Tweed rejects Byron move for dual use of rail corridor

By Luis Feliu

Tweed Shire Council has rejected a push by neighbouring Byron shire for multi-use of the defunct Casino-Murwillumbah rail corridor for both public transport and a walking/cycling trail.

The debate over what to do with the disused corridor has raged for years since the rail line was closed in 2004, with supporters of preserving the corridor for a future light rail link opposing plans to convert the public land into cycling or ‘rail trails’.

Tweed council has for the past year been pushing its own project for a rail trail and seeking federal funding for the $13 million project to use a section of the line from Murwillumbah station to Crabbes Creek as a cycling/walking trail as a tourist draw.

But mayor Katie Milne is opposed to the plan, wanting council to preserve the rail line rather than build over them for the trails.

At last night’s meeting she narrowly failed to gain support for council to re-consider its plan and look at building the rail trail alongside the existing rail lines and diverting the trail in sections away from the corridor where necessary.

Labor’s Cr Reece Byrnes joined conservatives Crs Warren Polglase, James Owen and Pryce Allsop in scotching her move, while the four also supported a council staff recommendation not to take up Byron council’s invitation to join in a feasibility study for multi-use of the corridor and seek government funding for it.

Tweed Council received the letter from Byron shire recently, saying Byron council had decided last December show the state government there was widespread support for multi use of the rail corridor, to push for a feasibility study and seek funding.

Byron shire’s director of infrastructure services Phil Holloway asked Tweed council to consider investigating a variety of uses for the rail corridor and join Byron in its quest.

But Tweed shire’s engineering director David Oxenham said in his report to council that the tweed was not in a position to join Byron as the proposal was ‘problematic and had the potential to compromise the entire Tweed Valley Rail Trail proposal and ‘ultimately the entire trail from Murwillumbah to Casino’.

This was because council has previously endorsed it to be used as a walking and cycling trail only and had made its recent funding submission along those lines.

Byron council plans to meet with community lobby group Friends of the Byron Line, local MPs Tamara Smith and Ben Franklin and representatives of Regional Development Australia (Northern Rivers) to work on a feasibility report ‘in order to present a formal, costed and community supported project within the rail corridor to achieve local transport and tourism benefits within Byron shire’.



26 responses to “Tweed rejects Byron move for dual use of rail corridor”

  1. Wendy says:

    Here we go again with another Tweed Shire Council defacto conservative council that has no foresight! Good on Byron Council, great to see they are making an effort to improve our region and use this incredible resource! Mr Alsop we DID NOT elect you to deal with issues the way you are.

  2. Tim Shanasy says:

    It appears Tweed council is still in the arena of sensible decision making on our derelict corridor.

    In the meantime, Byron Shire council has just voted to spend $200,000 of valuable rate payer’s money, to find a professional to evaluate a ridiculously complex array of possibilities to co-exist on the corridor, within Byron Shire.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see if any “professional” body is prepared to work on this project just for the money, as the overwhelming professional opinion is that “The Byron Line” dream, is just nuts.

  3. robin Harrison says:

    Once again divisions getting in the way based on erroneous assumptions. In particular the assumption that keeping the rails requires the trail to always be alongside the rail.
    It’s quite obvious trains won’t happen any time soon and, in the meantime, it would make economic sense to have the trail alongside where possible and use the rails when it’s not. When the economics of rail finally become obvious the economics of the trail will be firmly established and completely justify the reorganisation needed.
    The economic sense of rail will take a lot longer to become obvious if we remove the rails.

    • Petrus says:

      It is most unlikely event that anyone will fund what rail supporters want – a rail connection through Murwillumbah connecting to the Gold Coast – the State Government is plainly and sensibly uninterested in wasting money subsidising services on such a low priority transport corridor and would the people of Tweed Heads and the Tweed Coast want to pay the many hundreds of dollars of increased rates to provide that service? But even if they did decide in future decades there would be no point unless you rebuilt it on QLD gauge – otherwise you would have to change train at the border, making the rail service less attractive than a through bus. Since you would need to replace the line anyway and at great cost, providing a parallel bike path would be a pittance in comparison.

  4. Wayne Brown says:

    Good luck to Tweed. Their rail trail proposals to the Government have already failed to attract funding twice now. This was their only shot at progress. Oh well, Byron will just have to reap the benefits of rails with trails alone then…

  5. Geoff Bensley says:
    If the vote had got up it would have totally contradicted the existing Tweed Shire Transport Strategy and would have required another $250k Transport Strategy Study to rewrite the original. Thanks to the due diligence of some councillors to see this mistake and voted against the multimodal share use .
    The strategy states that a future train network required for Tweed Shire will follow the Pacific Motorway from Tweed to Yelgun with mode transfer stations at all of the highway exit points.
    If the motion had got up we would have been stuck with a sub 80km/hr train system for another 120 years, not a good way to get people out of cars.

