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December 10, 2023

The Byron Line: visionary proposal or harebrained scheme?

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Trams on our tracks? It could be back to the future for if The Byron Line proposal gets up. Photo Trams Down Under
Trams on our tracks? It could be back to the future if The Byron Line proposal gets up. Photo Trams Down Under

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.


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  1. Perhaps Mr Spooner should remember that it was his party, the ALP that closed the rail line in the first place back in 2004! Bit rich for him to be criticizing good ideas to use the tracks again for public transport.

  2. Well said Cr Paul Spooner.

    One issue is to maintain public ownership of the corridor.

    Another, is to submit the simplest and cheapest option for review by the NSW government, that brings the greatest cost effective way to enhance eco-tourism, which boosts small businesses and green entrepreneurs, etc.

    ANY complex “Multi-modal” fantasies, will again attract instant confusion and cost blow-outs in the minds of the NSW assessment panel, just like it did the FIRST time.

    I’m sorry Cr Richardson, but please try and win votes with something that WILL add superlative value to our corridor and its communities, by supporting the only viable option, the Rail Trail.

    Any complex visions will result in nothing, as they have so far…

    And nothing, spells imminent sell-off in the future, by the NSW government, which only needs to change an act in THEIR parliament, via the Senate.

    Please be VERY careful with our corridor.

    If we save the corridor for our future generations, by successfully funding a Rail Trail now, then our future generations can do wonderful things with the corridor, in their own time.

    Once sold off. IT’S GONE forever …..

    Let us ALL be REALISTIC …

      • Yes Jens, it is,,
        For NOW..
        It’s THEIR corridor, and THEY make the decisions.
        It’s so much easier for them to decide to sell any portion of the corridor, as they deem fit to, behind closed doors, than it is for any of us to convince them that an Act of Parliament be altered to utilise the corridor for anything other than a public train service.
        Don’t be too complacent Jens
        Cheers, Tim

        • The Byron Line document opens as many questions as it answers, particularity around how the ideas fit with existing regional transport plans and around the funding of the rail trail – but opening questions and anticipating feasibility study is in fairness what a visionary document should do. Richardson and his team though are to be given credit for apparently working in co-operation with rail buffs and with the rail trail proponents and proposing the use of the corridor for two quite complimentary tourist and transport uses. I also note that there is no proposal in The Green Line to have any public ownership of the corridor sold off. It makes it clear that any rail trail would have permission use the existing publicly owned corridor – that would also be in the interests of the rail trail. I would understand that if a State Government wanted to sell off the corridor it could – the Ballina Booyong rail corridor as far as I am aware, no longer exists. Using the corridor as a rail trail, which would be a tourist investment not dependent on any the fortunes of any tourist operator, would help ensure over the longer term there is a lobby group of cycle users in NSW, QLD and elsewhere, generally people positive to rail transport, to lobby for the corridor’s continued public ownership.

  3. These idea of a tram or light rail system encourages tourism to happen even more in these Northern Rivers communities that depend on it.Bicycle tracks and laneways can and have been implemented anywhere and everywhere.Lets get realistic and start moving forward ,the population of the Northern Rivers is not going to decrease in the future.

  4. I moved to the Shire in 1984. Ever since the railway line closed I have been writing letters to the Echo
    about a Park and Ride System, advocating the existing Rail Line, a Parking at Belongil Fields with bycycle and rail connections in and out of Town, also connecting Mullum and Bangalow with the existing line.
    Say no more, almost 15 years have passed and finally common sense comes to the fore, especially in the light of a sustainable infrastructure…
    Say no more, nodge, nodge, wink wink!!! It’s a goer!

  5. funny how the Echo would use a picture of the old Green Frog tram when at the presentation Simon was showing pictures of very modern trams. talk about scaremongering


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