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Byron Shire
March 30, 2023

Majority support for the train is a myth

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Will Jeffery, Nimbin

It’s clear that grieving for the train is still going on in our community nearly thirteen years after the service was withdrawn.  The train was loved and still missed today. I genuinely sympathise about the loss of the train but as a community, we cannot allow our brilliant future to be held back any longer.  A minority of people with romantic notions about historic trains are holding the community hostage and they remain completely unmoved by undeniable facts and practical realities.  There is absolutely no measurable evidence of any substantial support for a train. My questions are these: Should rail trail supporters forever just take it lying down? Should the train lobby be held to account for masquerading as a majority?

Indeed the only easily accessible public measure of support for the either the train or the rail trail, are the two online petitions. They show emphatically that train supporters make up only 22% of those who responded in favour of either a train or a rail trail.  That’s a 78% landslide for the rail trail. It does not matter that online petitions cannot be tabled in Parliament; more importantly they provide the public with a measure of the community’s sentiment either way. Even the Facebook likes are 71% to 29% in favour of a rail trail, strongly corroborating the petitions’ numbers. There is no credible explanation from the train lobby as to why their petition is so poorly subscribed other than the glaringly apparent. We need to move past this myth that train supporters are the majority; the simple fact is they are not!

The majority myth is perpetuated by a small and noisy cohort who remain rusted on long after the TOOT campaign started fizzling out. Unfortunately those remaining try their best to muddy the water at every opportunity. They spread misinformation, refuse to open their minds to the possibilities beyond their “lycra-clad loonies” diatribe and in my own opinion they engage in borderline unethical behaviour.  We cannot allow this conduct to continue unchallenged because in 13 long years they have only ever achieved anything as ‘spoilers’. No train, no rail trail, absolutely nothing!  They have delivered nothing and they rejoice in the fact. How can this be for the good of the community? A rail trail IS at least something, a very beautiful and life-changing something.  We will look back and wonder how we ever lived without it!

Let me give three examples of misinformation and possibly dodgy ethics that have been propagated by the train lobby to support the myth.

  1. When the train petition was created it was named “Support the Casino to Murwillumbah Train Service with Trails” but after nearly 1000 people signed it, the name was modified to read, “Support the Casino to Murwillumbah Train Service” with Trails firmly deleted! That makes the petitions’ 22% support for trains, as small as that may already be, look like corrupted information.  Surely it is unethical to pretend to support both the train and the trail then dupe the punters by deleting the trail after the fact!
  2. Train supporters often quote Hansard as a repository of evidence suggesting 1000s of people have signed a petition that was tabled in State parliament. There is one referenced petition that was tabled in parliament; the record did not indicate how many signatures were contained in the petition and there was no retrievable data.  There are also claims that TOOT holds paper petitions containing 1000s of signatures. These paper petitions and the Hansard document all predate the launch of “Plan B”, http://www.rail2trail.org/ the conversation about a rail trail as an alternative to ending up with nothing. They (the oft-quoted petitions) can only ever be valid for ascertaining the mood of the people about the withdrawal of the train service in the early days, nothing else. It would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise.
  3. The original TOOT website contained a business supporters page. It would seem that as more and more businesses sought to withdraw their endorsement in the wake of growing interest in the rail trail, their website suddenly went down. The TOOT administrator said that it had been hacked and taken offline and suggested that Rail Trail supporters might have been behind it. Then suddenly there is an all-new much reduced website with no supporters page. Why would they delete this page if it weren’t indicating a general downturn in support?

So once and for all, train supporters need to publicly demonstrate something that goes beyond smoke and mirrors and old irrelevant petitions or they should step aside and allow the clear majority to work towards the promise of a beautiful globally significant rail trail that will enhance our lives and the experiences of our visitors without all the slanging matches and claims of conspiracies by train supporters that have been such a feature of the campaign to date.  We need to stop the wrecking ball and move forward as a community with or without the minority train lobby. I would so much prefer that we could find a way to unite and grab something that is attainable rather than end up with absolutely nothing.

It’s also the one and only chance we will ever get to correct the historic short sightedness of the 19th century surveys; they did not give us the British system of laneways, easements and public access-ways. Without the rail trail we will remain locked out of our own countryside forever.  There is no second chance!

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  1. Thanks for debunking the myths Will. You are right. We need to move ahead now while we have the opportunity with the new state government funding.

    • Absolutely right Marie. The only possible way to get any funding at all to activate our corridor, is by us getting behind a rail trail.
      I’m encouraged with the increasing awareness of this within our politicians’ reality checking.
      The growing rust on the weed infested tracks and sleepers, says it all, regarding track based ideas on the majority of the 132 kilometres.
      Let’s not waste any more time and money on fruitless, futile track studies.

    • Marie, At the Ocean Shores Community Association Trains & Transport Forum 26 Sept, 2015 you and Geoff asked to speak earlier, of which you were granted but before Neale Battersby was to speak with many facts and experience. Why did you both not stay on and hear Neale’s knowledge – not hearsay but practical knowledge of rail issues and the reasons that have been used against the Casino to Murwillumbah rail service? Jill

      • If you count (only once) each person who responded to my letter and Louise’s letter, excluding Louise and myself as the authors, we get 29% support for the train and 71% support for the rail train. Funny how these figures keep recurring!

  2. I totally agree with Will.
    The Rail Trail is able to be built unlike rail tracks. It is going to be enjoyed by many more people. Locals and visitors who wish to enjoy our area and safely ride and walk in our lovely region without disturbing the flow of traffic on the roads.

  3. There IS a case for preserving railways that link places that people wish to go to in sufficient numbers to make the maintenance of the train and track commercially viable. Unfortunately, that is NOT the case for the Byron railway. In fact, it had not been commercially viable for many years prior to its shutdown and only remained open for its historic status. Politics soon put an end to that. It’s dead, like the parrot.

    Instead of wasting breath in counter-argument we should be embracing the opportunity to enhance our Region with the advent of the Rail Trail. Last year when I joined a group of Byron cyclists to ride the New Zealand Gold Fields Rail Trail I was amazed at the level of enthusiasm demonstrated by the communities it passed through. New B&Bs had opened. New Cafes and Restaurants had either opened or been upgraded. New Bike Hire and Repair shops to support the passing traffic. Everyone sang the praises of the investment made in realising the dream of the Rail Trail. According to Clyde Council, it had added $40M in revenue each year to the community.

    We could do even better when you think of the wonderful villages our Rail Trail would encompass. Think of the joy this would bring to us as residents, to the tourists who would visit us and the whole community in being able to share in such a wonderful experience.

    • Gordon Hayes, You apparently do not know that our train service gave $22million per year income, and $11million costs. Yes, Michael Costa was the Labor politician who stopped our train service & then opted out only months later! Read Don Page’s parliamentary speech 2004 to see the pro-train figures Don Page said. It is very interesting reading indeed!! Puts paid to Michael Costa’s reasons to close our train service! I think Don Page needs to read it again too! We are a very different region now 2017 to 2004 with population increases & continuing! New subdivisions being built in the fastest growing region in NSW outside of Sydney – stated at the launch of Tweed City and the Northern Regional Region of NSW.
      Commonwealth Games 2018. plans are well on the way to bid for the Olympic Games for the Gold Coast.

