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November 29, 2022

Save our rail corridor – now or never

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Marie Lawton, NRRT Inc.

The state government may be looking at selling off parts of the rail corridor. We all need to act now and secure our community rail trail as soon as possible or lose the corridor forever.

Recent floods caused substantial damage to the line, making it even more difficult for a train service to return.

We need some good news for our towns and villages after so much devastation in the Lismore and Murwillumbah region.

A rail trail will be a major boost for our towns and villages, just as they are around Australia and the world.

Our closest rail trail is the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. This trail goes from strength to strength and holds regular community events such as the up and coming Walk for Diabetes in July. Last year they supported Every Step Counts Walk, which raised funds for a myriad of different charitable causes. Families, walkers and cyclists go to Queensland to participate in these events and spend money in local townships often staying up to four days, booking into motels, pubs and bed and breakfasts.

Our region has 132 kms of trail through beautiful country with towns and villages within easy reach.

Tweed Council have prepared a detailed submission to state government seeking funding for their section from Murwillumbah to Crabbe’s Creek. Lismore and Casino are hoping to put in a joint submission for government funding for their end.

At the moment, all we have is a derelict railway line. If we don’t push for a significant community project like the rail trail, it may be destined to stay that way – or be sold off. We can’t let that happen! Please, everyone get on board with this community trail and do your bit. Invest in our community’s future!

What a legacy for current and future generations – even if you don’t ride a bike or are not interested in walking, your children and grandchildren will thank you for it in years to come.

We will be crowd funding in June to help Lismore and Richmond Councils do detailed plans of their section of the corridor.  This will include extensive community consultation with landowners. We hope to contribute $75,000.

So please make a donation when the campaign is launched on 6th June and send the campaign to your friends. You will find it on our Facebook page and on our website.

The detailed plan will be enormously helpful when councils apply for new state government funding.

Contact your local politicians and state and Federal MPs to secure this historic and vital corridor.

Help make this happen.


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    Removing the legislation which currently protects the line and prevents the land from being sold off for development is THE ONLY THREAT TO THE LINE.


    • Well said Louise.
      And now that Byron council is funding its own study into rail services on the whole Byron shire section of the line there is even more possibility of a real service on the line. I have no doubt that the study will provide a cost estimate that is only a fraction of what the arup study said.
      I’m worried that if Lismore and tweed councils push to change the legislation protecting the corridor that it will apply to the whole line and not just sections of it, and that will allow the government to sell off the land especially in Byron bay…

      • Angie,
        The government can do whatever it wants with the land and the legislation. As you know, it sold off the railway land between Ballina and Booyong many years ago because it was disused. It is far less likely to sell it off if we are using it as a community trail which benefits locals and tourism. Lets just get something happening before it is no longer possible. The government has said it is not considering a train on that corridor at this point in time. At least lets have something! As Tim has stated, the tracks will have to be replaced anyway as they are rusting and only single track. A lot of the bridges would need major work if they have not already been removed, at a ridiculous cost to the tax payer. I admire your persistence and would love to work together to get this corridor used.

        • Marie, the community has protested against the rail trail bill in 2009 and again in 2014 to stop the legislation going through. We do have a voice.
          The old ballina line is a different issue because it was through a flood area and was severely damaged.
          It is not true that the rails need to be replaced. Maybe in some small parts but most of the line from Casino to mullumbimby at least is in great condition and has a lit of steel sleepers. At worst it would require replacing one in four sleepers and bridge repairs as BBRC has done.
          It doesn’t even matter that its a single track because there are plenty of sidings and room for more sidings at stations where trains can pass each other.

    • The rail tracks and steel sleepers are rusting away at a rate of knots, especially where weeds have been allowed to grow rampant, along vast sections of the line. Rain gets in, and sun is unable to dry it out. It’s a nightmare. Go and have a walk along it, and take any blinkers off.
      The timber sleepers have been shot with wood rot for many years now. Many of them don’t even exist anymore.

      Then there are the bridges, which with timely TLC, could be fine for a rail trail, but nothing more.
      Sure, Elements have spent millions on only 2.6% of the 132kms of our corridor. And good luck to them. But we simply can’t rely on possibilities where billionaires are going to try to promote their luxury resorts at spitting distances from major towns.

