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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

Claims over solar-run train challenged, again

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An image from the company's website showing a concept diagram of its proposed solar train.
An image from the company’s website showing a concept diagram of its proposed solar train.

Byron shire residents have again questioned whether a planned solar-powered rail service for Byron Bay will be realistic.

Byron Bay Railroad Company (BBRC) plans to run a rail service from near the Sun Bistro on Bayshore Drive into Byron’s CBD, and is expecting to begin the service in April.

Belongil Action Group Association (BAGA) and the Sunrise Progress Association (SPA) have told The Echo that they engaged a ‘specialist environmentally sustainable design engineer’ to assess the validity of the claims the train could be solar powered.

A statement by the group says their expert, Chris Trayes from Enertec, a mechanical and electrical consultant, says that ‘energy saved from the solar panels and the regenerative braking is a ‘furphy’ if the train operated 100 times per day.’

‘We have used this figure as the basis of Mr Trayes’ calculations because of the developer’s verbal confirmation to representatives of BAGA during a meeting in October 2016 that the train could operate up to four or five times per hour if the demand required it (ie more than 120 trips per day). However, for the purpose of these calculations we will base the figures on 100 trips per day.

‘Mr Trayes estimates that, at best, the solar panels and regenerative braking system will only account for 35–40 per cent of the total power required, and that the rest of the power will come from the diesel engine that is installed in the train. However, in reality, if the system is less than ideal in its construction and maintenance, it will only contribute 25 per cent.’

But Elements of Byron resort general manager Jeremy Holmes, who is overseeing the train project, told The Echo, ‘We do not intend to run the train 100 times per day. There simply will never be that level of demand. What we have proposed is a return hourly service initially, which is 28 one-way trips.’

‘Byron Bay Railroad Company will shortly publish more details regarding the solar conversion, including further technical explanation, via byronbaytrain.com.au

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  1. I think Gary,YAWN, sums up how councillors have handled this whole project— a complete lack of process,ignoring well founded planning practices to provide a useless piece of tourist infrastructure to the benefit of a tourist resort and conference centre rather than the town and its residents and the preservation of what Byron Bay represents and makes so many visitors come and residents settle. Let’s not forget that if the Byron Rail Company is not a profitable commercial venture Elements is not responsible and inevitably it will fall back somehow on us as ratepayers to make up the difference. Byron infrastructure is already groaning under the weight of its popularity , we don’t need to become a conference destination with financial benefits going to the elements landlords and the French hospitality group Accor . Next we will see the weekly farmers market being transferred out of town to prop up the rail link ,and become and elements attraction as well as other events . We have already seen pressure to move them from the town centre —- you only need to witness how fringe located shopping centres destroy village shopping precincts to understand the dangers of trying to create a ” new Byron” at elements.
    Council has been asleep at the wheel – why weren’t proper review processes undertaken by our council in approving this project? For example where is the EIS ? Why the need for fast track and varied DA? How can an operator of a “public transport ” facility be able to operate without defining the service being offered ie frequency etc? What ongoing funding will the promoters provide? Who accepts the liability if this all goes wrong BRC , Council?
    Yep I am sick of it to ,this is a nice little fantasy that is going to rapidly become a nightmare through council apathy !!!! Here goes the neighbourhood,I used to think Jan was a bit of pain in the A but she cared.

    • Most of your argument is based on an assumption. Yawn because the whole argument is getting boring. It’s getting boring because it is becoming obvious that this is more an emotional whinge by Sunrise Progress Association rather than a level headed campaign.

      You must understand the line was never closed, just ‘service suspended’. Therefore the corridor remained in situ therefore no EIS is needed as the rail corridor on which the train is operating on is not new (over 120 years old in fact)

      What gets me is the double standards here. You all drive cars that spew emissions, in fact everyone in Byron does that 24/7. This train may produce some emissions (although that will be reduced to a bare minimum when it is converted to solar power, which will take place in March).

      Think about it… The amount of emissions spewed by private motor vehicles a week would be horrendous compared to what this train would produce in a year. In all honesty there really is nothing to complain about, which leads me back to my previous point – This is an emotive fight by Sunrise Residents Group and nothing more.

      • The emissions and carbon impact produced by older heavier cars is indeed high Gary particularly if they are used by one person. The per occupant emissions of modern cars carrying passengers is low, and would be lower than heavy rail services, even ameliorated by solar assist. The key is to encourage shifts to more efficient transport appropriate to the situation, focusing on peoples travel patterns and needs. So tax fuel more heavily and place a pollution tax on older vehicles’ rego , while encouraging cycling, car pooling and of course providing better public transport using the most appropriate vehicle for the route.


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