  4. We need our health and fitness to be carried out in a safe environment such as the rail trail because we’ve taken over as the fattest population on the planet. Bring on the trails as quickly as possible.

  5. I have heard that it would cost multiple HUNDREDS of millions of dollars to re-create the Rail line… It would make much better sense to create something that the Community can access for exercise, safety, walks, rides, runs, the list goes on and on. Imagine the possibility of organising cycling and walking Club Activities like camping weekends. Inevitably, just like they did in New Zealand, farmers will enable the users access to property (for a fee I expect) for overnight camping and maybe more. The possibilities are endless… fun runs, cycling events, hikes… ALL of this would be mostly OFF THE ROADS, AWAY FROM TRAFFIC and the Community would be able to enjoy the Great Outdoors – not to mention Tourists flocking here to experience it too. Did you know the Otago Rail Trail is New Zealand’s BIGGEST Tourist Attraction!! . The Government is trying to promote Healthy Living – well what better way than to have a Community Trail. Yes it will cost a few pennies but in the ‘long run’ pardon my pun, there will be countless benefits. I love trains too, I’m an ex Victorian and we love our trains down there, but I can only see a Benefit of re-creating the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line as a Trail whereby everyone can access an amazing resource which is sitting dormant just waiting to be re-born.

  6. Several years ago when I first read about this rail trail I got very excited. So sad that there has been no progress. I’ve ridden several in NZ and know how much they benefit the local communities. I’m sure anyone who believes one day the trains will run again is crazy. At 65 years old, I fear your trail is one I will never ride 🙁

  7. Yes, I admit to being a train tragic!! But I’m not blind to the fact that no elected NSW Government in 12 years has even really contemplated returning a train to this corridor. It’s just not economically viable and it doesn’t travel through the major population hubs.
    So let’s stop waiting around for it to totally fall apart or be sold off and move forward with a community trail that I can walk my dog, cycle or jog on without being run over by other road users. Bring it on!

  8. This discussions has been going on for far too long, reality is the trains will never return on these old lines. It’s like that Rob Sitch ABC comedy series ‘Utopia’ where reports get written, studies done, politician get some Brownie points and then it all gets shelved and then rehashed after much money and more time wasted!!
    The research, studies and polls are done, just get the Rail trail approved and built before more of the old bridges and lines are totally destroyed, it will have unbelievable benefits for local communities and visitors alike as we all know , just like the ones up and running in other states and other countries.

  9. Rail trails have proven to be popular throughout the world. There are many hundreds of rail trails in existence. I do not know of one single rail branch line that has been brought back to have trains running on it.The rail line is owned by the public. To optimise this corridor for public use means cycling and walking on it, not trains that would cost a bomb to run and so few people using it.

  10. When the old railway line is converted to a rail trail there’ll be a massive surge of interest and local businesses will be raking in the bucks from visitors!

  11. I endorse all comments above. We all love trains but there is no way there is ever going to be a train on this corridor. It is so frustrating to those of us who have ridden on rail trails in other parts of the world and realise that this trail would be one of the best, bringing in tourists from all over the world. Its a no brainer! Come on – let’s get behind it!!

  12. Having ridden railtrails in SA NSW and VIC, plus cycleways in the Netherlands and USA, soon to be doing same in NZ, I can only say that rail trails are appealing to many people worldwide and a preferred route for cycling by all ages. They bring about a sense of community, opportunities for rural people to be involved in tourist endeavours from accom to selling of produce etc. as well they help in opening up rural areas to city people bringing about an appreciation of farming and rural life. As well they provide opportunities for so many to be involved in very enjoyable healthy activities. I’m 71 and will travel to rail trails to be able to continue cycling.

  13. Yes we need more safe bikeways. On a rail trail we can travel on our bikes and other mobility devices in a sustainable environmentally friendly way away from traffic danger and pollution. Rail trail gradients are manageable for everyone and offer a window into our beautiful countryside too. Trains were good for the North Coast in days gone by and by the time a future population growth would support an off road public transport system, train lines will be superceded by more advanced technology.

  14. Our rail corridor cuts through many towns and villages where safe pedestrian and cycleways for the young and old are currently non-existent. Opening up our rail corridor will be a boon to local communities. With the edvent of inexpensive electric cycles and charging stations, trips between towns and villages will increasingly become a realistic alternative to cars and buses.

    The latest attempt by those still dreaming of trains is a claim that a private tourist train between Bangalow and Billinudgel is a commercially viable alternative. It is proposed that the operator will charge locals an affordable fee to commute, after having spent $millions upgrading the track to a safe standard! Any honest informed assessment of this idea will quickly conclude that it is even more fanciful than a government funded public rail service. Yet this proposal is currently being used to stymie any cooperation with neighbouring Council’s who are actively pursuing funding for trails on their sections of the rail corridor.

    Its time to write to your local Councillors and demand their full and immediate support for walking and cycle ways in our rail corridor.

  15. Thank you Will, I couldn’t agree more.
    A Rail Trail is the way forward in the short to medium term. The Rail corridor used as a Rail Trail will serve the community and business well, as has been proven so many times in our neighbouring states and overseas, However above all else, used as a Rail Trail it serves as Rail Bank and retains the land in public ownership for what ever the future may hold.
    Do nothing and it will be sold off…. Use it or Lose it!

  16. I have traveled to NZ twice, specifically to ride on a rail trail and another bike trail. I am traveling to Victoria this year to cycle trails there. Each trip I stay in paid housing, I eat out most of the time, I shop, and I look after the environment I’m in – a better tourist could not be found!

  17. The only way for the train to become viable is for the private motor vehicle to be banned/substantially reduced and this is unlikely to happen any time some. Why not convert to a rail trail and preserve the rail corridor and if it is ever needed for trains again it will be available.

  18. Thank you Will, it’s a rare and beautiful thing to read an article that correctly sums up the data and makes sense of a divisive issue. Our roads are made for cars, no cycle tracks. Our government has and is spending money on highways not rail. They won’t change because the economic argument doesn’t support trains. Electric vehicles are now a reality to use on those roads. When charged by the sun they burn no fossil fuels. Local Rail line routes are no longer viable for trains. We all need to use them for bikes. For enjoyment of this beautiful place, to get fit, to socialise, to create an asset that will attract the right sort of tourist to our area. We need families who want to enjoy the outdoors and the rail trail is perfect for that

  19. Yes, let’s get it happening. We waste so much time debating systems that have not proven the test of time and should instead move forward.