  6. Christopher Tipton says:


  7. andrew says:

    The Tweed Shire Council has become four turkeys and three eagles. The turkeys being the Lab/Lib/Nat coalition who have voted against protecting coastal koalas, in favor of commercial/private water mining and now opposed to public rail transport. SHAME on them.

    • Petrus says:

      Interesting that it was the National turkeys in the State Government that have entered into agreement with the QLD Government to improve public transport linkages with the Gold Coast. Interesting too that the Tweed council eagles cannot fly high enough to see that it is the Tweed Coast that is growing and has greater public transport needs than connecting Murwillumbah to Byron Bay. Around our region the Verdant Eagles squawk loudly about sustainable transport, but it is “conservatives” like David Wright that actually build the infrastructure that support the most sustainable transport of all – the bicycle.

  8. Peter McGreevy says:

    Looking forward to ride the Trail when it is completed,should be spectacular with the country it will pass through.Should draw tourists from far and wide once the word gets out.

  9. neil mck says:

    Congratulations to Tweed Council! If only Byron could show as much vision. and common sense.

  10. Ian stocks says:

    Good on you Tweed council and a big boo to Byron and their ongoing baseless, senseless, negative thinking. 10 minutes investigation by the Byron Council into the proven benefits from rail trails in very state in Australia (Except NSW of course), NZ and many many OS countries would make them realise that they are just so wrong and that they are depriving their shire of substantial benefits that come from Rail trails.

  11. AB says:

    “The proposal was ‘problematic and had the potential to compromise the entire Tweed Valley Rail Trail proposal and ‘ultimately the entire trail from Murwillumbah to Casino’….. Well that’s a bit rich isn’t it? If the tweed council succeeded in building a cycling trail which involves removing the rails, wouldn’t that require an act of Parliament that would apply to the whole line from casino to murwillumbah, not just their section? And so jeopardize other parts of the line?

    • Petrus says:

      AB Does it not say something about the viability of rail that the only thing that is saving the corridor from being put in jeopardy is legislation? We are not talking here about an endangered species of water lilly, we are talking about a land corridor owned by the people of NSW. It is up to the people of NSW to decide how to use it and if that needs legislative change, as with any reform, so be it. That is why we have a Parliament – to make and amend laws that enhance our economy and amenity. The rails along the length of the line are under jeopardy because they are not being used, and putting aside the short boutique operation being developed for the the Bay, are unlikely to be used in the foreseeable future. The rail route from Booyong to Ballina was abandoned and pulled up after the war for the same reason. The rail trail at least protects the corridor for recreational use, and for the very long term possibility that a turn-around in attitudes in the region to population growth with a radical change of attitude to preferred modes of transport, together make a reinstated rail service viable, and even then more likely than not, not on the current standard gauge.

  12. Milton says:

    No….just bring back the passenger rail service. This time to Coolangatta airport. Simple.

    • Petrus says:

      Read the Tweed Shire’s transport plan – it’s explanation of why a rail passenger service to Murwillumbah and a connection to the Gold Coast are not at all viable, backed up by well researched arguments, makes understanding the issue actually quite – simple!

  13. Petrus says:

    Once again the Tweed Mayor appears not to have read her Shire’s own Transport Plan. If she has read it, which part of it’s cogent analysis does she not understand, and why does she never refer to it?. Reviving the rail line from the South to Murwillumbah would be even more pointless and uneconomic than other stretches. The Transport Plan shows the cost of linking to the Gold Coast would be far greater than any benefits – even a rail service to the higher priority Tweed Coast is considered only a very long term possibility, that would be better served in the short term by better buses and in the medium term by a busway. The 2036 Plan for the Northern Rivers does not even include the Murwillumbah to Byron area as a priority transport movement corridor- Murwillumbah’s linkages are increasingly Northward. That is why the “conservative” Nationals included better public transport linkages in the new arrangements for co-operation with QLD. Why would the state government waste limited resources subsidizing a revived train service from Murwillumbah South, that would do nothing that a bus cannot do cheaper and with greater frequency, while its 2036 plan – like the North Coast Transport Plan, all show clearly the corridors with greater passenger movement needs? If Green politicians like Milne want to be taken seriously by the State Government and the public, they need to learn to read and be guided by informed analyses on transport issues, and not just court the votes of ill informed lobby groups like Toots and other rail supporters, and actually start doing something to promote more sustainable transport through better cycling infrastructure and real public transport improvement.

  14. Lydia Kindred says:

    Unfortunately the rail trail lobby have consistently lied that the railway corridor can only be saved by pulling up the tracks – how ludicrous is that – when NSW lines are currently more protected than in any other state.

