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March 24, 2023

Government too close to road builders say rail protesters

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The combined TOOT and NRRAG protest at Murwillumbah Railway Station on Friday (April 1). Photo contributed
The combined TOOT and NRRAG protest at Murwillumbah Railway Station on Friday (April 1). Photo contributed

A spokesperson at protest held on Friday (April 1) to return rail to the northern rivers has accused the state government of having too close a relationship with the major road building companies.

Instead they have called on the federal government to step in and fund the return of commuter rail to the region.

A study undertaken by Arup and commissioned by Infrastructure NSW into the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line in 2011 said it was in poor condition and would take $953 million dollars to repair.

Angie Burgler from Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) said that in 2004 the Arup group was also behind a study for the Ewingsdale to Tintenbar Pacific Highway upgrade, which was later awarded to Baulderstone Lendlease.

The combined TOOT and Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) protest was called to object to the proposed bike path on a section of the track at Murwillumbah and to propose the federal government fund a rail connection between the NSW north coast and south-east Queensland.

Beth Shelley from NRRAG said, ‘People in both states would benefit from a commuter train to access health, employment, tourism and education facilities across the border.

Political donations

However companies such as Linfox trucking, oil and car companies have donated to the major political parties for years. During this time successive NSW governments have increased funding for roads instead of rail.’

‘The Nationals in this area said for years they would reinstate the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line at little cost,’ Ms Shelley said.

Ms Burgler said TOOT’s own railway experts estimated that repair of the Casino to Murwillumbah line ‘would be easily less than half the $953m quoted in the Arup study.’

‘Given the Alice Springs to Darwin railway was constructed through some very remote country including a number of substantial bridges for under $1million per km, we could have 160 km of railway track for that price from Casino to the Gold Coast,’ which is roughly what it cost to build 17km of freeway from Tintenbar to Ewingsdale,’ Ms Shelley said.

‘Since Nick Greiner was premier, it appears that successive NSW governments have been deliberately running down, neglecting and dismantling our railway service.

‘It’s up to the federal government to do what’s right for this country instead of being in the pocket of big business.’

‘People power is an effective means of making politicians take notice as shown by the CSG movement.

‘If the community got behind this proposal to reinstate our train services and extend the line to Coolangatta we could have great public transport,’ Ms Shelley said.

She suggested that members of the public who wanted to help, check out the NRRAG Facebook page, write letters to the papers or contact your local candidates for the federal election.’

An earlier version of this story stated that: ‘ former NSW premier Nick Greiner, who was chairman of NSW Infrastructure at the time the railway study was done, is now chairman of Baulderstone/Lendlease.’

According to a spokesperson for the company,‘Nick Greiner is not the chairman of Lendlease, and has never served as a director of Lendlease. He was chairman of Bilfinger Berger Australia which was the parent of Baulderstone Hornibrook.  In March 2011, the sale of Bilfinger Berger Australia (then re-named as Valemus) to Lendlease was completed.  He was then appointed as chair of Infrastructure NSW in May 2011.’


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  1. The cost of Ewingsdale – Tintenbar was $850 million for 17k. $50 million/kilometre. Mind boggling. How much was the old rail subsidised for?

  2. The Arup report was commissioned in 2011 by NSW Transport, under the OFarrell gov.
    In the SMH today in an article titled Highway Robbery, A spokesman for Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the state government set up Infrastructure NSW as an independent body to “take politics out of the delivery of major projects”, and ensure funds were directed on strategic and economic merit.’ http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/highway-robbery-taxpayer-money-flows-to-transport-projects-in-marginal-seats-20160331-gnuzm8.html
    And yet, back in 2011 O’farrell appointed Nick Greiner as chair of NSW Infrastructure and a couple of months later Baulderstone got the $862m hwy upgrade contract. He coincidentally left NSW Infrastructure shortly after the rail study was released in 2013, and ever since NSW Transport has been telling us the railway isn’t viable and all the rest.. that same rail study said that returning the xpt service would be negligent to the line and remember who put the xpt on in the first place, apparently the Motorail was a good service before that.

  3. I can’t help but see the irony in this. Was this an April fools joke? Also, note the ‘trains rule ok’ letters are in ‘comic’ sans font! Hmm the dozen or so protesters holding up the signs sums up who might use a rail service between Muriwillumbah and Casino.

    The feasability study done by Arup, an indepenant and well regarded international firm of experts (who incidentally could have financially benefited from the reconstruction of the line if it had gone to tender) can be found at: http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/Projects-Completed-Projects/projects-casino-to-murwillumbah-transport-study. It is simply a pipe dream to think any government is going to ignore this report and re-open this line.

    The line has been closed now for 12 years. The trains aren’t coming back. Let’s build a rail trail for not only cyclists but walkers and horse riders to use before the corridor gets sold off and lost for ever!

    • The irony lies in your comment Damon. You say the rail trail will protect the corridor from being sold off, yet you are unaware of the current legislation stopping that very thing from happening. Currently the corridor stands as a rail corridor, thus is protected by the Transport Administration Act. This means any rail infrastructure in the corridor cannot be dismantled, or sold off in any way, and to do so it requires an act of parliament to officially ‘close’ the rail corridor so this can take place. The rail trail requires legislation that would amend the Transport Administration Act., and let any rail infrastructure be dismantled without an act of parliament, thus paving the way for a rail trail.

      As you can see, the only way the railway line could be sold off, is under a rail trail amendment (The rail trail amendment bill has failed to pass parliament numerous times since 2009). The corridor as it currently stands is 100% safe and it is currently illegal to sell or dismantle any part of the existing infrastructure.

      *The Casino – Murwillumbah rail line currently stands as a ‘service suspended’ line, it is not officially ‘closed’

  4. I applaud any efforts to re-open this rail line.

    This region is in desperate need of a rail service, and that desperation is only going to get more extreme as time goes on and more cars come flooding in. For too long we have been a car dependant region without any sustainable transport system.

    Bring back the trains!


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