    • Yes, Judy, on trains for comfort especially & convenience. The following I add:
      Inquiry hears North Coast rail line must reopen
      Chris Calcino | 11th Aug 2016
      A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry has heard the Murwillumbah-Casino rail line must be reopened to offset the North Coast’s regional transport disadvantage.
      Robin Spragg, a former Tweed Shire Council officer in charge of local transport for seniors, said substituting trains for a coach service in 2004 was a major backward step.
      “Many older people cannot get into coaches, and once in they cannot move around, stretch their legs, get to a toilet or to a buffet,” she said.
      “The coaches were sold as serving more stops en route; however these stops amount to a bus stop, without the services, information, safety and comfort that comes from a railway station.
      “The patronage of the services immediately declined.
      Milton Trott argued the rail closure had been a failed experiment in penny-pinching, and the time was right for the government to make amends.
      “I can see Casino becoming a rail transport hub for passenger rail. It’s already becoming a freight hub,” Mr Trott said.
      “There is room near the intersection of the Sydney-Brisbane line where it meets the branch line to build the necessary infrastructure to stable rolling stock for a localised railcar service.
      “At the other end at Murwillumbah, the same can be constructed there.
      “Not only will this enterprise call for local employees to staff the passenger rail service, it will provide a raft of allied hospitality business opportunities for the towns.” Jillian

  20. I agree entirely with Will Jeffery’s comment “Without the rail trail we will remain locked out of our own countryside forever.” When I look down through a former rail line, now all blocked with trees and lantana and weeds, I can’t help thinking what a great resource is being wasted!

  21. Either the anti rail trail group have finally seen the light and stopped wasting their time protesting or they haven’t seen this story yet. I really don’t think either has happened yet.
    Branch lines in NSW were built mainly to service the countryside where produce was grown before road motor transport became viable. Most branch lines never returned a cent (or a penny in the old money) on their investment, they were simply a service subsidised by everyone through taxes.
    In the late 1950’s the Hire Purchase legislation came into force opening up ownership of cars and lorries to the general population and that signalled the demise of the railways. By 1974 many branch lines had closed, the only ones remaining being a handful of grain lines servicing silos and even most of them have now closed, being victims of large capacity trucks and on farm storage.
    The sad but true fact is Rail may never be viable on these tracks ever again, especially as they were built mainly in the 1920’s and had capacity for small locomotives and small trucks.
    In the meantime, huge tourism benefits attributable to linear recreation reserves that can carry cyclists, walkers, runners, wheelchairs and mobility scooters are being lost to interstate and overseas tourism operators.

  22. I totally agree with you Will, and thank you for clarifying the issue. It’s clear that the return of a train system would be absolutely unviable. It was unviable when it was shut down and nothing has changed, if anything less people would use it now, in my opinion. So why don’t we do something positive for our region by boosting tourism and jobs with a rail trail. It supports healthy lifestyle, appreciation of our beautiful surrounds, and brings people together.

    • Fiona, Will has not clarified the issues at all. The C-M train service did run at a profit actually. The ARUP RT Final Report said the RT … potentially strong benefits for the community & that the project is likely to be viable.
      RLB Rider Levett Bucknall ESTIMATE REPORT: Introduction RLB were engaged by Arup Pty Ltd, to prepare an estimate in conjunction with their rail trail feasibility study for Dept of Premier & Cabinet.
      The estimate was based on maps & route lines prepared by Arup. Arup provided the number & approx. length of bridges & tunnels. The estimate was based on the existing line from Casino to Mur-bah. Arup had prepared a Condition Assessment by visiting the line where possible & travelling over the line.
      Preparation of the Estimate: The estimate is a desktop study only. RLB have not visited the site to look at the issues relating to converting existing track to Rail Trail.
      The pricing was prepared based on historical information obtained by RLB over the years working on rail projects & referenced similar rail trail & bikeway schemes.
      Assumption and Exclusions, Notes & Assumptions:We have not allowed for – (section read a lot of expenses were not allowed for.js).
      P57 ARUP: the rail corridor may be needed for future connection with South East Qld. Transport Min at the time: Min Gladys Berejiklian was not sure about removing rail tracks as the corridor may be needed in the future (from the Min speech at the C-M RT launch at Parliament House Sydney), The Hon Duncan Gay said in parliament rail lines would not be ripped up when challenged by The Hon Linda Voltz, Don Page’s Parliamentary Speech 2004 against the sudden closure of our rail service – Approx 133,000 people use this service; no train affects elderly & disabled, 3,000 extra bus movements a yr on local roads – more danger, higher maintenance cost for roads, Countrylink job losses, travel centre closures, more greenhouse gases, the far north coast is rapidly growing, we need more not fewer trains, commuter services, tourist trains, to connect into Qld, 2003 saw an average of 365 passengers everyday – not the 180 that the Min Mr Costa claimed when he announced the rail service would close.
      MP Mr Thomas George – for trains, MP Mr Greg Aplin – We must avoid all the passengers to move onto coaches & private vehicles. Committee Chair of Inquiry Closure of Mur-bah Rail Services 2004: poor scheduling, coach service is unsuitable for use by the transport disadvantaged particularly the old & infirm, is less safe, an adverse impact on the region’s roads & environment, an adverse impact on some businesses, Price Waterhouse Coopers found a lower cost commuter service on the C-M line would be viable & the Committee supports this – daily service for intra-regional travel with connection at Casino to the XPT. The Committee recommends that the NSW Gov accept the Commonwealth Gov offer of funding & believes the Gov should be willing to redirect savings from the AU RAIL TRACK CORP AGREEMENT to the C-M line & into South East Queensland given the increasing population & tourism of the Northern Rivers region.
      Destination Tweed & Destination Byron confirmed the population & tourism numbers continue to increase as stated in 2015, 2016,2017.
      The City of Tweed is declared – 2nd March 2016 Tweed Daily News by Alina Rylko at Cabarita Headland as the fastest growing region in NSW outside of Sydney.
      2016,2017 Chambers unite to bring rail to Coolangatta. Commonwealth Games Qld/Gold Coast 2018, new Southern Cross University at Tweed City, new housing, 2016 July bid for Olympic Games for SEQ.

      Mr Tim Fischer, Australia’s best known railway enthusiast & Patron of Rail Trails NSW gave his support for the return of train services to the Northern Rivers. I quote: “Rail trails are great in many ways & certainly boost cross pollination of ideas & linkages but better still in NE NSW, shuttle modern light rail between Casino & Byron Bay and Mur-bah makes great sense & I believe essential to core transport fabric of an increasingly congested part of NSW, adjoining as it does the Gold Coast.” Tim Fischer – Former Deputy Prime Minister.
      Jillian Spring

  23. Thanks Will for a great letter full of factual information. Yes this minor but vocal minority has achieved absolutely nothing in 13 years. It really is time for them to step aside and let something positive come from the corridor before it is lost forever. It is encouraging to see so many comments from those in favor of a rail trail to Will’s letter. I look forward to riding this rail trail very soon!

