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April 22, 2024

Victorian rail trail seeks council bailout

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The Great Southern Rail Trail in Victoria. Photo gsrt.com.au
The Great Southern Rail Trail in Victoria. Photo gsrt.com.au

Chris Dobney

The management committee of Victoria’s Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) has quit, saying the job is ‘beyond the capacity of a volunteer group to continue to manage’ and calling for the South Gippsland Council to take it over.

As of next month, 16 of Victoria’s 17 rail trails will be managed by local councils.

But the group that is lobbying for the conversion of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line into a rail trail says the same problem will not happen here.

GSRT committee secretary Robert Knight told Victoria’s Great Southern Star that he and fellow members are excited about what they have achieved with the trail but added the committee was on call 365 days a year and the work had become onerous since the trail was completed in 2016.

‘We believe council is the appropriate body to take over the rail trail’s management. Current committee members could become ‘friends’ of the trail at the end of their term,’ he told the publication.

‘[South Gippsland] Council has the skills and is already heavily involved,’ he added.

The committee said the cost to maintain the rail trail’s 77 kilometres is around $120,000 per year, plus additional capital works of around $30,000 annually.

Works are financed by a fund inherited by the committee and council’s contribution of $60,000 per year.

It also receives around $37,000 annually from licences along the trail, however the committee’s cash reserve will be mostly used by the time of handover.

Mr Knight told the publication, ‘The role of maintaining this $6 million asset is too much for a volunteer committee.’

Funding model

But spokesperson for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) Marie Lawton said the same situation would not happen here because its funding model will be more robust.

‘Once significant sections of rail trail are built, a central trust or governance body would be established to manage the entire trail,’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘Necessary funding to operate the trust could be provided by the state government, supplemented by income streams created by the rail trail, such as leasing railway station buildings.

‘On the Otago Rail Trail in NZ users purchase a $10 passport which they get stamped in each of the townships they go through. This money all gets put towards the management of the trail. ‘There are also thoughts along the line of local businesses that benefit from the trail, contributing in some way to the maintenance,’ Ms Lawton said.

She added the group hoped that $75,000 per year in state government funds currently allocated to maintaining the disused rail corridor ‘could be transferred to rail trail maintenance.’

‘It is likely some maintenance activities would be delegated to councils, with funding assistance.

Ms Lawton said ail corridor land that is surplus to rail trail requirements ‘could be leased to adjacent landowners in exchange for maintenance of these areas.’

‘Of course this is all a work in progress. We understand that councils would not be able to afford to manage the trail without funding assistance,’ Ms Lawton said.

Rail group wants equal time

Meanwhile pro-rail group Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRAG) is calling on Lismore City Council to give it ‘equal time’ with the rail trail group after a NRRT half-hour presentation resulted in a $50,000 grant to create a business plan.

NRAG spokesperson Beth Shelley said, ‘we suggest it’s time Lismore Council looked to the future. Byron Council has given $200,000 for a feasibility study into multi-use of the rail corridor.

‘Investors in Byron would like to extend the rail shuttle about to start operating from North Byron to run services from Bangalow to Byron and Mullumbimby,’ she added.

‘There are many privatised railways in Victoria. We wonder why the NSW government hasn’t tendered out the railway for private investment?

‘Won’t it be strange if there are rail services in the Byron shire while Lismore and Tweed have rail trails and no prospect of future rail services?’

‘The rail trails will not protect the corridor and generally councils have to pick up the costs. In the future we will need trains for passengers and freight. Let’s keep our tracks safe till then,’ Ms Shelley said.




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  1. Beth Shelley continues to undermine the rail trail push with misinformation. She has plainly not read the Memorandum to the draft enabling legislation for tail trails that makes very clear that there is no intention the the relevant corridor be used for anything else except a rail trail – a sell-off would not be possible. And how would the creation of an interest group of users,and small business and employees who ill benefit front he trail not make it difficult for any government to sell the land for any other purpose? And what would be strange about a tourist town like Byron Bay having a a tourist tram while others do not? In respect of tendering rail services – the NSW government’s responsibility is to provide public transport. The advice in all the relevant reports is that that would be better provided by bus. Why would it choose to spend far more per annum to provide something a bus can do perfectly well?
    The other important aspect to this article is that the Council has been very supportive of the rail trail and has not objected to the idea of taking over its management. Why would it – the council and the people of the region can see first hand the benefits the rail trail has brought to what has been an economically depressed area, benefits well described in the feasibility for our own rail trail.