      So the only way to protect our corridor from imminent selloff, is to UTILISE it.
      Rail Trails were invented to do just that, and save corridors for public use.

      There really is NO other issue.
      There really is NO other solution.
      It’s a Rail Trail, or it gets sold off.

      Anyone who says track based utilisation is feasible, is either delusional, or a deluded career politician. There’s a few of them..

      Right now, the ONLY people that TRULY CARE about our corridor, are the rail trail supporters, and they are getting on board more and more, because they are not delusional people.

      Train believers by default, do NOT CARE if the corridor gets SOLD OFF. They will die believing that they did their best.
      Now that IS delusional.

      People that want to use our corridor for walking, riding, bird watching and general recreation etc. need to act NOW to secure its future for them.

      It’s that simple.
      You’ll be so proud of supporting it, if selling off is averted by the Rail Trail.
      And it is only possible NOW, if we all support it.

    • Louise A very short part of the line is being restored to provide a service mainly aimed at tourists. Train supports are calling for a commuter service along the length of the line. There is no recent and credible study that would show that any such service would be viable. Elsewhere in NSW affordable commuter rail are only possible even in areas of much greater population than our region with heavy subsidies. The transport plan for the area and its recent 2036 planning document makes it clear that the NSW government is not interested in subsidising a rail service for which recent transport surveys show there is little potential demand. So can I suggest if readers do want a commuter rail service they approach the Byron Shire – the one that showed no interest in supporting recent moves to improve commuter bus services – and outline why you think the ratepayers would be willing to pay the thousand or more dollars in rates to cover the capital costs of a new commuter service, and the ongoing hundred of dollars of rates each year that would be needed to subside its running (the ratepayers in Canberra are facing just such an impost to fund a 30km rail service on an available corridor for a larger population). In the unlikely event that Council thinks the people of the Byron Shire would be willing to subsidise a rail service, please ask them to do so promptly, so that, in line with the Byron Line document, it can incorporate the additional costs of accommodating a rail trail to connect with the the NR rail trail, the benefits of which are outlined in what is a very clear, and in my experienced view professional, feasibility study.

    • Louise, get your head out of the clouds. The train line has been privatised by Elements of Byron and will run from simmos garage to bayshore drive. It’s not a public transport solution ( the public can use it) It’s a service for Elements to get their guests from the resort into town and back.

      • It isn’t “privatised” at all, Byron Bay Railroad Co is not for profit and has a non exclusive license to use the line.

  2. Louise, we are talking about a community trail that everyone can use – not just 2.5 kms from Elements. Great if the Elements train gets patronage, but it is not public transport. That is a separate issue. There is not point in having a corridor that can’t be accessed.

  3. The train is a heritage tourist train , not a public transport train . This privately run tourist train is costing travellers $1 per kilometre , the same price as the Puffing Billy tourist train in Victoria. Tourists trains don’t help the needy, the poor, the old , the young or mobility impaired , they are purely a tourist based activity.
    Like the Puffing Billy with its 900 volunteers the Byron Bay Heritage Train is also requiring volunteers to help run the tourist service.
    The Puffing Billy requires the Victorian Government to subsidise the fare by about $7.20 per passenger .
    Unfortunately investing in heritage tourist trains is like throwing money in the air, it just disappears and so many have closed over recent years due to no new blood keen on steam trains or heritage trains.
    But if you want a sub 80km/hr train on a steam age alignment corridor with fares of $1 per kilometre then yes the old corridor will fulfill this .

    • You people are wishing and hoping the Byron train will not be popular-we’ll see. The fare will be much cheaper for visitors than paying for parking in Byron.

      People won’t sit for hours in traffic when they can get into town in minutes on the train. They certainly don’t get out of their cars to cycle into town in all weather. If half the 2 million tourists to Byron per year use it there’ll a significant reduction in traffic heading into Byron.

      The ONLY threat to the line are the people who want the legislation removed that protects it. While that legislation remains IT CANNOT BE SOLD OFF.

      Train services around the region will have to be resumed eventually, just as they have been on the Gold Coast, as our roads cannot cope with twice the amount of traffic.

      • Louise,

        Governments make, and change laws all the time.
        That is a huge part of their job.

        They own the corridor.