  24. Well what a lot of BS here! apparently the pro-rail comments are not being published so lets see if this one does!
    I can’t believe I’m having to defend my support for Toot here, to someone from Nimbin, but here goes. I’m sure someone will try to use my words against me but hopefully people will read my story and understand.
    First, I stopped promoting my online rail petition after I found out it was inadmissible in Parliament and collected paper signatures instead. The online petition was called “Support the Casino to Murwillumbah Train Service with Trails”and then edited to “Support the Casino to Murwillumbah Train Service” VERY EARLY ON, NOT after a lot of people had signed it… And the petition description still includes bike paths – “Integrate rail shuttle services with local bus services and bike paths”, and “rail trails work much better when integrated with a train service, especially through our terrain and dispersed towns.”
    Every time Toot have collected signatures or had a stall we have had overwhelming support from locals. We collected thousands of signatures and handed them to Tamara Smith. It was not tabled in Parliament as Will says…(not true). Louise wrote a great letter about this – https://www.echo.net.au/2017/03/commuter-rail-coolangatta-must/
    From talking to people in the community and at markets etc, the Rail Trail group has gathered most of their support by telling people that they are ‘saving the tracks for trains’ which is simply not true. Ripping up the tracks might be their idea of saving the corridor, but it does not save it for trains as they say. Toot has explained over and over again that the corridor is protected by the Transport Administration Act and the rail trail group would need an Act of Parliament to remove the tracks. If they put the trail beside the tracks there would be no need for an Act and they could have it tomorrow, but their campaign is about removing the tracks and therefor removing future trains.
    As for the Toot website, the original one did go down a while ago. I didn’t find out until a journo rang me up and caught me off guard about it. When he asked me who I thought would want to hack the page I said tongue in cheek and laughing maybe the RT group. Not knowing that he would publish it or that anyone would take it seriously. To think that people are still going on about that! Really sorry I said that because it wasn’t our page that was hacked, it was our provider. We didn’t know how to get the webpage back so we hired someone to make us a new one, and our group hasn’t had the time or skills to keep updating it.
    Some people might think that Toot have gone quiet lately but they don’t know. The fact is that a lot of the Toot supporters are elderly, and several of our key group members have sadly passed away in the last couple of years having spent their last precious years fighting for the cause. Toot needs new people to join the committee, but people often think that they have the time or writing skills to volunteer for something like this.
    I originally joined Toot because of the high youth road toll in the area, and years of hitchhiking around as a teenager. I wanted the youth to have safe transport and access to education, employment and housing etc. At first I petitioned for the Byron Shire Night Bus. When the Byron Night bus started and only ran to Suffolk and Sunrise, and the private buses increased their services in Byron but not the rest of the Shire, this fueled me to join Toot for a more regional solution.
    I have even gone quiet on Toot lately for my own reasons, because I have just giving birth to twins and have been in hospital for the last month which is why I have only just seen this letter. The last few months has given me even more perspective on public transport in our region. Since the new Byron Hospital is so under equipped and doesn’t cater to twin births, I had all of my care at the Gold Coast University hospital. Yes the new one right next to the Gold Coast Light Rail. Every fortnight and sometimes every week my mum would drive me to my appointments there. She came from Coraki to pick me up in Mullumbimby and take me to the GCUH everytime, about a 3hr drive each way for her. After they were born we went to Brisbane Mater, and then spent the last part of the month at Tweed Heads hospital until we could go home. I saw a lot of Byron Shire faces at the Tweed hospital, because Byron Hospital still sends everyone to Tweed. Most people already know that Public transport between Tweed Hospital and Byron Shire is pretty bad, the Sunstate buses only go as far south as Pottsville or Murwillumbah.
    Now that I’m home, I wonder if I would be able to push a wide double pram onto these local buses here, I doubt it. The Byron Bay Railroad Co has assured me that I can take a double pram onto their train though so we’ll see about that. I can’t wait for the service to start running, I wish other people could be as patient too. Even getting 3km restored after nearly 13 years is a real achievement and it’s more than the Rail Trail group have done.

    • I’m glad Angie managed to get through with her comments.

      I’d like to add about how it’s left to the most affected in the community to respond to railtrailers who are only interested in their own health and well-being and access to the environment, or the money they can make from tourists.

      I’d like to know how the railtrailers are going to get around if they can’t drive? This is the main point of why the community must fight for equitable transport throughout the region.

      21st century residents require real regional public transport that can get people from all sections of the region, and into neighbouring regions such as South East, not just 3 shopping buses per week from Woodenbong to Kyogle.

      Thousands of people access Lismore from even outside the local area, not just from Nimbin where people have to pay $9 on the short bus from Lismore to get home from work.

      We need an affordable system that integrates road services to rail, so even Will Jeffery could get to Byron by transferring from the Nimbin bus [that goes past the station at South Lismore.]

      Many people such as myself cannot attend TAFE, SCU or many parts of the region by existing bus services, no matter how many times some people will keep asserting that there are services- they will not get people equitably across the region.

      Bus drivers acknowledge this. A Lismore taxi driver said to me that a group of people could go with a severely disabled person in a maxi cab to get the his maxi cab at half-fare. Besides being a difficult and still costly affair for regular commuting, it places the disabled pensioner at risk for misude of their entitlement.

      In short, the living cannot ever give up the fight to proper public transport. It is an essential, and large part of attaining proper wellbeing for everyone in the community.

    • I’m glad Angie managed to get through with her comments.

      I’d like to add about how it’s left to the most affected in the community to respond to railtrailers who are only interested in their own health and well-being and access to the environment, or the money they can make from tourists.

      I’d like to know how the railtrailers are going to get around if they can’t drive? This is the main point of why the community must fight for equitable transport throughout the region.

      21st century residents require real regional public transport that can get people from all sections of the region, and into neighbouring regions such as South East Queensland, not just 3 shopping buses per week from Woodenbong to Kyogle.

      Thousands of people access Lismore from even outside the local area, not just from Nimbin where people have to pay $9 on the short bus from Lismore to get home from work.

      We need an affordable system that integrates road services to rail, so even Will Jeffery could get to Byron by transferring from the Nimbin bus [that goes past the station at South Lismore.]

      Many people, such as myself, cannot attend TAFE, SCU or many parts of the region by existing bus services, no matter how many times some people will keep asserting that there are services- they will not get people equitably across the region.

      Bus drivers acknowledge this. A Lismore taxi driver said to me that a group of people could go with a severely disabled person in a maxi cab to get the his maxi cab at half-fare. Besides being a difficult and still costly affair for regular commuting, it places the disabled pensioner at risk for misuse of their entitlement.

      In short, the living cannot ever give up the fight to proper public transport. It is an essential, and large part of attaining proper wellbeing for everyone in the community.

  25. I don’t get why all these rail trail supporters are bagging Toot when Toot has been so quiet lately, if they are so confident then what are they worried about?? And if the rail trail is supposed to be to save the corridor for trains as they have tokd everyone, then why are they always against rail projects like Byron Bay Railroad Co, Friends of the Byron Line and Toot,? Its not right….

