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Byron Shire
December 3, 2021

Rail trail plans get green flag from Byron Council

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Tweed Shire Council’s proposed rail trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek may also connect to Billinudgel, after Byron Shire councillors last week voted to progress discussions with that council.

The motion put forward by Cr Hunter will also see the council give ‘support for Tweed Shire Council to attract funding’ for approximately 24km of track. The distance from Billinudgel to Crabbes Creek would be an extension of 4.9km.

Additionally, councillors have asked staff to ‘explore its social, environmental and economic impacts on the north of the shire.’

As with previous votes on establishing rail trails, it was not a unanimous vote – Crs Dey, Richardson and Cameron voted against the motion while Crs Spooner, Hunter, Ibrahim, Wanchap, and Woods voted for (Cr Cubis was absent).

During debate, retiring Cr Sol Ibrahim argued that the ‘discussion has been had’ and it wasn’t a ‘land grab’ and such a project would ensure the land wouldn’t be sold off.

He said, ‘It’s what the Billinudgel community want.’

Cr Basil Cameron wasn’t convinced, and rejected the assertion that reports supporting the plans were of a high quality and acceptable. Cr Richardson considered the decision as controversial, and as such said it should be discussed with the community first.

Byron Line’s mixed reception

Meanwhile, reaction Byron mayor Simon Richardson’s ‘multi-modal’ proposal to the future use of the railway corridor in Byron Shire, has been mixed.

‘The Byron Line’ proposal was launched last Thursday at the Byron Community Centre.

Both Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) and Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) representatives were invited, heard the mayor’s pitch and then gave supporting statements.

Not all were happy however, with Butler Street resident Paul Jones saying that as ‘high-profile stakeholders’ in the future of the Byron Bay corridor, they were not considered or invited to be part of the meeting.

Mr Jones said, ‘Not only are we concerned by this extraordinary reversal of the mayor’s position on the likely availability of the rail corridor for the community’s needs, but disturbed by the fact that he is now promoting the further ramping up of tourist attractions and activations in our town without first addressing the pressing need for effective traffic and transport infrastructure.’

Meanwhile TOOT president and mayoral candidate Basil Cameron said, ‘In our region, we would define public transport services as people transport for commuters and tourists and hence our interest in the potential of a Byron Line refurbishment to show the way. The line offers tremendous opportunity to be the spine of a regional public transport system and that remains TOOT’s community- endorsed objective.

‘During the meeting it was noted that the line is capable of servicing the communities it links in ninety minutes while the bus currently takes around three hours, largely owing to topography and the foresight of those who planned the line as the most direct route, avoiding mountains and rivers.’

Northern Rivers Rail Trail’s Marie Lawton said in a release, ‘The previous feasibility study done by Arup has met with criticism and disbelief from certain parties, therefore another feasibility study was suggested for the Byron Section only. This may be partly funded by Byron Shire Council.’

Ms Lawton said, ‘NRRT would like to see the Terms of Reference (TOR) developed with input from all stakeholders. The status of the Rail Trail proposal from NRRT will be unchanged. However, we will assist with the TOR in order to expedite this new feasibility study and business plan.’

The meeting agreed that this is not a public transport solution. NRRT believes that a full transport study would be necessary to address major transport needs of the community, rather than just focusing on the corridor.

‘NRRT is conscious of the urgency of the situation as the corridor is deteriorating at an increasing rate and major heritage structures are becoming less viable, over time, to restore.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. While I fully endorse the NRRT in its work to develop a rail trail using the corridor I do question its statement: “… that a full transport study would be necessary to address major transport needs of the community, rather than just focusing on the corridor.”, without referring to the 2013 Northern Rivers Regional Transport Plan. It appears to me to a reasonable assessment of the issues, but if it is deficient they should be saying why it is so. I also note TOOT’s commetn: “‘In our region, we would define public transport services as people transport for commuters and tourists “. As much of the commuting in the region is along other corridors than the old rail line, and as the rail does not serve the two main tourist gateways at Ballina and Coolangatta, I wonder at their enthusiasm to restore a transport mode that does not service their defined transport needs.

  2. I would also like to question TOOT’s comment that the line ” ..is capable of servicing the communities it links in ninety minutes while the bus currently takes around three hours, largely owing to topography and the foresight of those who planned the line”. Those who planned the line did so to provide an outlet for produce and a service for passengers between the Tweed and Richmond areas to the port at Byron Bay. That was sensible at the time but they would not have foreseen that the population growth a century later would be along the coast, and the main passenger transport links would be at Ballina and Coolanagatta airports. Before it proposes spending large sums of State money on capital and recurrent rail costs Toot really needs to get a grip on the transport needs of the region, not just those who live along a train line that links some pleasant enough towns but which in terms of transport needs goes from nowhere to nowhere, and could only ever do so infrequently..

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