    • Cycleway people are trying their hardest to undermine the whole Northern Rivers community who are saying we need a train service to reduce the unacceptable traffic congestion on our roads and to provide urgently needed transport for locals and $2 million tourists. Over 4000 people have signed the petition recently.

      But a few extremely selfish people, most of whom do not live in Byron Shire or anywhere near the area serviced by the line, couldn’t care less about the transport needs of others.

      The last thing we need is more people and another tourist gimmick!

  2. How many times do we have to reassure you Beth, that the corridor will still be available for future trains if the government wants to bring them back? This is called “rail banking.” No rail trail, possibly no corridor. We are on the same page – saving the corridor.

    • Dear Marie,
      I’m afraid that things are clearer now the Tumbarumba rail trail legislation has gone through. Currently the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line is protected under section 99A of the Transport Administration Act 1988, which only Parliament can amend. Even the construction of rail trails requires specific amendments to the Act. (Northern Star, Hamish Broome, Aug 2016).’

      In looking at recent rail trail legislation for the Rosewood to Tumbarumba line, it states,

      (1) For the purposes of 99A, the rail infrastructure owner (NSW government) is authorized to close the whole or any part of the railway line that runs from McEachern Lane, Rosewood to Tumbarumba.

      (2) Accordingly the rail infrastructure owner authorised under subclause (1), may sell or otherwise dispose of the land concerned and remove the railway tracks and other works concerned.

      Once the rail trail legislation passes through parliament, any part of the rail corridor could be sold off. But to put a rail trail next to the tracks wouldn’t need this legislation.

      If the rail trail legislation goes through all of Byron CBD (currently owned by State Rail) could go to big developers who might rip down the current buildings and redevelop the whole of Byron. Let’s keep the rail corridor and Byron CBD safe.

      • Beth These attempts by you and others to create the impression that a rail trail will lead to a sell-off
        have no basis in the relevant legislation and are quite disingenuous. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Tumbarumba rail trail legislation is short and sweet: “The object of this Bill is to amend the Transport Administration Act 1988 (the Act) to authorise the rail infrastructure owner to close the railway line that runs from McEachern Lane, Rosewood to Tumbarumba in order to create a rail trail for walking and bicycle use. ” Any attempt to sell the land off to another bidder or for another purpose would clearly not be consistent with that Memorandum and would fail. The rail trail will create a community of interested parties, including cyclists walkers and the businesses who will benefit from the tens of thousands of cyclists, who, based on the feasibility study will spend each an average of over $200 each day, and those interested parties will help ensure the corridor is safe. Our State representative recognizes the merit of the rail trail proposal and as you show with your petition only a small minority of the people of the region have any interest in opposing it. I note also that the corridor is the property of the people of NSW not of residents of the Byron Shire, and all of the people of NSW have a right to comment on its use. Lousie’s suggestion above that there is something selfish about supporting the trail is absurd – the North Coast branch line has nothing to add to our public transprot system that a decent bus service cannot do more cheaply and sustainably. We will have a better informed discussion when TOOTs and its supporters start referring to the all the relevant studies on transport, and a better discussion again when they refer to all of material relevant to the legislation on rail trails.

  3. Thank you Echonet Daily for showing the disasterous consequences that poor thinking produces.

    Petrus doesn’t convince anyone we’re on the same planet as him. He surely can’t understand that people on chemo, or with a ‘bad back’ can’t use buses over these regional distances.

    Toilets on buses are not usable. No one has coffee or breakfast, reads the paper, goes on-line, or shaves, on their way to work – on a bus!

    Our unpopular near-empty private buses are heavily subsidised- the drivers will tell you! Petrus speaks nonsense about buses.

    Louise is right, small coastal elites extend our misery. We can’t access lifesaving treatments in Brisbane or Sydney because politicians in Sydney care nothing for our regional lack in accessing amenities.

    Tamara Smith, through ignorance and neglect just waves her magic wand of destruction, moving into the dark side.

    Western residents; Indigenous, youth, elderly, unemployed, and those with disabilities, chronic or acute illness are virtually imprisoned in ghettos, as wealthy coast dwellers go cycling.

    We should protest Tamara’s callous decisions.