      • Having 3km restored at no cost to the community is not nothing. Toot is patiently waiting for this service to start. Why would Toot give up now when we have a service starting this year, and we have the support of the Byron Mayor and council and friends of the Byron line. You guys are crazy.
        The reason why Toot ‘has been quiet lately’ is because I just give birth to twins 6 weeks ago and we have been in hospital for a month. I really don’t have time for these ridiculous conversations any more.

    • Does this mean TOOT has finally conceded that trains won’t be coming back? Seems like TOOT has finally run out of steam. Now the corridor can be persevered and used by the public.

  26. Once again, false facts are being presented by those in favour of a rail trail. I personally am for the resumption in rail services. There are opportunities for freight, as well as passengers, as has been seen in numerous parts of the country. Look at the investment Victoria is putting into returning rail services, whether it be passenger or freight.

    Before the end of rail services, the preferred mode of travel for students of Southern Cross University to get to Lismore to start studying, was by rail. After the rail service ended, there was a significant decrease in enrolments from students in other parts of NSW. Lismore is the only town in NSW with a major university campus, that does not have a rail service.

    Speaking from my own experience, I studied at Southern Cross University in the 1990’s, and returned several times for holidays. I have not been back since the rail service ended. Why? Too difficult for me to get there now. I may be one person, but the removal of the rail service caused a decreases in tourism dollars.

    People make mention of the Otago Rail trail, and the goldfields one. Sure, they may be successes. But what about all of the rail trails that have failed? Do you want to talk about them? 4 out of every 5 rail trails or bike paths that are built to cater for the cycling community, fail within five years. The trail starts off as a success, businesses open up, everyone declares it great for tourism. When ridership drops, businesses close up. The businesses close, less riders ride the trail, and then it becomes a glorified path used by maybe 50 riders a week, if that, and most of them locals, so where are the tourism dollars? Whereas with a rail service, more tourists have the ability to come to the area, even ones with bikes.

    To the people who want the rail trail. Regardless of costs, which would you prefer…a rail trail, a rail service, or both? Answer that for me. If someone (private enterprise, government, whoever) said that they will pay to restore the rail service, they will pay to build a rail trail, or they will pay for both to be built, which option would you choose? There will be no cost to you whatsoever. And what would be the reason behind your choice? Remember, costs are not an excuse for this question. And if you chose the return of rail (which, by the way, patronage was actually increasing in the months before removal), why haven’t you fought as hard as people like TOOTS (who I have no affiliation with) to get the service back?

    • You continue to refer to 4 out of every 5 rail trails or bike paths that are built to cater for the cycling community, failing within five years.but do provide any reference the source. Was that in the US? Where were the paths located? What was the criteria that defines failure? Without knowing what you are referring to it is difficult to give any credibility to such a sweeping statement, and it certainly should not enter into any consideration of this rail trail, which is backed up by a well researched Feasibility Study that I should also note has been referenced in the definitive recent academic work on cycling in Australia, Bonham and Johnson’s Cycling Futures (https://www.adelaide.edu.au/press/titles/cycling-futures/cycling-futures-ebook.pdf). I also do not find credible the suggestion that the removal of the rail has led to a decline in university attendance or tourism since its closure. The area can be reached much more quickly and cheaply than in 2004 by public transport because of the growth of low cost air services that do not need any public subsidy. What the area does need is better bus linkages with the public transport hubs in Ballina and Coolangatta, both of which are not of course on the rail corridor.

      • A couple of comments, if I may.

        The feasibility study was flawed. Do some research, you will find many references to it being flawed.

        I never said that there was a decrease in enrolments at Southern Cross…I said “After the rail service ended, there was a significant decrease in enrolments from students in other parts of NSW”. There were still enrolments happening from local students, international students, Queensland students…just a decrease from other parts of NSW.

        Better bus connections with Ballina and Coolangatta? Coolangatta, you could make an argument for…but Ballina? How many services operate between Lismore and Ballina every day already? How packed are those services? Do they operate at the times that locals need them to run? Has there ever been a decrease in services, because of a lack of patronage?

        The area can be reached much more quickly and cheaply through low cost air services. The cheapest return airfare between Sydney and Lismore that I was able to find between now and the end of April, according to the website for REX, is $298. While it may be quicker than the XPT, you don’t get to see any of the beautiful scenery along the way, something that the rail trail supporters are pushing for the reasons behind wanting a rail trail. And by the time you get to Sydney airport, check-in, go through security, board your plane, fly to Lismore, get off the plane, get your luggage, and get a taxi into the Lismore CBD, all the running around could have been spent relaxing on a train, looking at the scenery, reading a book, watching a movie etc. Similar situation if you were to fly To Ballina instead, $238. But what if you were travelling from Coffs Harbour? Taree? Maitland? Kempsey? How do you fly at cheaper fares from those places to Lismore? You don’t…you would have to catch a train, then a coach…your assumption is that visitors to the Northern Rivers region must fly from Sydney. If I was to catch a plane from Taree to Lismore, I would need to fly from Taree to Sydney, then Sydney to Lismore, and despite it taking most of the day, would end up costing me over $1,000. Wouldn’t it be easier to just jump on a train? Much cheaper too.

        The comments I made about rail trails and bike paths failing, is in terms of overall economic benefit to the community from number of uses of the trail or bike path. If you have a lot of uses, it is viable. If you have no-one or very few uses, it is not viable. Thus, if a rail trail or bike path suffers an irreversible downturn in usage, it would be classed as failing. You could have a thousand cyclists use a rail trail or bike path, but if they only ride once a year, that is only 1,000 uses of the path. Not many businesses would be viable along the path. There would be a negligible effect on the local economy. Also, if most of the uses happen to be from local residents, the dollars that they may spend along the path or trail, are dollars that would have been spent elsewhere in the local community, thus having no overall effect on the local economy to begin with. But if you had 1,000 cyclists, who use the path on average five times a year, the total uses would increase to 5,000. It doesn’t matter how many people want the rail trail, it is more about how often they would actually use it, and how much of it they would actually use.

        Finally, I asked this before, and you chose to ignore this section of the post Petrus, so I will ask it again.

        “To the people who want the rail trail. Regardless of costs, which would you prefer…a rail trail, a rail service, or both? Answer that for me. If someone (private enterprise, government, whoever) said that they will pay to restore the rail service, they will pay to build a rail trail, or they will pay for both to be built, which option would you choose? There will be no cost to you whatsoever. And what would be the reason behind your choice? Remember, costs are not an excuse for this question. And if you chose the return of rail (which, by the way, patronage was actually increasing in the months before removal, and as documents mentioned in this thread have proven, was viable), why haven’t you fought as hard as people like TOOTS (who I have no affiliation with) to get the service back?”

