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Byron Shire
May 19, 2022

Film explores history of northern rivers railway

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More than 10 years after rail services on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line were abandoned, calls are continuing for their reinstatement. Photo NRRAG
More than 10 years after rail services on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line were abandoned, calls are continuing for their reinstatement. Photo NRRAG

A new film, Bringing Trains Back to the Northern Rivers, will be screened on Thursday at 6pm at the Lismore Workers’ Club.

Produced by the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group, the film details the history of the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line, as well as the failure of the NSW Government to provide services to the northern rivers region.

NRRAG chairperson Beth Shelley said the failure of Tweed Shire Council to attract funding for a rail trail on the Murwillumbah end of the railway line was evidence that the government was not willing to put money towards ‘a project that can’t generate the income necessary for ongoing maintenance’.

Ms Shelley the community needed to be asking why the state government was prepared to put $16.8 billion into the West Connex tollway, which covered just 30 kilometres in Sydney, but not into local rail services.



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  1. Beth,
    This is because Sydney must go to great lengths and costs, to mitigate road gridlock during peak commuting times, so to reduce the immense work hour losses caused by workers being stuck in traffic.
    Our roads from Casino to Murwillumbah, by vast contrast, are very lightly sprinkled with traffic.
    The costs of reinstating rail here, would also be exorbitant.
    But we are in no way desperate, like our city folk.

  2. Dear Tim,

    It sounds like perhaps you’ve always had a car so you may not be aware how desperate the situation is for many people. Also the traffic gridlock getting in to Byron is much the same as many places in Sydney.

    The cost of reinstating rail has been over-inflated by the current govt chooses to support companies that make money out of roads and donate to their election campaigns over the needs of the community. That’s what our film is about. Why not come along and check it out? Cheers, Beth

    • Beth, It sounds like you are not aware of the sort of people around the region who actually need public transport. If you were you would be supporting the sorts of improvements to public transport out lined in the regional transport plan. Improvements to public transport like better bus services targeted at the growing areas, particularly areas of older people, the routes that people want to commute on, and the linkages to the public transport that is fast growing in use – the airports. Those priories do not argue for reinstating a slow, very expensive, poorly timetabled train service , but better bus services that are cheaper, more frequent, provide linkages to QLD and go where people want to go. Doug Lakes notes the movements of people to Lismore for study, health and jurisprudence; the regional and Tweed plans and the transport survey show that needs like these are more likely to be on other corridors like Ballina Lismore and the Tweed Coast to Gold Coast, not on the rail line that severs only 40% of the regions population. Even on the line the rail would not be able to provide the sort of clock face timetabling and the services over longer periods of the day and week that people want and buses can. There is absolutely no evidence ever presented that any road company ever made a donation to the NSW government in order to close the railway, or prevent it reopening. Why on earth would they bother? The user ship of the rail was a very small percentage of road traffic and declining before its closure. Reinstating the rail would have very little impact on road use and no single company would have any reason to believe it would suffer a direct disbenefit from the small reduction in road repair costs, Isn’t it time people cared about the needs of all of the community of public transport dependent people , , not the wishes of the minority who happen to live near a rail line, and want the rest of NSW to subsidies their transport?

  3. Tim is talking money and financial loss. In the 20 years I have lived here there has been a large loss of life and many people injured on our local roads, in particular between Bangalow and Lismore. Don’t forget the 4 boys from Lismore killed at Broken Head. More than a “sprinkling” of death. Lismore draws the young to The Uni, the elderly to hospitals and the naughty to the District Court. The Cas/Mir railway was a great engineering achievement and can be fixed up for peanuts compared with WestConnex. Turnbull talks of railway hubs attracting development. Plenty of scope for this on our line. Go Rail No Trail!

    • Dear Doug,
      Trains have spectacular and horrendous fatal accidents. Do you watch the news?
      And with due respect to the families of that tragic Broken Head accident 10 years ago, on near perfect road surface, I really don’t think they would have waited for a train in Suffolk Park, in the early hours that morning. Do you?
      But yes, I do think about taxpayers money too, and governments wasting it.
      People that think “they deserve” or “are entitled to – ” whatever “they want”, just for the sake of it, clearly need to put a thinking cap on.
      If you’re so into trains, do what I did as a kid. Buy a train set.
      You’d save us all a packet, that we could spend on something important, like employment schemes for our kids.. which incidentally, is exactly what a rail trail would help in achieving.

