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March 1, 2024

Train supporters welcome council candidates’ support

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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 northern rivers group lobbying to have the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line reopened has welcomed support from a number of candidates in the upcoming local government election.

The Northern Rivers Railway Action Group sent a letter to candidates asking for their position on the subject, and providing the with an evidence-based paper on the real cost and condition of the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line.

NRRAG spokesperson Beth Shelley said the group also pointed out that any rail trail legislation would remove protection of the rail corridor.

‘What was surprising was that when we made phone calls to candidates some said they hadn’t even read it,’ Ms Shelley said.

‘Some responded supporting the rail trail because they thought it would protect the corridor. NSW has legislation that protects railway lines more than any other state.’

The following responses were received.

Vanessa Grindon-Ekins, The Greens.
Vanessa Grindon-Ekins, The Greens.

Vanessa Ekins: “I support commuter train services from Casino and Lismore, because of the large number of car movements between Casino and Lismore, the good condition of the train tracks. I strongly support completing the rail links between Murwillumbah and Robina as most traffic is between NSW and QLD and this is the real opportunity to create a commuter train service.”

Greg Bennett.
Greg Bennett.

Greg Bennett: “I believe that Lismore as a regional City should have a rail connection.  I would also be pleased to assist you in your efforts to reinstate the entire line with a connection to the Gold Coast rail network.”

Lismore Country Labor candidate Isaac Smith.
Lismore Country Labor candidate Isaac Smith.

Isaac Smith: “”I support the reinstatement of a train line in the northern rivers as we need to connect with South East Queensland in the near future. I believe this line should run from Casino and utilise parts of the existing corridor but also take in Ballina to improve commuter transit along our busiest highway.”

Neil Marks, Group C
Neil Marks, Group C

Neil Marks: “As you know I have always supported the return of some sort of train back on the tracks and the eventual completion of a line that would run through Ballina up the coast and into Queensland. Firstly the line route must be kept in public hands and maintained to some extent into the future.”

Elly Bird, leader of the Our Sustainable Future group.
Elly Bird, leader of the Our Sustainable Future group.

Elly Bird: “I would support a rail service from Lismore to Casino to provide rail transport options from Lismore to Brisbane, and commuter services from Casino to Lismore, easing traffic pressure on the Bruxner Highway.”

Ballina Shire councillor Jeff Johnson.
Ballina Shire councillor Jeff Johnson.

Jeff Johnson from Ballina, “I am a 100% supporter of a commuter rail service because the expected population growth will mean our congested roads will become grid lock during peak periods, those who don’t have a car or can’t afford one can afford a train ticket and our hinterland towns will benefit because the tourists of Byron will visit Lismore, Bangalow, Mullumbimby.”

Ballina Council A Ward Greens candidate Steve Posselt. File photo
Ballina Council A Ward Greens candidate Steve Posselt. File photo

Steve Posselt from Ballina, ‘I unequivocally support the return of rail services. I do not support converting rail lines to trail routes as per the rail trail proposals that would kill future use of trains. Extending the line to meet with the Gold Coast airport will happen I am sure. It is just a matter of when we will find enough people with the vision for it to occur.”

Suzy Hudson from Tweed, “I agree how wonderful it would be to have the train reach Tweed, I think it would benefit the economy a great deal.”

NRRAG spokesperson Beth Shelley said her group agreed with Steve Posselt that ‘we need people with vision who are able to look into the future’.

‘It is wonderful to find there are council candidates from different councils who realise the value of rail services and are happy to support the introduction of commuter rail services on the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line,’ Ms Shelley said.

‘Please vote for the candidates who’ve taken the time to listen to their community’s needs.’


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  1. http://www.byron.nsw.gov.au/files/council-notices/%5Bfield_date-yyyy%5D/da_for_exhibition_10.2015.214.2.pdf
    It would seem the Green councillors will need to approve a rock wall from First Sun Caravan Park to The Belongil to allow the Elements train station to have a S88 DA approval removed. This will open a can of worms as it will allow all The Belongil residents to apply to have their S88 criterium lifted.
    It would then require Greens senator to also support the rock wall or lifting of the S88 erosion retreat policy.
    Looks like we have ended up with the Greens sitting on pointed stick!
    Rock walls to protect the very important Northern Rivers railway line for future transport or coastal retreat as flagged by the same group.