        • Robert I am not aware of any credible references to the feasibility study for the rail trail being flawed. Can you either please provide those references. I have a lot of experience reviewing such documents – the rail trail one is sound in its TORs and their are no apparent flaws in the usage and cost benefits analyses. It addresses the issues of numbers of users and the impact on local tourist business. I remain unaware of of any evidence that suggest rail trail use is likely to decline over time – that would run contrary to general trends of of road cycle infrastructure.
          In respect of intra-NSW travel The area can be reached much more quickly and more cheaply through low cost air services, than the the unsubsidised cost of rail services to Sydney. Other areas in NSW are accessible by bus services which are much cheaper than the unsubsidised cost of proving rail. Much of the attraction of regional train services was that they were cheap to the users, particularity those on concessions. If those subsidies were applied to better timetabled bus services NSW wold be able to provide a much better service to all of its transport deprived residents, including its uni students. In respect of services between Ballina and the Bay the private sector has stepped in because government and councils have failed to provide the sort of services people want (as an aside in the 1960s Byron Bay parents through Mullum High P & C lobbied to replace the slow and poorly timetabled train service from the Bay to Mullum with buses).
          You ask relevant questions in respect of other bus services in the area and they are timetabling questions, which the surveys show are the main restraints to take up of public transport – not the lack of a train.
          The issues around bus connections with Ballina and Coolangatta, and routes around the region generally, are are well described in the NR and Tweed transport plans. Those that would prefer their area to be served by an expensive train service choose to dismiss, or more commonly ignore, those reports – but they are readable reports on the subject, that make common sense and their conclusion stands – they do not argue for reinstating train services nor for extending them from QLD in the short to medium term.

          I chose to ignore the final questions that you posed because they were hypothetical and not productive in answering the the questions at hand. I managed our overseas aid program in Nauru where in its wealthy heyday public spending decisions were made regardless of cost and without reference to sound budgeting and contracting principles and without seeking advice from qualified opinion – it ended up a mendicant state with the highest per capita debt, and a breakdown of most public services. Australian governments are not perfect but they do not prioritize needs and spending in that way. The rail trail is a bid for tourist spending based on a sound feasibility study, that will also deliver a recreational facility to residents. The train is a means of providing public transport which would be paid for from a completely different spending envelope and it is a need that can be better provided by spending those transport monies on improved bus services. I want to have both good tourist and recreational facilities and good public transport. Both are possible if we lobby our governments and councils to follow the sound advice available on these issues, advice which is consistent with similar spends in other areas. Neither is possible if we waste our lobbying capacity arguing for an expensive subsidized rail service to serve a noisy minority of potential users. Why would I lobby for the train service when I am concerned about better public transport for all resident in the region and in NSW? Why would I not lobby for a rail trail when it promises good value to the local economy and a recreational facility available to any of its popualtion who chooses to ride a bike, or even walk or scoot on it.

  27. I think it’s really disgusting that echonet is not publishing the pro rail comments here. I know several people have tried to comment including myself and they’re not being shown. Its one thing to publish rubbish letters full of misinformation like this, and accuse toot of unethical behavior, but censoring our comments us even worse. The creators of this paper would be disgusted

    • Hi Angie, We are fortunate to have the children of both Echo founders Nicholas Shand and David Lovejoy working at the Echo. Hans Lovejoy is the editor of the paper edition, and Aslan Shand has recently joined us as an online journalist. Far from being ‘disgusted’, both David, myself and Echo founder Jeff Dawson (who is both a current director and our photographer) and pleased to say that they enjoy our full support in what is sometimes not an easy job. Angie, you have had 70 comments approved solely on this very site, in addition to any comments you have made on our Facebook page and your letters to the editor that have either been published online or in the printed paper. Our printed newspaper letters editor, Michael McDonald, has also been with The Echo almost since its inception, so I don’t think you’ll find a change of commitment there. Just to explain the process of comment approval, The Echo’s online journalists have to physically log on to this site and approve all comments, which they do as part of their normal duties. There are normally two rostered on per day; one works 7-3, and the other 9-5. Sometimes, if they are researching and writing stories, posting the stories to FB and Twitter, responding to readers or just watching flies, there might be a delay in approving comments. However, after a couple of hours, one or both of the journalists will look at the comments and, provided they are not offensive, defamatory etc, approve them. Unfortunately, online people seem to feel freer than face-to-face to make unpleasant comments, so some comments aren’t approved. If a point is being made, the journalists might even amend a comment, to remove an offensive or defamatory remark if they notice it, in order for the person making the comment to be able to get their main point across. As the general manager, sometimes a comment will be referred to me for approval if there is a question about whether it is defamatory. I take great care to try to publish as much of such comments as possible, sometimes rewording them to remove the legally problematical material. Although extremely long comments are discouraged as they overwhelm the space. I know that it’s tiresome to read what you call ‘rubbish letters full of misinformation’, but The Echo welcomes comments and letters, even those that we think are really silly are normally published, because we are very committed to allowing people to have a voice, especially if their opinions are expressed in a respectful and constructive way. There is often a difference of opinion within The Echo staff on all sorts of issues, although of course the editors are the people who are responsible for the final editorial direction. Echo editors are given great discretion and freedom by management, unlike some other organisations where advertisers call the shots. We believe the community suffers when the editorial department constantly live in fear of offending commercial interests. In addition, our advertisers include most businesses in the shire, and there is a huge difference of opinion within our advertisers on many issues. There is no way that this is Echo policy to refuse to publish or approve a letter or comment merely because it supports the rail trail, which is a very popular plan with a long history of support. Of course like any proposal it has its critics and detractors, including those who don’t support rail trails solely because they are worried it will prevent the return of trains, or this who want some other use of the rail corridor. You will also find their comments in the Echo online and in the paper. Despite my explanation to you, it’s alway possible that something has gone wrong, and a comment that meets our editorial guidelines is sitting there unapproved. I would be both extremely surprised, and disappointed if that was deliberate. If you would like to draw my attention to a particular comment, or discuss this further, please email me at [email protected] and I will look into that. Kind regards, Simon Haslam General Manager.

      • To Simon Haslam,

        Thank you for your response. It may not be obvious, but as my e-name suggests I am distressed [continually] or stressed and this affects my health which has life-threatening conditions attached to it. So, I’m fighting for the many people affected and who have already died waiting for rail services.

        It’s not about nostalgia for an old XPT, and I get annoyed with both ‘sides’ who refer to ‘bring the trains back’. I also get annoyed at the prospect of ‘keeping the tracks for the future’, as some railtrail proponents have used to say they are ‘protecting’ the railway corridor.

        As a person with disabilities that severely limit my time per day in doing all that I wish to do [just as Angie is limited looking after twins- there isn’t really the time to write these comments], I can have difficulties in even writing this.

        I’m so aggrieved by the transport situation that I have even more stress going back to school, travelling at a distance to do civil engineering, [I will be at retirement age if I can complete it.] to get the Northern Rivers into the 21st century. [I’m very behind in my chemistry assignment.]

        We, [the people] have so many obstacles, with our political system getting us to write to NSW state government enquiries into our transport, and not responding, and expensive, biased studies that students would be better doing, we will tend to be defensive about not getting a fare and democratic say in the things that affect us.

        I understand free speech well, and see that the Echonet Daily has been quite fair in representing a balance of [able] public opinions, in comparison with some newspapers.

