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Byron Shire
June 14, 2024

Byron rail extension to ease congestion

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People claiming the Byron Bay Rail Company’s train service from Bayshore Drive into Byron Bay will be a nail in the coffin for Byron Bay couldn’t be more wrong.

The train will carry 100 people and potentially take 50 cars off the road per trip, or 300 cars per day. Many people are saying they will use this train to get into Byron rather than sit for hours in traffic, then pay to park as well!

If the state government will step up to their responsibility and repair a few metres of line to the Cavvanbah Sports Fields, where there is more available parking, it’s possible the service could be extended and many more cars could be taken off the congested Ewingsdale Rd and Shirley St.

This would make it much easier for locals to go get to work and go about their business.  Rather than a nail in the coffin for Byron, this train service could make life less stressful for locals and tourists as well.

Of course to really make a difference to traffic congestion, the line from Casino to Murwillumbah needs to be repaired and the 22km of line built to connect it to the Queensland line at Coolangatta for a commuter service.

This service would connect nine out of 10 local population centres and provide locals and tourists  easy access to Coolangatta airport. Of the 5.8 million people who use the airport every year, over 2.2 million head south to the Northern Rivers.

The huge growth in local population, particularly in Byron Shire where population has more than quadrupled in 30 years, and with more than 4.6 million tourists to the region per year, certainly justifies a commuter service.

We know that road transport is one of the main contributors to CO2 and global warming,  but it’s the road transport industry and oil companies et al which have the power to dictate transport policy to our politicians, not local residents.

The last thing the road transport lobby want to see is everyone using environmentally friendly trains, no matter how necessary the service may be.

No need to rip up a billion dollar rail line for another cycleway.  There’s a perfectly good cycleway along Ewingsdale Road, though there’s rarely a cyclist on it.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores

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  1. It’s interesting to know that the Elements of Byron train was originally supposed to open before Christmas, then in February and now by Easter! Must be one of the poorly managed projects around. At this rate I doubt it will be going before next Christmas! Also why are they not using a modern electric tram/train rather than a cute but antiquated WWII train without a/c? If the recently completed GC light rail network used WWII vintage trains everyone would think the govt had gone bonkers! An electric train with overhead wires could easily be powered from renewable energy or from traditional sources when required.

    Yes the Murbah to Casino railway line will cost in excess of a billion dollars to repair as Louise asserts. It’s even hard to find this line around the Mooball area as the rainforest has claimed the line back.

    There hasn’t been a train at Coolangatta for at least 50 years and the QLD Govt has no plans to extend the current service in the foreseeable future. Extending the line from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta would be an extremely costly exercise given the high density areas of banrooa pt/tweed heads and topography.

    People’s travel habits have changed considerably over the last decade. I can’t imagine any sane person wanting to sit on an overnight xpt train from Sydney to Byron when for half the price they can fly in an hour!

    Converting the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line into a rail trail that can be used by walkers, horse riders and cyclists is a great use of this old corridor. It bring economic benefit to the dozens of villages and towns along the trail in the fom of green eco-tourism. It will also provide safe and viable way to get in and out of Byron. The current cycleway on Ewingsdale rd is underutilised as it basically links the highway and a caravan park to Bryon.

    • Damon,
      The service is taking a little longer to get started is because the company doing the work is currently finishing another job – The railmotor service is next on the to-do list. The reason the resort is using rail motors is because they are of historical significance. They don’t really need air conditioners as if you have the windows down, the passing wind is your a/c. Oh and the rail line would most certainly not cost ‘in excess of a billion dollars’ to repair – The railway line is worth over a billion dollars, but to actually fix it would cost something closer to 200 – 300mil tops.

      As you say the amount of people wanting to travel from Sydney to Byron by train would have dropped, but services like that is not exactly what the people of the Northern Rivers want, what I mean by this is people here want a commuter service that will service the communities of the Northern Rivers on a frequent basis and sensible timetable and can be used by tourists too, not a once a night XPT service to Sydney.

  2. How do you envisage all of that happening Louise? Has any government shown any interest in doing this (apart from the Greens)? If the greens ever got elected how would people in the rest of the state feel about them spending a billion dollars on an antiquated rail corridor that doesn’t go through the major population areas? I think Merheen and Lee would have to seriously reconsider such a project.

  3. WOW !!

    300 cars per day will have to park somewhere around the Elements platform, eh..
    Now there will need to be a shuttle service to get punters from their cars to the platform.
    Then queue to pay their $6 return fare, then wait for the train to turn up.
    Then rail at a snail’s pace, so as not to crumble the 1894 pebble concrete piers “supporting” the Belongil bridge.

    Louise really has a truly wonderful propensity for dreaming on..


  4. As usual a great article Louise. What you say is true and I personally cannot wait for this service as it will be the best thing that happens to Byron’s traffic problem at the moment. All the naysayers will be rather ‘hush hush’ after the service commences – It is a winner for sure!

  5. I would suggest that both Byron Shire ,Ballina Shire and Lismore Shire start talking withTweed Shire about their proposed future railway system as shown in the document below .

