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Byron Shire
December 1, 2022

Bid to create state’s second rail trail on the Northern Rivers

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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

Albury may be the first place in NSW to get a rail trail, but North Coast shadow minister Walt Secord is hoping that the Northern Rivers Rail Trail will be the second.

Mr Secord yesterday renewed calls for the National Party to support the creation of a rail trial in the region during debate on the Transport Administration Amendment that will see the closure of the railway line between Rosewood and Tumbarumba.

The amendment, which passed parliament yesterday, will create the State’s first rail trail, which will be set up near Albury in the Riverina.

Mr Secord cited Tweed Shire Council’s plan to build a 2.5 kilometre trail connecting the Tweed River Regional Art Gallery, which is home to the Margaret Olley Art Centre to the Murwillumbah Town Centre.

He pointed out that the project had the support of Federal Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot, Tweed Shire Labor Councillor Reece Byrnes and himself.

‘All three levels – Tweed Shire, State Labor and Federal Labor – are united in their support for rail trails – and the Northern Rivers Rail Trail,” Mr Secord told State Parliament.

‘We all recognise their importance to tourism on the North Coast, especially as it is recovering from the devastating floods. However, it is very disappointing that the National Party MPs are not totally on board with rail trails.

‘Tweed MP Geoff Provest and Lismore MP Thomas George have been reluctant to cast their support for rail trails – and at best, one could describe their support as `lukewarm’.

‘Unfortunately, when faced with a choice between new jobs, additional tourism and additional spending on the North Coast or watching metal rust, the Nationals prefer metal rust.

‘Rail trails make great economic sense as they attract high spending tourists – by re-purposing old infrastructure – and they should be supported across the State.  In early June 2014, the State Government’s own study entitled Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Study, Final Report reported that the rail trail could attract more than 88,000 visitors and would pay for itself in five years.”

‘I believe it is time to have a rail trail on the North Coast.

‘The State Government, the Premier, the Tourism Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW can now all look to the Northern Rivers Rail Trail where a willing community and an easy decision awaits them.’

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  1. Great news for Rail Trails in NSW! The amendment to the legislation says that the land cannot be sold off but can be used for a rail trail. A perfect outcome for all.

    It is my understanding that all our local members are on board with the rail trail. Since the flooding in the north coast, it may be a difficult call for them, due to possible criticism – to be fully enthusiastic about the rail trail, when so many people have been devastated by the flood.
    It is really a timing thing.
    However, Mr Secord is right when he says – the trail is especially important now (after the floods), to give an economic boost to the region.
    The NRRT Group have been running a crowd funding campaign in order assist Lismore and Richmond Valley Councils to do a detailed engineering plan of the trail their end. The support has been amazing – not just with donations, but offers of help as well. You can find the campaign on the website. http://www.northernriversrailtrail.org.au

    • Thomas George and Geoff Provest want to hang on to their jobs and they clearly understand there are no votes in ripping up the valuable C-M line for a cycleway.

      • Perhaps you might like to think again as to why the Nationals are prevaricating. We know the government has no intention of reintroducing the rail – it is not even shown or mentioned in the Region’s 2036 plan. If the rail trail does not proceed who will likely get first right of refusal for the sale of the land along the corridor if not the adjoining landholders? And what plans do the white shoe brigade have for the real estate in Byron Bay or even in Burringbar? Our rail trail would be built the with the same protections found in the legislative framework for the Tumbarrumbah trail -“… for the purpose of a rail and walking trail”. But given this government’s predilection for selling assets, if the rail trail does not proceed expect the real estate sale of the corridor sooner rather than later – and expect too some of the National’s supporters to be clapping with glee and rubbing their hands .

  2. God forbid these political imbeciles would even think of upgrading the railway line instead of spending more money on asphalt covered strips of roads and bike paths which few will use, especially the aged and those without private transport. At a time where increasing traffic adds to the CO2 levels in our atmosphere we have Gov Inc promoting motor vehicle use in the next generation who are the bulk of tourists that come to Byron Shire. When I was driving cabs in Byron I got many comments from the cash strapped and weary travelers about how little public transport there was here and how they never expected to see an entire train line closed down and neglected by a nation as rich as Australia. I got sick of explaining that we are governed by fame seeking, self centred morons. With their recently announced multi billion dollar budget surplus the LNP Gov Inc NSW is doing what for the northern rivers expanding population base? A high speed train similar to those we see in China and Europe would greatly benefit the tourism industry here but I suppose the transport and airline industry has too much sway over the corrupt political jokers of all colours.

