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June 15, 2021

Byron resort and its train claims need better scrutiny

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We are concerned about the proposal by Elements Resort (and the affiliated Byron Bay Rail Company) to operate a train service from Sunrise to Byron Township.

While we live adjacent to the rail corridor and would be directly affected, it is hard to see how this project can provide net benefits to the community generally.

We recognise that solutions to our incoming traffic congestion need to be explored, including the bypass, the train and a bike path, with full consideration of the environmental and economic consequences of each.

But the train proposal has apparently not been subjected to any rigorous environmental evaluation.

Rather than being the green eco project claimed by its proponents, it has a number of drawbacks and makes claims that appear to be ludicrous.

It is one thing for Elements to risk its own capital (and even on this basis it appears to be a turkey), but to proceed when the full impacts of the project on the community have not been evaluated seems foolhardy, and may backfire on the council.

The developer touts the benefits of lower carbon footprints for passengers travelling from Sunrise to the town centre, and claims that the train would be converted in part to run on solar power.

But how many people would use the service, particularly once the bypass is built, and does anybody take seriously the claim that heavy rail can be converted to solar power? This appears to be the most cynical green-washing of all, especially coming from interests connected to the coal industry.

The developer proposes using a diesel train that is 67 years old. We are not experts on diesel engines but it beggars belief that this train could be updated to meet appropriate emissions and noise standards for what is essentially an urban area.

Indeed, diesel trains of any type should not have a role in urban transport. We don’t think that Sydney residents would tolerate urban train services operated with diesel power so why is it good enough for Byron Bay?

The developer is also touting their private train system as a public service, but it is unclear how accessible it would be to the general public.

Little parking seems to have been planned at the Sunrise end to accommodate public passengers. While it might service a small number of passengers emanating from the immediate vicinity who are prepared to hoof it to the station, this is unlikely to be a viable option for anybody else.

How, for instance, would this proposal attract users from the forthcoming West Byron development, or the many workers and visitors using the industrial estate?

The developer has sought permission to operate this train from 7.30am to 10pm half hourly should demand warrant it. Given that this track only ever had a train running once or twice a day, this would impose a vastly greater impact on the rail corridor.

Part of that impact would include either fencing off the rail corridor, thus denying beach access to many, or the sounding of the train’s horn at frequent intervals. The affects on the amenity of residents to a peaceful enjoyment of their land and access to the beach needs to considered in an EIS, as does the disruption to vehicular traffic at Border Street.

Other impacts that need to be assessed include the impact on the natural habitat that has developed within the rail corridor and any hazards that might be associated with repairing the rail track, such as disturbing any asbestos residues that might have been left from the past.

Byron Bay has a lot to be proud of as an environmentally and socially aware community. It deserves better scrutiny of this half-baked proposal and should insist that the developer be required to undertake a formal EIS. Alternatives such as establishing a bike path – which after all would much better align with Element’s supposed green aspirations and community standards – need also to be considered.

Paul Belin and Jenny Bannister, Byron Bay


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  1. Elements have made their intentions very transparent and obvious. You have also made it clear in your letter you are incredibly misinformed.

    There is NO asbestos in the train or the rail corridor, the government by law must keep it that way.

    Why have an Environmental Impact Study for a railway line that was already there?

    The train has been upgraded numerous times throughout its life, and the 720/620 class railmotor is the one of the quietest trains to use the NSW Network, and the same type of diesel railmotor was running to the heart of Newcastle up until as recent as 2007.

    Solar Power is entirely possible and is being discussed in Lithgow by engineers

    Beach access will in no way be obstructed, as they are only fencing the Elements of Byron side of the line until Belongil Creek bridge, with a 3m gap at the bottom for wildlife. This is only because of a requirement of Byron Shire Council.

    The railway track has had many more than 2 train movements a day in the past, so this railmotor will be no different

    There are many people in favour of this proposal, from Byron and beyond, as they have seen the writing on the wall and know it is a huge step forward for Byron, not a step backward.

    It is bleeding obvious how this train will benefit Byron Bay and the traffic situation into town, it will provide and alternative to road transport and make it easier for locals to get in and out of town thus taking the pressure of Ewingsdale Rd.

    I’d recommend reading this page thoroughly and asking Elements questions instead of spreading misinformation; http://northbyronbeachresort.com.au/rail-shuttle/ – It is very credible and compiled by engineers in Lithgow who restored the railmotor.

    Please remember that this railway line has been here for over 100 years and was never actually closed, just ‘service suspended’, so any concerns about traffic at level crossings and environmental impacts are irrelevant.

    • *Edit to my previous comment: The “with a 3m gap at the bottom for wildlife.” part is incorrect, it is actually a 30cm gap. It should read “with a 30cm gap at the bottom for wildlife.”


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