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Byron Shire
June 24, 2024

Rail service would improve road safety

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Beth Shelley, Booerie Creek.

Councils in the northern rivers find it increasingly difficult to pay for road maintenance because everything is carried by road.

All passengers and freight in trucks and buses tear up the roads but don’t pay for the damage they cause.

Under-recovery of these costs has been estimated at between $7,000 and $10,500 per truck each year. Ratepayers are therefore paying the repair bill of trucking companies.

Statistics show that road accidents are on the rise and have cost approx. $500 million over the last five years.

When the government does cost comparisons between road and rail services they don’t include costs incurred by taxpayers of road accidents, road maintenance, traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. NSW governments appear to be biased against railways, possibly because of electoral donations from big companies who make money out of roads.

Rail is 200 times safer than road, especially given the terrible state of local roads. When will one of the major parties support what’s best for the community rather than money for their campaigns?

The prospect of rail services in this area is so popular it would do more for the electoral prospects of either party than money anyway. Our communities want better, safer roads.

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  1. Beth,
    If they built the roads right in the first place there would not be road maintenance. What rides on the roads is rubber, rubber tyres and rubber wears by a million to one to the road to the tyres.
    So in building a road it is not the surface of the road to worry about but the weight of the vehicle. In all road surfaces all it needs to be put down is enough concrete and tar that nothing will make it bend.
    And where do you get that strength?
    On the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is made of steel as the base for the road and under that steel is about 200 metres of fresh air until you hit the water. Does the road on the Sydney Harbour Bridge which would be the busiest road in Australia with the most weight of cars running on it. Does it require maintenance?

  2. Beth Studies in the US show that long distance coach services are actually safer than long distance rail. Like air travel, both are very safe so the extent of any increase in safety will depend on which public transport mode is used more. The regional transport plan outlines the areas of demand for public transport are for the greater part not along the rail corridor – they are along the Tweed Coast to the Gold Coast, and along Lismore Ballina Byron Bay crescent. People surveyed have said that they want more frequent and regular transport, and transport out of hours all of which are bests served by more bus services. Buses can access the transport hubs at Ballina and Coolangatta by bus allowing convenient access to much safer long distance transport by plane than by donations from fuel car (and more energy efficient than single use car). The impact of buses on the road system is quite marginal as a % of other traffic and the cost of providing access to the road system is small compared with the very high recurrent cost of providing rail services. I have questioned before the allegation that the NSW government is against rail because of donations from road interests. No one has provided so far any direct evidence of any connection between donations and transport planning – like most such allegations it is of course a red herring – the NSW government closed the service because it was too expensive and was declining in use; it would be unlikely to reopen it because it still would be expensive and would not serve very well the transport needs of the people of the Northern Rivers. .

    • The robbery Elise occurs when some people demand more of the State coffers then is necessary for a train that would not provide decent public transport to the Northern Rivers. Rural trains are not a fixed capital asset to be “robbed” – they are recurrent cost, and a very high one at that. As PwC point out the service was in decline over the years before it closed and it did not, an would not now, meet the transport priories of today. It would be tantamount to robbery of the State’s coffers to use a large amount of money for a service that does not go near 60% of the areas population, and particularly the areas where the elderly live, and does not link with the public transport nodes at Ballina, Coolangatta and Robina.

        • It’s irrelevant if you are rail trail supporter or not. Trains simply won’t serve our region. Unless you live within 1km of a train station you will need to either drive or catch a bus to get to the train. If people are genuinely interesed in improving public transport in the region then they should objectively look at all options. New bus routes and services can be setup at a fraction of the cost of the train and have much more flexibility where they can go. It is obvious those who are promoting a train service are simply doing out of nostalgia for trains and little else.

          • It is actually highly relevant Damon. See, the rail trail supporters think buses are the answer to everything and just buses, buses, buses will fix our transport problems – and refuse to accept that trains play a big part in the transport puzzle. I could go on all day to address just some of the problems with this. Think of it this way; On a train, you can get up and walk around, go to the toilet and the buffet cars at your own free will. On buses, you are confined to limited legroom, hard and stiff seating with only a small toilet and very limited allowance for food. The vast majority of people hate buses because they are so uncomfortable compared to train travel.

            I think it’s way too soon to be assuming wether trains will work or not – as it has been too long without them so you can quote all the studies you want but the fact is we will not know if trains will work until they are started. The train coming back to Byron will be an indicator as to the possible usage numbers we will see with a renewed rail service on a larger scale.

            A rails with trails approach is the best way to go about it and to be honest I can’t see why this shouldn’t happen where it is practical to do so.

          • yes you are right Elise. They are rail trail supporters. They say they would ride a 130 km bike trail and yet they also say that 1km is too far to ride a bike to the nearest train station hahaha. And I also bet that none of the people saying that buses will fix everything, have ever had to rely on the bus system for day to day travel such as getting to and from work, to uni or appointments.

        • Elise You are implying that I oppose rail services because I support the rail trail. . I find these suggestions that opposition to rail services are based on some ulterior motive quite upsetting and uncalled for I have considered the relevant regional and shire transport plans which support better buses in areas like ours, coupled it with my understanding of the area going back to the fifties and sixties, and concluded that rail services would not be a good investment in public transport. If you read the Fairfax media and relevant Facebook sites you will read that I consistently criticized the Green/Labor government’s wasteful plan to build a light rail in Canberra (as did the Productivity Commission, the Grattan Institute and the ACT Auditor-General . It is the same case as in the Northern Rivers – in areas of our dispersed population of a few hundreds of thousands, rail is an overly expensive form of public transport that does not provide a well integrated service based on transport priorities. There is no matter of a rail trail involved in the ACT plan. My opposition to rail in both cases is because having worked in Government for thirty years I expect value for money for public spending based on clearly thought through cost-benefit analyses, and has nothing to do with my well documented enthusiasm for cycling.

  3. Yes, nostalgia and all things wonderful. I would love to ride my pushbike from Uki to Stokers Siding and catch the train to Byron or Murwillumbah. I’m not really sure how many times I would do this per year but it would be a fair number. I’m sure many others would do the same, some tourists (probably quite a lot), some freight (maybe not to much) and the odd commuter or so. To me that sounds quite civilized, maybe it wouldn’t ‘turn a profit’ as such but neither does the town pool.

  4. Angie wrote: “And I also bet that none of the people saying that buses will fix everything, have ever had to rely on the bus system for day to day travel such as getting to and from work, to uni or appointments.” I am one of those who supports the proposals to improve bus services and have used buses to go to work and uni for forty years. On Gary’s comments the buses from Canberra to Sydney are very comfortable – they do not have hard seats – are faster than the XPT and they can make arrangements for people who have special needs. They travel hourly and are well patronized and carry far more people than the XPT , and unlike the XPT they have never stopped for months and are cheap without needing any subsidy. The buses also go where people want to go, not just Central but also to the airports in Sydney and you do get charged a hefty station fee as does the airport rail service. The North Coast rail service before its closure – suspension is the euphemism – was in decline while bus services even with the limitations of timetabling have maintained patronage. The survey on transport is recent and they show clearly timetabling issues not the absence of a train, are the main restraint to greater take up of public transport. If the Northern Rivers had a true public transport network that went frequently and regularly where people want to go patronage would increase, and far more of those those that really are defendant on public transport would be able to get around.


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