  2. It is a shame that Johnson and Posset do do something about transport for their own constituents instead of supporting a noisy group that is apparently uninterested in genuine public transport improvement in the region. Why on earth for example would anyone wanting to go to the Gold Coast from Lismore or Ballina want to go back to doing so via Muwillumbah as the Green candidate is suggesting? None of these candidates, like the many rail supporters in these columns, makes any reference to the transport studies that found the cost of restoring and then running the train service was not economic, that the the rail does not serve the main commuting corridors and population growth areas, that it does not serve the main external transport hubs at Ballina and Coolanagatta, that those airports and the intra-regional services would be better served by improved bus services, and that that the cost of linking the Gold Coast to the Tweed by rail was excessive and better done in the medium term by a busway. I would be prepared to listen to well researched argument against the recommendations of the Northern Rivers and Tweed Shire transport plans and other transport analyses freely available on Council and other websites. But it appears by their lack of reference to their findings that that these Councillors have either never read them, or more worryingly they do not think that professional feasibility and planning documents are worth using as the basis for policy making.

  3. I demand that the government set up a space shuttle service to the Moon.
    I’ve always wanted to go to the Moon.
    The technology has existed since 1969.
    How dare the government not provide us all with this low cost initiative, that would show vision, courage and true leadership.
    I’ll vote too, for any candidates that will support me towards my goal.

    • … and I of course would suggest you would be better off catching a clock-faced timetabled bus there – as recommended in the current Inter-planetary Transport Plan, or doing a feasibility on building a rail trail to the moon following the 1969 route!

  4. It’s fantastic to hear all this support from the many councillors all over the region. It is just common sense! I know who I will be voting for this election. All it takes is political will.

  5. Just pour road base over the rails and sleepers like they have done behind the Woolies complex in Byron Bay.
    No moving infrastructure which seems to be the bugbear of the heritage railway members floating around in the area.
    If a developer can lay road base over the line anybody can .

    • Well Geoff, if you are going to conspire in illegal activities such as that, I hope you have deep pockets! (You would have to pay for the tracks to be put back to normal)

      The rail line is protected by legistlation that means nobody can just pour road base over the tracks without a temporary permit. No permit = hefty fines and possible jail time. The developers can do what they have because they have obtained a permit to do so. The area behind Wollies will only remain tarred over until 2017. The area must be returned to normal in 2017 as per the restrictions on their permit.

  6. There was only one transport study that said the rail line was uneconomic and many other studies have found that the benefits far outway the cost. But no one has read the other studies and the state govt who commissioned the ARUP transport study have shown repeatedly that they avoid providing good rail services across NSW in general. However I’d like to make a correction. Elly Bird did make one supportive statement in her written response which one NRRAG member misunderstood. However at a candidates forum last night it became clear that Elly is not supportive of rail services.

    • I would be interested to know what are the “many of other studies ” that found that the benefits far outway the cost” – why has no one read them if they are worthwhile? To what extent do the benefits they found outweigh the costs compared with other transport spending and are they talking about capital spending on refurbishment or the including the ongoing recurrent costs (which I understand would be very high). You appear to be suggesting the study was compromised because the state government in question avoided providing good rail services elsewhere. Can you please show in what way the governemnt influenced the outcome of the study? Were the terms of reference inappropriate or inadequate? What was the selection process for the consultants? Was there political interference and were they unqualified? And has the Arup study been subject to academic or professional peer review or criticism? I am sorry to respond with a barrage of questions, but I would normally expect a study of this type to be done in an independent, professional and “workmanlike” fashion. A correspondent from Mullumbimby in the Advocate referred to it as “discredited” but when challenged could not provide any support to their allegation. The report has been referenced by the professionals who have done other transport studies in the region, and as far as I could see was the only report on the cost of refurbishment to be thus referenced. I am happy to reconsider my view in the light of your response of course.

      I also note here that I have asked the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group to provide me with a copy of there “evidenced-based paper” but they have yet to do so. Finally I note that I asked the Ballina Greens for their proposals in respect of public transport (and cycling) and apparently beyond a comment that they are supportive of both, they have no specific plan and made to reference to the current transport and cycling plans relevant to our Shire. Perhaps its a result of living in exile in Canberra but to me there does seem to be a lot of calls and promised being made around public transport investment in the Northern Rivers that lie outside the sort of expected framework of strategic and detailed planning and feasibility assessment that should ensure we get the best bang for our limited public transport buck.

  7. Here we go again its election time the choo choo train usually works we even have an artists impression of one… Its not going to happen ..would be nice..would be sensible..but seriously they have been talking about this at every election for 15 years..how gullible is the electorate? Vote for the choo choo trains ..its probably a billion dollar project thats envisioned here.. Not happening


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