        They drafted, finalised, tabled and passed the law you are referring to, a very long time ago.
        Times have changed since 1894.

        Hopefully, they are about to make changes to this law, since the entire corridor has been left derelict for 13 years.

        I do feel for your rail loss, but if we lose the corridor, then we all lose any possibility of ever having a train, or anything at all, on it.

        Fighting the rail trail proposal, is fighting the only chance we have to save the corridor.
        It’s time to get our priorities clearly sorted in our heads.

        Use it, or lose it..

        Do you really want to lose it Louise..!?

      • Louise, again. Where are all these people going to park their cars so they can jump on the train ? Limited parking at Bayshore drive and NO parking in town.
        You clearly don’t understand the nature of the ‘new train’ – elements shuttle service.

      • ‘We people ‘ (as referred to by Louise) want a train that WILL get people out of cars ,not a slow winding heritage train that will keep people in cars. Do you really believe that workers (the majority of people requiring public transport) will get out of their fast cars and fast plus straight highway for a steam age alignment railway system ? No .
        Check the amount of commuters who prefer to drive from Newcastle to Sydney (even before the Newcastle CBD railway line closure) because of the slow and winding train travel .
        The majority want a reasonably fast public transport (more than 80km/hr average) not a slow snail train.
        Are you a gunzel in disguise Louise! Or just being misguided by some heritage train people telling you that the old Northern Rivers Railway line is prefect for trains ? Perfect for steam trains yes , but not for the travelling public.
        Now who wants to catch a horse to the train station .

        • Geoff,

          Newcastle CBD, in the fourties, had express rail services bringing a journey to Sydney in under 2.5-hours. This very good pace provided safe comfortable travel, costing way less than driving especially with congestion and parking fees.

          State governments have been absolutely neglectful in regards to rail – services regressed into 3-hour trips. With the point raised in the media, amidst political ‘fast rail’ banter 4/5 years ago, NSW government ministers, the previous Newcastle mayor and land developers connived to destroy the line for personal gain.

          $460million of taxpayer money was used.

          Government continues rail-cutting by privitising Sydney rail lines.

          Cutting services can’t give us better rail services. Only improvements will. Governments treated Northern Rivers residents poorly from the region’s beginning.

          We need access to regional amenities now- neglecting this is as repugnant as foisting us with CSG mining.

          Rail Groups have been poor with their terminology: we need useful integrated rail services now- not ‘bring the train back!’

          Northern Rivers’ complacency, gullibility and deceitfulness is reflected in councils who care nothing for residents, but pander to elitist cycling proponents.

          A people’s alliance now forms to challenge these unscrupulous political aspirants and their self-centred cronies.

          • Once again I must write to specifically counter your repeated but unsupported comment that cyclists are an elite. Cycling was long the sport and recreation of working people. It declined as motoring became the most popular transport, and now the great majority of journeys in our region are made by car. However the cycle is a much cheaper and so more accessible alternative, and much cheaper than any form of public transport. Since its nadir in the seventies cycling has steadily re-grown in popularity, particularly among better educated people who value its environmental and health benefits, but people from all socioeconomic groups can and do enjoy those benefits – I know many people who cycle in Canberra and now Ballina who are old aged pensioners, and it has long been a favourite with impecunious students. The greatest impediment to greater cycle participation is the lack of suitable places to ride and the rail trail can only help address that need – for everyone, regardless of their economic or social circumstances.

      • Louise, You really think people are going to want to be packed into this non air conditioned, 1950s 2 carriage train with all their luggage, surfboards etc just so they can save a couple of bucs for parking? Besides they still have to drive on Ewingsdale road to get to the platform which only has a 100 car parks. I really don’t see how this service built for guests of a private resort is going to do anything to reduce the traffic into Byron.

        Anyway let’s wait and see if this “solar” train ever gets running as it was originally supposed to be running by the end of 2015 but just keeps getting delayed so who knows when it will run.

      • Louise In the absence of a good bus service from Ballina I normally park outside The Bay’s cbd and cycle or walk in. In Canberra lots of cyclists do that to avoid parking fees in weather a lot less clement than the Bay’s. Park and Ride can work with public transport but it needs to be part of strategic town and transport planning, not in response to a pop up tourist tram service. There is a letter from a person who faced a wait of over two hours to go from the new Hospital back into the Bay. As I repeatedly say the train will not serve the needs of too many people who need better buses to get where they need to go. The train would just strip during from those priority routes.