      • You can’t possibly be serious Tim? To firstly say trains have fatal accidents like it happens all the time is a joke. Period.

        Although it may not be always reported on the news, there is usually an accident on Bangalow Rd every week or so. Be serious now, how often to you see trains in NSW, or even Australia, involved in fatal accidents? Oh that’s right, never. Because they hardly ever occur. Whilst some train accidents do occur, their frequency cannot possibly be compared whatsoever to that of the amount of car accidents and the high road toll this region sees in a year or even quarter yearly period. It’s like comparing apples to oranges

    • Doug If you estimate the cost to reinstate the line is peanuts. put together a consortium and offer to restore the line for he modest cost you reckon is needed to provide an ongoing service over the length of the line, plus a reasonable profit for yourselves. The NSW government would not be interested of course, not because of some fanciful conspiracy to keep it “suspended”, but because the recurrent cost of providing train services is too high for the small population it would serve, and the benefits are not as great as better investments on improving bus services to routes of higher priority. I do not agree on with Tim that trains are dangerous – in countries like Australia they are very safe. But reinstating the line will only make a small reduction in car journeys. Most of the shift would be from the buses that currently travel on the route, and only those that travel at the the time the train would; statistically buses are as safe as trains. The issue of road safety in the Northern Rivers is a serous one that needs to be addressed through better speed control, over time a newer safer vehicle fleet, safer provision for cyclists in and out of towns, and changing the behaviours and the very relaxed attitudes to drink and drug driving and seat belt use. Improving public transport so people can socialize and party and go home safely is an important part of the latter, but in a dispersed area like the Northern Rivers one train line running a few times a day will not provide that sort of transport – a well timetabled bus services on the main populated routes – not just where the rail ran – backed up by Uber, and “Uber” parents and friends, could go a long way to getting people home from work and play safely. We have real transport problems and needs on the North Coast that train enthusiasts and the so called progressive politicians they support are irresponsibly ignoring. We need real solutions, not a highly subsidised train that can only give a limited service for a minority of its population.

  4. Even the smallest estimates of the cost of reinstating the line and then operating show it would be far cheaper to hire limousines for people than put them on trains.

    And how on earth would someone travelling from (say) Ballina or Nimbin to Lismore Base benefit from a train service?

    If there are unmet transport needs they could be handled almost instantly and for a tiny fraction of the cost by minibus services. That would leave valuable tax money to be spent on far more important things.

    You bet I’ll need there to see the film. And I’ll have plenty to say about it.

  5. I thought it also worthwhile to draw attention to Beth Shelley’s comment “the failure of Tweed Shire Council to attract funding for a rail trail on the Murwillumbah end of the railway line was evidence that the government was not willing to put money towards ‘a project that can’t generate the income necessary for ongoing maintenance’.” The funding application was not successful in what was very competitive round of funding – that does not in anyway evidence that it is not a viable investment. Plainly the rail trail would not generate any income of itself – nor does the cycleway along the Richmond in Ballina, or the walkways on Byron headland. They are provided as an amenity for visitors and locals. The potential financial benefits of the rail trail are well described in the feasibility study. They flow to private tourist providers and through them to the local community, as they have done in more isolated areas in Victoria, with less amenable climates for cycling. What does not help the cause is the hypocrisy of people who live in the supposedly “green” Northern Rivers – and I might add the local representatives and candidates from the Greens party – who it appears have no interest in the most sustainable transport of all, the cycle, but are happy to promote the return to the region of NSW’s energy inefficient rail services.

    • Yes, all thinkers would applaud you Petrus, your erudite thoughts on the realities.
      The Greens are spectacularly ignorant of the public transport shortcomings and exorbitant cost blowouts, their rail reinstatement would entail.
      The weird thing is that they’ve even seen this, but are so entrenched in their steel track mindset, that they’re NOW pushing for ANYTHING AT ALL that will roll on the 120 year old derelict line, namely, a friggin 1950s era Melbourne tram, which would require overhead electrification expense as well.
      And the Greens are “progressive” !!!
      I don’t think so.
      Cycling, and eco tourism = no-brainer
      Greens = Please Explain…..


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