    • Mike The NSW Government has just announced increased finding for public transport including 3,300 new bus services, but because no one has bothered to lobby here for better bus services – preferring the dramatic gestures in support of a rail service that does not go near the campuses, hospitals, airports and other places you would have taxied people – we miss out. We do not have the population of China or Europe to support high speed rail and it would be more expensive than our interstate air services with little if any carbon benefit. but we can have better buses to take those who cannot use cars where they need to go. The usage of rail trails in Victoria and NZ gives lie to your suggestion that few will sue the rail trail. They have been very popular, and the usage continues to grow. Most rail trail users will come by car – in part because the NSW rail service makes carrying bikes difficult – but when they are here they will not contribute to traffic and pollution problems.

  3. Mr Secord, the ALP and LNP need to understand that people will not allow them to destroy the Casino to Murwillumbah train line. The battle will be bigger than Bentley. They need provide the train services this fast growing tourist region has needed since the incompetent ALP Minister for no Transport stopped the only train service in 2004.

    They also need to understand locals are fed up with the millions being spent on tourist promotion while nothing is spent on the infrastructure needed to cope with two million tourists!!

    The place is packed to the rafters and the last thing we need are more tourists, cycling or otherwise!

    • Louise Supporters of the train love to invoke the image of Bentley – but all you are doing is sending a message to the NSW Government that you enjoy a dramatic protest, while not caring enough about public transprot to be bothered to pay any heed to the sound work they have done in transport planning in our region that all recommends improving road based transport. So the NSW Government has announced 3,300 new bus services in NSW, but I am not aware one is for our region. As long as you prefer protest to lobbying for realistic and achievable improvements to public transport, those who do not or can not use cars will continue to face difficulties getting to campuses, hospitals, airports and the facilities of the Gold Coast ( none of which is accessible along the rail corridor). And can I note that you might not care about the creation of jobs and businesses in the new economy that will flow from rail trail visitors – other people do. Other areas find rail trail tourists are high value low impact visitors, with their spending spread along the trail, and that they do bring the traffic and “party” problems associated with some other tourists. That may be why the East Gippsland Shire is planning to fund and extension to its existing rail trail.

  4. More and more, people are accepting that a rail trail for walking, cycling and riding is the only practical and achievable solution for bringing the corridor back into use for the benefit and enjoyment of the community.

  5. In the minds of an ever increasing number of people, the reality becomes clearer that the only issue left for our old rail corridor, is to protect it in public ownership so that it does NOT fall into private hands, as would be highly likely if we do not utilise it ASAP.

    A rail trail is the only viable and attractive solution to ensuring this, as governments’ funding for sustainable tourism, is the only chance we have.
    Whether or not rail services are reinstated in the decades to come, is anyone’s guess, but it certainly wont be possible without a corridor.

    Right now, the best action we can take is to encourage the Rail Trail to protect our corridor.

    There’s a crowdfunding campaign with only 14 days left, if you want to put some money where your heart is, for this magnificent 130km stretch of future infrastructure potential for generations to come.


    It promises to be far more than just a feel good exercise !

    • Tim I have noticed that over 400 people have donated to this crowd funding , it seems like a lot of people in this region would prefer a walkable path than the existing overgrown and decaying wasted community asset. Since 2004 it has sat unusable and when the train arrived it is a heritage train that people can’t afford to use for public transport.
      Invest in heritage tourist train and expect to be handled a lemon ,a very expensive lemon.

  6. Geoff Provest and Thomas George have the opportunity to deliver something for their constituents regarding the rail corridor. Its not as though any other practical, achievable or viable option is on the table.

  7. After walking and photographing the Northern Rivers Line I can say that unfortunately a rail trail and train could not exist together on probably 80% of the line. And due to heritage trains being a huge financial liability and unsuitable for cheap commuter travel it would appear that the best solution to stop the corridor being closed and sold off will be for a temporary use as a rail trail until the population increases to an extant of requiring a train.
    Gympie Council has spent $6M (with an extra $4M from QLD Government) trying to reinstate its Mary Valley Rattler Train that was discontinued about 4 years ago due to derailments and flood damage . The council has also put in place a special rate increase purely for this work. I don’t know about you but once you go on a heritage train ride you won’t use it again for a few years ,unlike a rail trail which you have access to 365 days a year. A heritage train ride costs approximately $1 per kilometre which is out of reach of most people on a daily or weekly basis.
    With diabetes and obeseness rising rapidly it is time for a safe and healthy linear corridor to help lower these statistics.
    Bring on the rail trail for our children too run ,walk and cycle in a safe environment.