      • Louise, your preferred form of protection for the corridor involves it being locked away so that no one can access it for the good of the community or for the good of the tourism industry. What remains will have to be completely rebuilt from the aggregate up if ever a commuter train were to return. You are insisting that the community should continue to be denied access over your unfounded fears that the corridor will be sold off if the legislation is changed to allow for the Northern Rivers Community Trail. Anyway it seems that Byron Shire would prefer to go it alone. We might have to settle for two rail trails instead of one; Murwillumbar to Crabbes Creek and Casino via Lismore to Eltham. Both of them incredible in their unique ways. Perfect, at least for now.

      • How will people get into town within minutes Louise?

        Does the train in your dreams run that often?

        The thing about a trail is that users can literally get “On their bike” whenever they feel like it.

        Commuters, tourists, exercisers, walkers , runners…. if it’s paved even prams and skateboarders can use it…… 24/7.

        With the rise of electric bikes even the not so fit can use it as a commute option.

        Why focuss on one expensive and inflexible option when the option of a trail is so much cheaper, more flexible and more inclusive.

  4. Our busy town gets busier & roads are already dangerous. Byron Council needs to act NOW before, before a child is killed riding to school. Ive already seen adults knocked of their bikes between Suffolk and Byron Bay.

    The Rail Trail can offer so much. But at the very least, it will offer immediate safety for children riding to Byron Bay Public School.

    Act now and be progressive. Let’s offer the locals a public facility, one that’s positive and historic. Rate payers deserve something back.


    • Yes Chad, we need to stop our regional roads’ terrible increase of fatalities and accidents.

      19 year-old-males are 4 times more likely to die or be injured by sharing a car with their mates than in areas where there is proper public transport.

      People working in accident and emergency don’t need more customers.

      I speak with medical staff at my many visits throughout the region, and in South East Queensland. People working in areas that see a large number of the public know exactly how direly the region needs the correct transport system to get people around.

      Practical cyclists, going to school, university or work need dedicated pathways- directly to their destinations. When people live further away, they will need these pathways to to the station, where they can safely cover the great distances many need to travel.

      I advocate for integrated public transport that provide everyone safe travel around our region.

      Our rail line is cheaper than one lane of roadway to build, and much cheaper to maintain. The way to make buses safer, more efficient, and usable for onboard homework, is to put them on the existing rails! Let’s extend the line to Ballina via Suffolk Park!

  5. Thanks Marie, well said. A rail trail will be a fantastic asset to tourists and locals alike. Rail trails interstate and overseas continue to grow and grow in popularity and provide safe and healthy recreational activities. Our trail will be up there with the best. Lets make this happen before the corridor is lost for ever!

    • I met some Kiwi tourists on the beach today.
      They said cycle touring is a huge success over the ditch.
      Mostly Aussies going there to ride…. and spend money.
      Our Rail Trail has the opportunity to be world class…..
      Or a wasted opportunity of feasibility studies in the time honoured tradition of Byron Councils past and…..?

  6. The only good news can be the Government saying “Rail-trail will proceed” Construction will begin xx/xx/20xx

  7. Development of a northern rivers rail trail will be one of the most beneficial assets in the region for visitors and residents alike .On so many levels- allowing safe, fun,uplifting exploration of our magnificent natural environment,quirky and atmospheric villages, boosting the economy in a low impact really positive exciting way. It’s a proven concept flourishing throughout the world. Let’s make it happen!…….soon.

  8. Railway land has already been sold off to adjacent landholders in Shirley St and south end of Jonson St since 2004.
    The car parks behind Hogsbreath and behind Timperley’s Corner and Byron Bakery was once railway land with tracks for storing carriages back in the 1980s , Byron Shire Council bought the land from State Rail.
    So even with the existing legislation parts of the corridor can be sold off .

  9. Would people accept a feasibilty study that said our hospitals cost too much to run? Would we say, well, the government is offering us money to knock them down for a skate park, we should take it?