        Today’s students and youth must be concerned with other matters, or just have given up [depressed with politics in general], or ignorant about public transport to not engage in our discussion on transport. Both railtrailers and protransport groups seem to be centred in their 50s or older, except for some younger cyclists who are yet unexperienced with all the various elements in our community.

        Would it be possible that a representitive from the ‘disabled community’ get to have a page/article, instead of an able-bodied or ‘influential’ member of the community. There is no real advocacy for people in the community from groups employed by the government. When I asked a group in Lismore about advocacy, I was replied with “We have NRRAG” for that.

        Anyway, it can be reasonably understood that after 27 pro-railtrail comments, many would wonder where were the railway supporters. We are just getting tired of the idea that we don’t exist, and it is a stress to have to battle against people with time and ability to compete for their own benefit, iinstead of bringing this public asset to its proper whole-community use.

      • Thanks for replying and finally publishing the comments. The delay in approving comments was several days, not hours, and was certainly presenting a one sided argument. I can’t help bit think that the comments were only published because of the complaints made by mysejf and others.
        I don’t consider this letter ‘rubbish’ because it is about rail trails, its because most of it’s points are totally incorrect and are meant to defame rail groups(which you say isn’t allowed) who volunteer for the community. Too much misinformation has been printed in the media about this issue.

  28. All comments that are in support of rail services are being ignored, and not being published. I have already contacted around 20% of advertisers and gotten firm commitments to pull advertising support, unless comments supporting rail get published as well. And some of those advertisers are pro rail trail advertisers..,they are upset by the lack of a free and open discussion on the matter

    • Really, now who is desperate? Intimidating the media with threats of retaliation? That reminds my of the early days of the Plan B Campaign when TOOT accused me of taking money in a brown paper bag and also accused me of being a Labour Party stooge. One TOOT supporter went as far as to say, “yes I condemn you Will Jeffery and I know who you are”. Where exactly do you stand on free speech? Is it only free speech if it agrees with you?

      Wow it is hypocracy off the scale, on one hand are you trying to intimidate just like the TOOT of old, on the other hand you are trying to play the victim, wow, really?

      • Sometimes, you have to resort to methods you are not proud of, to get things done.

        The fact that numerous people were complaining that their posts were not being approved for publication, despite there being nothing wrong with them, and with no feedback at the time from the editors of the Echo, meant that something had to be done.

        The continual remarks by yourself, Damon Mitchell, and John H about TOOT or the supporters of rail being quiet on the matter…were we quiet? No. Were our comments not being published? Not at the time. And now, our comments are being published. Not all of them, for whatever reason, but most of them. And the editors of Echo have explained their reasons, which are fair. So are we still being quiet? Of course not.

          • So Will, answer me this. If someone was to present a proposal to the community tomorrow, to re-open the rail line. A fully costed proposal, inclusive of everything needed to get things up and running again. An accurate projection of revenue from the service. All rolling stock, staffing requirements, ticketing etc all accounted for. A true representation of the economic benefits to the local economy, which would be more than what a rail trail could achieve. If someone was able to do all of that, and have the ability to have the service up and running within a couple of years, would you support the return of the rail service? Forget about your belief that it is never going to happen. If someone was able to present such a proposal…would you support it?

          • Pamla, I reply here because there is no reply button below your letter. You ask me a hypothetical question about supporting the train despite all the expert opinion that has ever been cast on this subject? Apparently we are expected to accept that people with absolutely no educational background or experience in global public infrastructure projects, somehow know better. “A fully costed proposal”,” A true representation of the economic benefits”? Who was contracted to produce such data, what did it cost? Sorry Pamla you are clearly, totally lost in a fantasy.

  29. Will Jefferies may get a whole page to write his self-centred elitist poison against the public’s real needs for modern public transport, as the greater majority are not getting heard.

    These elite cyclists care nothing that people with medical conditions are forced to drive through a ‘Dreamworld disaster’ of carnage and injury on the Northern Rivers roads, or people who can’t drive just stay at home without access to tertiary study, the region’s amenities or the environment.

    Tourists and visitors too wonder why is so difficult to get around the area, while expensive minibus services take advantage of this. The competing private bus services cannot get people through the region to the coast and return home from areas such as Kyogle, Casino and Grafton.

    Fares for Sydney’s public transport system only cover 22% of their running costs, so why is it expected to be as a profitable private business in the Northern Rivers? The often near empty buses here are extremely subsidised.

    People are tiring of corrupted politicians who bend toward large corporations or narrow elitist groups with selfish interests, or have no connection or concern for the majority of people in the region.

    Let’s move into the 21st century; Australia, NSW, and particularly the Northern Rivers has to stop going backwards.

    • Why would you describe Wil’s opinion as elite? Bikes are used by men and women of all social backgrounds aged between 8 and 88. I have ridden in Canberra with blind people on the back of tandems and a young man unable to walk ( on a recumbent trike).. A bicycle perfectly capable of riding along the proposed rail trail costs about $100 – less than the subsidized cost of a return train journey from Casino to Murwillumbah . If anyone in our community cannot afford a bike then our councils and welfare agencies might like to think about ways to help fiance the purchase. The recurrent cost of a bike is also very modest compared with cars or trains. The main restraint to greater take up of cycles is the lack of safe places to ride them, since we allowed the roads built for them to be taken over by cars. A rail trail will go part of the way to addressing that problem and as is outlined in the feasibility study will attract large numbers of cyclists of all ages, and I have no doubt too, of different socio-economic backgrounds..

      • Petrus,

        Most people of low income cannot afford a bicycle. Most pensioners cannot afford a bicycle. Most people on a disability pension cannot afford a bicycle. Most of these people barely have enough money to cover their ever increasing utilities bills, their ever increasing telephone bills, the extra cost of internet bills (since everything seems to be online these days), their ever increasing rents, their ever increasing insurance bills, and if they are lucky, their ever increasing costs of running a car. Where do you expect them to find the extra cost of a bicycle. And remember, there is more than just the $100 cost of a bicycle…there is the cost of a suitable helmet, and safety/security gear. So your $100 has gone up to nearly $130 just like that.

        How do you expect most people to get to the rail trail to begin with? Drive a car…where you would then have the added cost of bike rack.

        Here is the total cost of everything needed, from the cheapest suppliers I could find.

        66cm (26 inch) Tourex Bike for $99 from K-Mart
        Devon Helmet – Large, Assorted for $7 from K-Mart
        Handlebar Bike Light – Red for $5 from K-Mart (for riding in poorly lit areas)
        Bike Lock – Red for $10 from K-Mart
        Fingerless Cycling Gloves for $10 from K-Mart
        Thule Freeride 17kg rated bike rack for $185 from roofracksuperstore.com.au

        Total…$316 for what you said would be $100. And that doesn’t include any repair kits or spare tubes or anything like that. And this is for one person.