    • Frankly Distressed Pensioner, your endless emotional pleas do not cut it with me – I used buses as public transport for forty years to commute in Brisbane and Canberra – no one “likes” buses – we just use them because unlike trains they go where we want to go and when we want to go. Other people do not expect the people of NSW to waste limited public transport funds because you have persuaded yourself that people in the vicinity of the corridor are incapable of doing what indigenous, youth, elderly, unemployed, and those with disabilities, chronic or acute illness do in places like Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra , and what thousands of kids do here every morning and afternoon, catch a bus. How wrong and hurtful to call Tamara’s stand “callous” because she is persuaded that an employment generating spend is more important than wasting time lobbying for a train service that will not happen, which every serious analysis of people’s transport needs says should not happen, and which your only real argument is that you and a handful of other people like trains better than buses. Instead of criticizing Tamara and trying to portray the rail trail as some sort of elite activity why not start thinking about how it might benefit people in the Western part of our area – including the young and indigenous people – by the employment opportunities the trail will bring right up to the the Casino region.when it is complete. And why not consider how Council and community leaders can make the presence of a rail trail in the Casino region into a catalyst for a greater uptake of cycling in the area . Think about the the benefits to peoples’ health, transport and hip pockets that such an uptake of cycling could generate along the corridor not just to some imagined elite but to ordinary people as happens around Ballina where every day you see young people, mums, the elderly, workers, all using the cycling facilitates Council has provided. Tamara deserves our support – she has spoken to the new economy in which investments in healthful sustainable recreation and tourism are more important than subsidizing a heavy inefficient legacy rail.

  4. Frankly Petrus, let’s talk of reality.

    Few people take buses, at least you admit they just put up with them, of they can.

    Some would gladly use buses if they went directly to work, but they don’t. 3 shopping buses passing Wiangaree to Kyogle, and don’t connect to anything else. School buses take 1½ hours to Lismore, but don’t exist after work, afternoon classes or appointments.

    Your not interested in anyone but yourself, Petrus. Just like politicians, these cyclists think only of themselves and their group on the coast.

    People wait for chemo, or treatment they could get if connected by rail to the rest of the state and Brisbane. Cycling elites infect councillors with their stupidity.

    There’s virtually no chance for people who can’t drive getting tertiary education, especially in our Indigenous communities.

    This wealthy country has homelessness and poverty. We aren’t in the outback. We had better transport, safely connecting by rail to Brisbane in 1930.

    It’s time for this backward NSW region to change.

    Around midday, Friday 2nd of June. Tell Tamara, she’s destroying the region’s chance of any future.

  5. Distressed Pensioner I must say I find personal attacks of this kind unwarranted. I have been an advocate for improved public transport and for improved cycling facilities for four decades. There are very sound arguments in terms of equity, improved access to education and employments and reduced isolation to improve public transport. There are very sound arguments for improved cycling facilities in terms of improved accessibility, health and personal savings, and in the case of the rail trail because of economic benefits. My advocacy of improved bus services is based on the various NSW government and council analyses of how best to improve public transport so as to maximise access. Those analyses argue cogently that the rail line will do nothing to improve connectivity for isolated and public transport dependent people. The line does go near the main tertiary education campuses or hospitals and it would add anything to connectivity to Brisbane or the airports, and it only goes near a minority of workers and workplaces. Your concerns for better public transport are reasonable ones but but all of the disinterested advice is the rail line does not provide the best solutions. I do not need to abuse those I disagree with to make my points. Notwithstanding what Goebbels told us, repeating the lie of selfish cycling “elites’ does not make it true – and I believe readers of the Echo will appreciate that those who need to resort to personal abuse only do so to mask the paucity of their arguments.

  6. If money was put in by the qld gov with the nsw gov it would allow people to go to the goldcoast and go onto brisbane from there instead of being put onto a bus which may or may not take wheel chairs.
    Honestly how many people are going to come from sydney just to ride a bike up in the northern rivers of nsw esp with what is it a 8 or 9 hr drive before you even get there than you have to find parking.
    In the usa 1 gentleman put trikes that are done by peddle power and people ride the 10 or so km sitting in a seat and peddle past feilds and open farm land and the rails remain in place.
    Sure there might be buses up there but during summer how bad do they get stuck in traffic due to all the holiday makers who have had to drive up because of no more trains.
    U want people to visit these towns and spend the money so bring back the train as ur not cramped on a road coach from casino to the coast and if they re worked the timetable there just might be even the numbers to run a train to brisbane and back at a more user friendly hour than what u have now


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