    Indigenous people managed to get land rights. Protestors stopped CSG mining—for now, but, it’s strange that the government didn’t allow the XPT into Lismore, when Labor’s Michael Costa ‘pruned’ the line back.

    Could it be that after the rails are removed, they would have a much better corridor for a gas pipeline? The mining people did want to place a gas pipeline running into Queensland on the Sydney to Brisbane rail line.

    And why won’t the government put on usable daytime rail services on the Brisbane to Sydney line?

    The rich get richer and the poor are pushed into areas without proper transport. People in the Northern Rivers have been driving about for so long, they don’t realise what it’s like, either not being able to drive, or being able to afford a vehicle.

    How cynical is a government that spends our tax money on advertisements about road safety- when it offers no alternative?

  10. I’m sorry but that is incorrect and misleading.

    The rail line was not damaged “extensively” in recent floods, with only less than a kilometre of track in the township of Murwillumbah affected. The other 131 kms of track remain untouched. The reason for this is because the rail line is built above the 1 in 100 year flood level. Perhaps if we actually had trains on it the community would not be left so disconnected in times of flood.

    In comments, You also claim the tracks to be in need of full replacement as “the rails are rusted” whereas in reality it is quite the contrary. Sure, sections may be overgrown, however this does not mean the tracks are need to be completley replaced.

    You may have heard of the recent works in Byron Bay. The track there was overgrown and bridges in disrepair however within a matter of months this was all fixed up and now it looks like trains never stopped running. It was all brought back up to standard for far less than people may think, coming in at about $300,000/km. That’s cheaper than the rail trail would cost. The wooden bridge over Belongil Creek was replaced with a new steel bridge for only $200,000. Vegetation clearing only cost $100,000. All up the project costs, which include the refurbishment of a train, are about $900,000 (just under $1 million).

    The idea the Government will sell this line is silly. Byron Bay Railroad Company do not own the line and actually pay the Government to use it. Now that it is earning them money, there is no way it will be sold now. Even rail corridors that have been closed for 45 years are still not sold. Our railway line CANNOT actually be officially closed until 2019 as there must be no rail services for 15 years before it can be officially closed. It cannot be sold off until it is officially closed by an Act of Parliament. The rail line needs to be officially closed before a rail trail can be made. Although in saying that, the very fact BBRC are soon to commence operations means rail services will re-start thus the timer to 15 years will stop and subsequently the line will not be allowed to be officially closed and sold off.

    The ONLY THREAT this line is currently faced with is the destruction of a now secure railway line for a bike path that as soon as it begins to fail or the Government deems it to be too much money can be sold off to developers at the stroke of a pen with no legislation to stop them.

    More information on the Byron Bay Train project: http://www.byronbaytrain.com.au

    I trust that once the rail services commence in June, people will come around and the Government will be sent a clear message that the rail line is being used for trains and is not for sale, closure, destruction, etc.

  11. Heavy RAIL MUST be returned and improved.

    History for you people.
    In the 1960.s Queensland government posed the line to Tweed Heads. Because they stated it did not serve an economic purpose.Look at what has happened now. New service to Robina from Brisbane and very popular.

    Now we need NSW GOVERNMENT to restore services and improve the Northern connection to Queensland.

    But we we.cannot expect it at present from the current PREMIER who is fully against HEAVY RAIL and cannot give true figures on items. He’ll bent on METRO which is not suitable for Sydney. She will cost the state trillions of dollars.
    Having tunes built with conditions that they will never take a four deck train.

    • Preat The Gold Coast has over a half a million people and is a linear city, and it forms part of a conurbation of over three million people. The Northern Rivers has 200,000 people and they are dispersed through the region. That is why all of the transport planning documents recommend improving bus services and not reopening the train service. Neither you nor your fellow train supporters has referred to any of these analyses, (except for some commentary on the the cost of restoring the rail lines, most recently in the Northern Star by someone styled “trainguy” who did not even appear to be aware that Arup is an international rail consultancy company and lead consultant on the Gold Coast line). Public transport is too important for those who are transport dependent around our region to be wasting money on a legacy rail service that will only ever provide a limited service to a minority of the region’s population. We need informed discussion and lobbying on these issues – unless you have some specific problem with the state government and council transport plans that are relevant to transport needs here, lobby the government to improve the bus services.


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