In the lead-up to the council elections, Byron mayor Simon Richardson has released a 46-page ‘vision document’ proposing the creation of a ‘multi-modal’ approach to the future use of the railway corridor in Byron Shire.
But the plan, which envisages ‘cycle and walkways co-existing with … complementary commercial shuttle and transport options’ has been knocked down before it’s even been launched.
Would-be mayor Paul Spooner has declared the push as ‘grasping at false hope’.
Mayor Richardson, together with members of TOOT and NRRT, have called a public meeting tonight at the Byron Community Centre to outline the proposal.
According to the launch document, ‘So many of our community place tremendous value on the rail corridor that dissects our shire. The challenges we face in creating a productive use of this crucial piece of infrastructure seem endless; not least the divergent opinions and views as to how best use this corridor. Generally, as a community, our division has matched our dedication.’
Mayor Richardson described The Byron Line as ‘a smart solution to a wicked problem.’
‘It transforms a disused transport corridor into a space that caters for various new tourism products whilst also providing for a local public transport dividend,’ he said.
The mayor explained that, ‘cycle and walkways, which are problematic to fund, are paid for by complementary commercial shuttle and transport options upon which locals can hitch a consistent and reliable ride.’
He described it as ‘an incredible opportunity to transform an unused state asset into a wonderful tourism thread that binds the shire, benefiting both visitors and locals and becoming a NSW tourism treasure.’
‘This is the chance to bring our community together, unifying and speaking with one voice to the state government [and] the only way to gain support, funding and wider partnerships,’ he said
But Cr Spooner said, ‘a publicly funded rail service is not coming back on this track. No state or federal government is proposing this to happen.’
Answering a question at a Byron Shire Meet the Candidates forum on Tuesday evening in Byron Bay, he said, ‘I don’t believe the Rail Trail is the only option for saving the corridor [either].
‘The corridor is safe under an existing Act of Parliament. But we need to be sensible with this issue and realistic about our options.
‘Our community leaders in the past identified this land as a public transport route through the region. It should remain in public hands and should not be commercialised for private interests,’ he said.
He added that as both Lismore and Tweed Councils had committed to establishing a Rail Trail on their parts of the corridor, ‘this will kill any idea of a regional train service.’
Cr Spooner said that, if elected as mayor he would, ‘immediately begin discussions with the state government about the utilisation of this corridor for public transport usage in the Byron Shire – this would include road transport, bus lanes, bike paths and walking tracks.’
The Byron Line will be launched at the Cavanbah Room, upstairs of the Byron Community Centre, Byron Bay, Thursday, August 25, 6.30-9.30pm.