    This 2011 document is pushing for a railway system from Chinderah to Yelgun following the Pacific Hwy corridor with proposed stations at Chinderah, Bogangar and Pottsville Interchanges.
    The Tweed Shire is not interested in reusing the old Murwillumbah to Yelgun train corridor for a public transport system as its present and future population growth is not along this route.
    A reasonably fast train system is required to get people out of cars and onto trains ,the old corridor does not fulfill this criterion. At present it takes 50 minutes to drive from Byron Bay CBD to Coolangatta Airport , something that the old railway corridor cannot and never will get close to achieving.
    When you look at the Gold Coast to Brisbane or Brisbane to Caboolture train system you will notice interchange stations in use rather than ‘town centre’ railway stations in use. This allows the user to drive and park at the interchange station or catch a bus to the interchange station.
    A typical example occurs further north at Eumundi ,a town not unlike Bangalow . They moved the train station to the south of the town , diverted the railway system around the eastern boundary of the town and included bus and carparking areas at the new station. This kept the town of Eumundi free of vehicle movements, allowed for much larger carparking area, kept the noise of the 24/7 train away from the residents and gave a much more viable train system.
    Having train systems running thru the hearts of our Byron Shire towns of Mullum, Billinudgel, Byron Bay and Bangalow is not the best possible solution and will fix us with a slow public transport system for ever.
    We must include our southern neighbours of Ballina Shire in the public transport solution . The old train line between Bangalow and Lismore is also travelling of very low population and not in the future population growth corridor.
    The problem is we have heritage based train folk feeding information to the train lobby groups in this region and the information is clouding the issue . The Byron Bay Tram is not and never will be a public transport solution , it won’t get people out of their beloved cars.
    The very popular Puffing Billy Train in Victoria is propped up by the state government to the tune of $2.5M per year , the NSW City and Country Rail network is propped up to the tune of $2.5B per year.
    NSW Country trains run on a fare box return of 17% which is well below the world standard of at least 40% and Perth trains runs at 90% fare box return.
    The NSW train system needs a major shakeup and must includes track straightening, deviations and gradient lowering like they have been doing in QLD since 1988.

    We are not even in the sights for a train system until post 2030 so at least aim high for a train system that our future generations will thank us for , not an antiquated tram or heritage train system that will not get people out of cars.

    • Great comment Geoff, full of backed up facts and research rather than just someone’s personal opinion of what they think Byron and the Northern Rivers area needs.

  6. I still find it terribly frustrating, especially living in Clunes, that there are so few decent safe places to ride a pushbike around this region. The roads are hazardous enough just driving in a car, but get on a bike on any of the roads between towns around here and you seriously put your life in jeopardy.

    It’s hopefully not too late to re-apply for funding to create one of the most safest and desirable cycleways via the old railway line. It could even be used as a foundation to pave directly over in most instances, and new reinforcements and platforms could be built over existing trestles with minimal fuss and expense.

    Eco-tourism is the future of this region, and small-scale permaculture farming. When we get rid of the stinking polluting cattle along the way, land-owners will have perfect opportunities to offer unique camping, back-packing, or home-stay accommodation. Small villages can attract visitors that would normally only get the occasional tourist bus, and we ourselves could become in less of a hurry to leave this sub-tropical oasis.

    The route mentioned above my Mr Bensley makes much more sense if we are to have a train service. This disused old single-lane rail fails in every sense to serve a transport service for the community. It crosses roads and dissects towns, and we all know that traffic congestion in Byron isn’t going to be affected even if it removed a thousand cars a day. Especially not with a train crossing right at the most congested part of town already.

  7. Your don’t need to be a genius to see that the major train lines in Australia, built over 100 years ago, still follow the original routes through major towns and cities. That’s where the people are.

    People want the convenience of being able to walk, cycle or catch the local bus to the train station. They do not want train stations miles out of town and acres of valuable land wasted for car parking.

    There is clear evidence that a commuter train service on the C-M line would be very popular. The small rail motor brought up in 2004 which ran regular trips between Mullum, Byron and Bangalow was packed every trip. It took 10 minutes to get to each town-much faster than driving.

    Meanwhile cycle paths around the shire rarely have a cyclist on them.

    We have a private company willing to provide a service between the Byron Sports fields and Byron Bay at NO COST to taxpayers. This is an opportunity this community cannot afford to miss out on.

  8. There are some very long cycling paths all over Byron, on the way in, and on the way out, some all the way to Ewingsdale. These cycling paths are always in tip top shape, the line marking is fantastic, and they are a good distance away from the side of the road. Yet every time I drive past these cycleways, I notice nobody using them in any way shape or form. And now people honestly expect us to spend the millions required to destroy and effectively rip the guts out of the only viable solution to our traffic woes and replace it will the ill-fated pathway known as the “rail trail”? With the hot weather and little shade, its no wonder people and tourists do not use these cycleways – The only usage the rail trail would ever see is the Lycra clad super athletes riding the great distances from town to town, anyone who thinks foreign tourists would use something such as the rail trail in our hot weather must be under some kind of illusion. And there would be only a hand full of residents game enough to ride from town to town anyway. The reason rail trails work overseas is because %90 of the year the climate is perfect for riding long or short distances.

    Trains on the other hand are capable of carrying hundreds of passengers from town to town at greater speed and less emissions than any form of road transport (cars, trucks, buses etc), plus the fact the on-board climate is always excellent thanks to the air conditioner which usually can be found right above you as you recline in your personal padded chair on the bulk of most passenger trains. You can also fly by all those motorists stuck in traffic as you draw closer to your destination. A regular rail service would take cars off the road and at least provide a transport alternative to the slow and fumy buses that will have your stomach churning as a bonus once you reach your destination. For the good of the greater population, the restoration of the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line is in our best interests – After all, it would only cost $2.5mil per kilometre…(http://hostthenpost.org/uploads/154c3daba9e0c7aea06f98a6dc36eb1d.jpg)


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