    If they think that a bike trail is going to attract lots of people to the area then how many more would come if we had a comfortable train service with local food and music being provided while taking in the beautiful scenery in our region!

    Those with vested interests to sell their bikes and paraphernalia are stopping us from having a viable commuter/ tourist passenger service that will connect our region again, for the young, old, disabled and all the others who yearn for the trains to return. Our economies, our environment (less cars, accidents and pollution) and providing greater equity for so many, are just some of the reasons the vast majority of Northern Rivers locals and visitors want a real integrated public transport service and not just an occasional ride for the few.

    • Petrus says:

      Lydia You allege that viable tourist commuter services are being held up by vested interests by those who sell bikes. While of course local bike shops are usually staffed by people who love cycling and are likely to support the trail, they are but a small number compared with the many supporters of the rail trail. The rail trail will be used by visitors who already have their own bikes – apart perhaps for the odd repair or spare tube they will have little need to spend money in local bike shops, and what they spend will be nothing compared with he average of over $200 a day they will spend in local food, accommodation and other tourist providers. It is illogical and also disappointing to read someone suggesting those driving this rail trail who are driven by some pecuniary motive – I can assure you we are motivated by our love of cycling, our wish to enjoy our beautiful area by bike, to share it with cyclists from around Australia and beyond, and to encourage that considerable proportion of any Australian population that would like ride their bicycle but only care to do so in a safe off-road environment. In respect of your suggestion that there be a comfortable train with local food and music. Why should the State government or local councils fund the additional costs to develop the rail trail in parallel, when there is no well thought through feasibility study that supports the view that a tourist or commuter service along the line would be viable, and to do so would cut across all of the relevant transport analyses for the region.

  15. ella blue says:

    We need the trains running again,to ease congestion on the roads and to create more business for small country towns along the line.
    The taxpayers own this property and they should decide.

    • Petrus says:

      Ella there is no evidence that supports the notion that reinstating train services will ease traffic congestion. In our dispersed region, any transfer from cars to public transport will be marginal regardless of transport mode, and the results of the transport survey showed timetabling issues – when and where the transport travels – were the key issues, not the train. The train corridor alignment does not serve the needs of the majority public transport users in the area, and unless the local councils along the corridor want to charge their ratepayers many hundreds of dollars to subsidise additional services, the cost of train service would result in reduced timetabling along the corridor compared with buses and that would bleed funds from higher priority public transport needs in the region. They owuld not of course and you would end up with as many cars still on the on road and a poorer public transport service than we have now. The land on the corridor is owned by all of the people of NSW – not just those who pay tax or live along the corridor – and the government of NSW is well aware that only a very small minority would use what would be a very expensive train service.

  16. Mark King says:

    Only spoiled first world countries can consider ($200,000?) changing rail for the masses to trails for the elite.

    • Petrus says:

      The rail service would not serve the masses. The masses in our region travel by car – it accounts for over 90% of journeys. The corridor overall serves only 40% of the regions population and the transport surveys confirm that only a very small proportion would change from car transport to train. What is you evidence that the trail would be only used by some elite? The masses use cars, but bikes are cheaper to buy, run and store than any car, they can be used by most people from 8 to 88, including as I have noted in previous posts, by disabled people, and around half of Australians have or can access bikes, and can cycle from time to time.. Indeed the cycle is is probably the most accessible form of transport world-wide . It speaks volumes of the lack of argument against the rail trail, that some opponents have to repeat such an absurd notion that cycling is an elite activity!

  17. johnno says:

    Could we please have a rail line of some sort?.No we can’t Tweed Council are to busy wasting OUR MONEY conducting environmental studies after environmental studies after environmental studies about every and any kind of infrastructure whether it be complicated or just plain common sense decisions!

    • Petrus says:

      You should do an an environmental study on anything that will significantly impact on the environment, including any major change to transport. This will not occur for a rail service because a rail service is not economically viable, and no local government outside the ACT is willing to put rates up by hundreds of dollars to pay for a commuter rail service for its ratepayers. But if it did it is by no means obvious that it would be environmentally wise. The dated NSW train infrastructure uses a lot of fuel per passenger – more than modern cars carrying passengers. We know from existing studies, plans and the survey it would have little impact on the number of cars along the corridor when it did run, and, to the extent that it would strip funds from better value public transport investments, it would impact adversely on car use on the corridor because a train cannot provide as frequent a service as buses could. and on car use on other higher priority routes that need better timetabled buses. Common sense is not a good way to make good economic, transport or environmental policy – well done expert studies are the only basis for best practice government, and they have done on this issue and they do not recommend a train service.

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