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Byron Shire
March 21, 2023

Rail trail response

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Marie Lawton, Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

In response to the article in last week’s Echo: Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) did not ‘accuse’ Simon Richardson of anything, but stated the facts. Simon would not support the proposal for the Tweed rail trail to go through to Billinudgel although previously he has said he fully supported NRRT’s plans to continue working towards a rail trail north of Billinudgel.

Following their AGM on September 2, NRRT decided to not collaborate with the Byron Line, partly because of the mayor’s lack of cooperation and partly because of the lack of any forthcoming funding. It could take years to get yet another feasibility study funded and completed, with the most likely result being that the corridor is only suitable for a rail trail.

Our decision was made a week earlier than Don Page’s media release, not just after. Don said, ‘sitting on the fence and pretending you can have it both ways does not display leadership’.

Simon says our community clearly wants a rail shuttle (which would be privately operated) but has no idea how it would be funded or how a rail trail would work alongside it. He said at the meeting on August 26 that the ‘rail trail may have to go off the corridor in places’. How and where that would happen is a mystery. I can’t see Council buying up private land near to the corridor.

Simon also says his plan can ‘provide TOOT and public transport advocates a chance to get a people-mover for our kids and less fit to get around our shire. Also, our daily commuters and anyone else who would use a decent commuter service regularly.’

Firstly, he is only talking Bangalow to Billinudgel and is talking about a tourist operation, which is unlikely to be cheap to use. This is not a decent commuter service.

His reasoning for the rail trail not receiving the first round of funding was because it was not shovel-ready and ‘it is clear the government wants Byron Shire to come back with a fully costed option for activating the rail corridor that unites instead of dividing the community.’

One of the reasons that the NRRT failed the first time  was that it was given erroneous advice from the NSW government to seek all EOI (Expressions Of Interest) from all interested parties, which the NRRT dutifully undertook, and that Simon’s multi-modal push fatally exacerbated this erroneous instruction further.

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  1. It is going to be very interesting to sit back and watch Simon Richardson’s “The Byron Line” proposal progress, or not.

    This whole “fantasy to reality” pursuit, should not be a protracted, drawn out affair, as the clock is ticking louder and louder, as this procrastination lives yet another phase.

    There is much interest in funding the ONLY option, within the corridors of power.
    A Rail Trail.
    But if this fiasco continues too long, then these powers will jostle their agenda towards selling off OUR unused public assets.

    Please get on with it, PRONTO

    Thank you..

    • It is also increasingly curious that the new successful Greens council appears hell-bent in promoting and hoping for such a wildcard capitalist venturist to spring out of nowhere, to slot into the role of financing The Byron Line’s opulent track based tourist operation vision.

      This, in my book, is so NOT Green, as to have our poor Bob Brown possibly cringe and weep with wherever his devout Byron followers (of which I am one) have been lead to.

      Clearly, a Rail Trail ticks all green boxes.
      It always has.

      Let the original public transport debate remain.
      But it is now, certainly nothing to do with “The Byron Line” …

  2. Face it NRRT, the reason why the proposal failed last year is because there is no community support, no legislation that permits a trail and a flawed business case that would see the rail trail running at a loss and being more of a bottomless money pit whilst not doing much at all for the wider community.

    How can they criticise the Byron Line proposal when they are in a worse situation? One of the reasons for the NRRT’s backflip was “partly because of the mayor’s lack of cooperation and partly because of the lack of any forthcoming funding[For the Byron Line].”. The NRRT seem to have similar problem. The NRRT not only have no funding (Unlike the Byron Line, the NRRT have already applied yet failed for funding) but the NRRT also has a lack of community support.

    What I am saying is the NRRT’s logic behind their backflip does not add up and it is far too early to be criticising the Byron Line for having “no funding”, or no feasibility study when the whole proposal was only launched a few weeks ago. Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t it take the NRRT about a year to get their feasibility study? It’s a bit rich to be expecting something of a proposal first tabled only weeks ago.

    The opportunities The Byron Line present for the whole community are not only far superior to that of a rail trail alone, but they also have community support and legislation does not have to be changed and added so it can happen. The community wants a rails with trails approach, so why don’t the NRRT?

    All the Byron Line really needs is a feasibility study and away we go. The community support is there, and the track is all there and in great condition for the majority of the section (The only problematic sections may be St Helena, however other than that the track is in mostly good condition)

    Trains with trails can easily co-exist and there is no reason they should not – They can be very beneficial to all members of the community and not just the able bodied. Just google Toronto rail line in Sydney or rail with trail in Canberra, just some examples of successful rail trail beside rail lines.

  3. Why didn’t NRRT simply address their concerns with Simon’s proposal before publicly supporting it?
    If NRRT had read the proposal they would have understood that Simon wanted to explore the possibility of a rail shuttle service to the Yelgun Festival site – which is yes, about 2km north of Billinudgel. NRRT should have known that.
    The motion at council that day to support a rail trail ‘north of Billinudgel’ just seems like a deliberate attempt to sabotage Simon’s proposal, on the same day that he was presenting it to the community.
    The rail trail – only proposal already failed to get funding, and it had clearly divided the community. Simon was right to try and create a co-existing proposal which the WHOLE community could support.

  4. It seems glaringly obvious we need trains back at any cost. For the future of the whole area. We could also have a rail trail that goes along side it. Win win.

    Surely people must understand and notice how badly the traffic already gets? We need the trains back!

    Do what ever has to be done, even if it costs billions of dollars to get it all back up to scratch. It’ll be so worth it over the next hundred plus years.

    Bring the trains back and make a rail trail along side it,



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