        You also stated that a return Casino to Murwillumbah train journey would be more than $100. According to the NSW Trainlink website, the current cost of a return fare between Casino and Murwillumbah on the coach (and this fare would be exactly the same as if a train service is operational) is $37.12. That is for a full adult economy fare. Where did you get the $100 from I would like to know.

        If anyone in the community cannot afford a bicycle, then councils and welfare agencies should look at ways to help finance the purchase. Ok, lets look at this statement. The cycling enthusiasts seem to want everything…a rail trail to be built, use of a rail trail for free, and for councils and welfare groups to help pay for the cost of bicycles for those unable to pay for them. How about the cyclists dip into their own pockets and contribute…pay for the use of the trail, and those funds could then be used to finance bicycles for the less fortunate. And sure, increase tourism dollars may result from a rail trail, but ten times more tourism dollars would result from a return of rail services. Where is the better overall benefit?

        It is cycling enthusiasts that are pushing for a rail trail. It is the general public pushing for a return of rail services. The general public (and yes, to some extent, the cycling enthusiasts) would pay for the rail service through taxes and levies and such, and then continue to pay for it through the purchase of tickets to ride the train. Will the cycling enthusiasts pay for the construction of the rail trail, or leave it to the government to build. Once built, will the cycling enthusiasts pay to use the rail trail, or expect to use it for free? I know that if my tax dollars were going towards something that is meant to be for everyone, but is something that most people would never use, I would want those people using it to have to pay for it. Think of it like this…the rail trail gets built, cyclists get to use it for free, general community gets no benefit. The rail service returns, then if cyclists get to ride their rail trail for free, then the rail service should be free as well, and the general community would get no benefit due to the reduction in other services to pay for the rail line.

        And please stop referring to the feasibility study. It has already been proven, time and again, to be flawed. Numerous articles have been published to show how flawed it is. People both for a rail trail, and against a rail trail, have shown it is flawed. Even comments in this very thread show it is flawed. So please don’t refer to it, when it is flawed.

        I agree with the comment about safe places for people to ride their bicycles. That is why, like a lot of people, we suggest a bike path next to the rail line. The greater community gets a return of rail services that are so sorely needed, and the cycling enthusiasts get the rail trail they want.

        Finally, please tell me this. Who would ride the entire rail line if it was converted into a rail trail? Maybe an option could even be to return the rail service to the two most important tourism and business centres on the rail line…Lismore and Byron Bay. And the rest of the line from Byron Bay to Murwillumbah gets turned into a rail trail? Tourists still come to the area, and you still get a rail trail.

        The people who support the return of rail services come up with options. They come up with compromises. They are not against a rail trail as such, and even propose ideas to incorporate a return of rail services AND the creation of a rail trail. Yet the people who support the creation of a rail trail…it is a rail trail, or nothing.

        • Pamla, that last line “Yet the people who support the creation of a rail trail…it is a rail trail, or nothing” is a marvelous example of decoding a message with a bias that suits your own agenda. This has been a technique used frequently in comments by train supporters throughout all the years of the rail trail campaign. The majority has accepted that the train is not coming back, it is indeed a rail trail or absolutely nothing. No train, no rail trail, just nothing!

        • Pamla I find it hard to believe that anyone would seriously suggest that the poor, including pensioners, cannot afford a bicycle. Leave out the expensive Thule bike rack and the estimate you provided simply confirm my point (and have you never used op shops or Gumtree?). . Once bought the bike will generate continuing saving in transport costs, and over time, benefits in reduced personal health costs – those benefits accrue to the individual but there are large public savings in longer term physical and mental health, pollution and road infrastructure costs that flow form increased use of cycles.. That is why I suggest that if cost is a deterrent than why are not propose means of financing cycles to those who need them. The reality is that Australia is awash with cycles that are underused because of poor infrastructure. The cost to the user of a fare from Casino to Murbah is already subsidised; the full cost of providing train services in NSW is in higher than providing coach services. The exact cost of providing a rail service in 2017 is hypothetical but for existing commuter rail services, which is what most are proposing, the subsidy in NSW is around five times. Whatever the exact amount why should the people of NSW be subsidisng a public transport that only serves a minority of users. The questions around who pays for cycle infrastructure were answered in the late 19c. It is not practicable to use cost recovery so like most roads and all footpaths they are built out of rates and taxes – even though most raods are not used by most people, and many footpaths lie idle for much of the day. We were able to build a comprehensive road network mainly intended to serve cyclists in the late 19c but that network was co-opted by motorists. There are more cyclists now and we can afford to build a safe means for them to travel wherever they need to go. Until the number of cyclists grows towards European levels, that is best done by using existing infrastructure – making roads safer, making footpaths legal and bike friendly as is done in Japan, and strategic spending on off road infrastructure – the rail trail provides one such opportunity for the latter at relatively low cost. If necessary it could be built next to a rail line. Consistent with the Byron line proposals and with the practice for all new road infrastructure, it would be expected that the additional cost of a parallel path be added to the costing for any rail service, reflecting the opportunity cost of using the corridor for rail. You ask who would ride the length of the corridor. Well any fit adult would take two or at the most three days to ride he trail I would imagine most visitors would. Mind with the plethora of culinary temptations and other distractions on offer along the way will probably spend a a very leisurely and pleasant week – all at an estimate average of over $200 a day. Ah but you do not to believe the feasibility study do you? I ma afraid constantly repeating that the feasibility study is flawed does not make it so. Can you please provide the references that “prove” that it is.

  30. Sad really. Shows how out of touch Mr Jeffery is with the community. Mr Jeffery forgets that most supporters of rail don’t write lots and lots of comments, rather they talk within the communities.

    He has quoted studies that have been proven to be flawed, and he has completely misrepresented and spun the truth in his letter (an excellent comment above by Angie points this out)

    • In response to another letter you state “I wholeheartedly support a rail with trail option, as do many residents opposed to a trail only option.”. Why would you wholeheartedly support a proposal if you do believe it has been “proved” not to be feasible? In spite of my asking several times no supporter of the return of rail has presented any “proof” that the studies supporting the rail trail are flawed. As I have noted before I have decades of experience reviewing feasibility studies, and am well familiar with the area of the trail. No one has refuted the bases of the study in any credible way. I am sure many supporters of rail talk within their communities and toot together in agreement; I can assure you that supporters of the rail trail do too ( we ring our bells!). But when the community at large was asked what would shift them to public transport the answer was resoundingly better timetabling, not the presence of a rail service. As is outlined in PwC’s report at the time, the rail service to Casino was in decline towards the turn of the last century even before the the faster public transport by air to the region became more affordable . The population projections recently outlined in the North Coast Regional Plan would not support commuter rail services. The NSW government has shown in that Plan it is not interested in restoring and subsidising the branch line for public transport and there is no way that the ratepayers in Byron Council and other councils on the line would wear the many hundreds of dollars a year in increased rates to reinstate and pay for the recurrent costs of a service, for which there is no credible study that shows it would be used by more than a few commuters, that it would bring any significant tourist benefits to the area, or that it would make more than a token contributions to the area’s – and particularly the Bay’s – traffic problems.


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