite the train station at Sunrise end. The only other place for carpark is on Elements land opposite resort (they wont build it there), or council land between sewage works and tacky bistro (Council is not willing to give away land).

          Re engines, I quote an email from Jeremy Holmes “these (engines) were replaced with Cummins engines when converted to 660 class in the mid 70s” and “The engines received a major service with some major items being overhauled such as the turbochargers and water pumps”. Your comment is false – these are not new engines. Why would you put new engines in if you are truly committed to solar/electric conversion?

          They promoted the train as solar from the onset and most of Byron mistakenly believe it – we have a statement from them to the contrary. You are correct regarding ‘heritage status’, this train has never run on this line and so has no heritage relevance in Byron Bay whatsoever.

          Oh, have you seen the video showing of the horn noise and engine noise at low speed – Belongil residents and businesses are going to have kittens!

          Again – lets just have the EIS shall we? Or better still keep it at Lithgow – they seem to like it out there.


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