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July 1, 2022

The ‘no trains, more traffic congestion’ plan

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According to the government’s Brisbane-Sydney Corridor Strategy (2007) traffic on the Pacific Highway crossing the Queensland border into NSW is projected to increase to 151,000 vehicles per day in the next ten years, an increase of almost 400 per cent on the 2007 number of 41,724 vehicles per day. We know a massive amount of this traffic comes into our towns.

Byron Bay alone has 1.6m visitors per year and Destination Byron expects this to increase due to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to be held in 2018. Almost 40 per cent of the 5.8 million people who use Gold Coast Airport every year also travel south to the north coast by road.

What is the state government planning to do about this massive amount of traffic headed our way and the increased congestion and parking problems it will cause in our towns?

According to their Draft North Coast Regional Plan document 2016 they recommend ripping up the Casino to Murwillumbah (C-M) rail line, and replacing it with a cycleway. They also plan to ’work with local bus operators to develop routes and timetables to improve bus services in the region’s major centres and their connections with regional communities.’ As if our local roads can cope with more (mostly empty) large buses.

How ripping up the C-M rail line, which connects eight out of ten north coast communities, to replace it with a cycleway and more buses, will provide public transport options for people traveling to, and around the region, and reduce traffic congestion in our towns, is not explained. Why would any government even think of ripping up the one piece of infrastructure that, if the 22k connection is built to Coolangatta, could take many thousands of cars off our already congested roads?

What are our local state and federal MPs doing about this? Nothing. They seem happy to allow this valuable piece of public infrastructure be destroyed.

Perhaps it has something to do with the millions of dollars in donations that both major political parties receive from the road transport industry, oil companies, road construction companies, car manufacturers – and on it goes.

Their policy certainly has nothing to do with the transport needs of the Northern Rivers community or the 4.6m tourists who visit the region every year.

Queenslanders are paying a huge price for their government’s destruction of the Gold Coast train line in the 1960s. It’s costing taxpayers billions to rebuild that line, money that could have been spent on hospitals and schools.

Byron Bay Rail Company (BBRC), is undertaking repairs on 3.4kms of line to the north of Byron Bay station at a cost of $1.1m, and will be running regular train services on the line from April. This example shows that the C-M line can be repaired and trains running for much less than the government has claimed.

For little more than ripping up the line for a cycleway, there could be small trains running regular services on the line, providing genuine public transport for locals and 4.6 million tourists, at the same time reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions in our towns. For any government to even think of destroying this valuable piece of public infrastructure amounts to criminal vandalism.

The government’s ‘no trains, more traffic congestion plan’ will inevitably lead to unsustainable increases in traffic congestion, environmental destruction as roads are widened and expensive bypasses are built, and massive loss of quality of life for residents as cars continue to eat up our towns.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores


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  1. Well put Louise, this is the ‘vision’ that we need. I’m sometimes surprised that more of the cycling fraternity do not get ‘on board’ with the return of rail as it would provide a great option to commute from one town to another with ones bicycle.

  2. Nice letter Louise, but the single track C-M line was built on 19th century steam train alignment and does not serve the major fast coastal population growth areas such as Tweed Heads, Kingscliff, Pottstive, Ballina etc! Spending billions to reopen this line is not visionary given that it actually serves less than 40% of the current population in our region (http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/Projects-Completed-Projects/projects-casino-to-murwillumbah-transport-study). Surely a much better option would be to build a new high speed dual track rail link that followed the highway to the GC?

    Buses are a much more flexible and viable transport option as routes can be quickly and easily created to serve towns such as Uki and Nimbin that aren’t on the rail corridor. Yes the sad truth is a lot of bus routes in our region are underutilised because in 2016 with relatively low cost and high ownership people prefer the convenience of using their own car to catching public transport. So why then would a much less flexible train service then be better utilised than buses? Besides, you would still need buses to get people that don’t live along the line to and from the stations.

    It is simply a pipe-dream to think that any government is going to ignore the 2013 Arup study and re-open the C-M line! After 12 years it is really is time to accept the fact that trains aren’t coming back. Converting the corridor into a rail trail has been found to be viable, and they have proven highly successful interstate and overseas and can be used by locals and tourists to move between villages. Bring on the rail trail before we lose the corridor completely!

    • PS meant to say the Tweed Council should be commended for showing vision and stepping up to get a rail trail built between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek. Yes they are spending taxpayer money but this will result in a huge tourisim boost for the region resulting in more jobs and business opportunities for locals. It’s the old aggage you have to spend money to make money!

  3. It is common knowledge amongst anyone who wishes to research it, that once a train-track has been out of use for around 18 months, it is considered unusable, and must be ripped up and replaced anyway, should it suddenly come back into fashion that a train service in the dilapidated region be required.

    So not only are you arguing the cost of ripping it up to be replaced with a far cheaper option of paving it over to be used by a far greater number of people for a variety of uses, you are suggesting that it be ripped up to be replaced with something equally as useless as another single-direction piece of infrastructure that will cost multi-millions and be suitable only to technology from a bygone era – remembering after all, that this is Australia, not China or Japan.

    The greatest failings of the train system can easily be replaced if the corridor is turned into a usable cycleway. I feel like a scratched record every time I type this, but golf-carts and similar style battery-powered buggies could be permitted to use such a corridor, and with such low gradients, would be capable of towing several trailers each capable of carrying half a dozen passengers each. With solar-panel roofing and re-charging depots at every station, battery-exchanges and so on, it would be a far greater service in both directions than any train service could ever hope to offer… and you still get the public transport option that you’re screaming out for anyway. So everyone wins. Why fight it?

    • Electric resort vehicles carry up to 14 passengers per buggy and can be linked together in series with roof top solar.
      They could also be charged using a small auxiliary solar array or alternatively swap out the battery pack while one is charging.
      These systems are readily available and in use in resorts around the world at a tiny fraction of the cost of a the cost of light or heavy rail.


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