  8. When people travel by car and bus from Murwillumbah CBD to the Tweed River Regional Art Galley and back again and do not walk or cycle or ride a horse on Council-made roads and footpaths just why would they travel on a Rail Trail?
    All human activity is by motivation. Please tell me the motivation that people will get out of their cars and travel the same route by walking, or cycling of by horse.
    Put a train in that section of track and there may be some patronage of people getting on board train at the Murwillumbah station and travel by train to the Art Galley at anew rail station, and they would pay for the privilege and it would act as a tourist attraction to bring tourists from other areas to Murwillumbah.

    • I cannot comment on Murwillumbah Len, but when my wife rode around Ballina’s cycle paths today we met and passed passed people cycling for the length of our 20km circumnavigation. And whatever the motivation of people, the reality is people do ride on rail trails in Victoria and NZ – tens of thousands do; there is no reason in such a beautiful location as ours and one close to Australia’s third city, with a climate that others envy, that even more will not want to enjoy our trail. And just as hundreds a day cycle the trail from Hobart to MONA I have no doubt many too will use the the rail trail to get to the Tweed River Regional Art Galley.

    • Len, one might visit the gallery a few times a year at best if it was just a matter of driving a car there. Going for a walk or a ride on the rail trail could well be a daily activity for many people in Murwillumbah and surrounds especially considering the excellent parking facilities at the station. They might not necessarily visit the gallery that often unless they fancied a coffee at the turn around point. The rail trail will increase patronage to the gallery and the gallery will profit from the greater turnover at the Cafe. You seem to be stuck in this mindset that returning the train is even remotely possible and that noting is better than something.

  9. A rail trail for cyclists and walkers all the way from Casino to Murwillumbah is the only possible and logical solution for this public asset. Spending a cent of rate payers money on investigating the possibility of a tourist train (really?) or some sort of commuter service (honestly?) in such a car dependent area is just profligate waste. Let’s enjoy the health, social and economic benefits of converting those rusting rails to a beautiful piece of accessible public infrastructure.

  10. Tumbarumba has a population of 1,455 people so you simply cannot compare it to our railway line which exists in a hugely growing population and millions of tourists every year. The roads in this area are in a terrible state because everything has to go by road. Trucks are 50 times heavier than cars so do 50 times more damage but trucking companies don’t pay for this. How long does the North Coast have to put up with neglect suffered not only to our railway line but to our whole area? Labor still cares only about the money it gets from the trucking companies and road construction companies. We have nearly 4,500 signatures on a petition to have a regular commuter rail service so people can travel easily around our towns without having to face the dangerous roads, traffic congestion and air pollution.

  11. Beth The 2017 NSW budget shows the neglect of transport to our area – where is our share of the 3,300 new bus services? Why do the people of Nelson’s Bay get better bus services while those in Byron Bay miss out? Quite frankly TOOTs and its supporters must share culpability for this neglect because of their complete lack of regard for the sort of public transport that the NSW government has planned for, that will get people from where they live to where they want to go, and that they have demonstrated they are willing to deliver. A regular commuter service on the rail would cost the equivalent of multiple new bus services to priority destinations which could be of greater frequency and for longer in the day and the week. That is what potential users told the survey on public transport they want; that is what the regional transport the corridor study recommended will increase patronage compared with the train. Instead of listening to people and heeding what the government advice is and what it is willing to do, you engage in self-indulgent demos to get the government to fund a train that does not go near campuses, hospitals or airports. If you had held up banners for better road transport for the elderly in the Tweed Coast for example; if the nannies had knitted for more buses past Byron hospital instead of a train that is kms away, then maybe Tamara Smith and other members would have had the support to get our share of the better services we so badly need.
    On the issues around roads and freight. The lesser roads, those in the Byron Shire in particular, are indeed in a poor state but they are not the roads that the freight rail would displace – Bangalow Road, The M1, and the Tweed Way – are all in good condition. Even if there was a rail service, much of the freight for the area comes from Brisbane. My father received the goods from Brisbane for his pharmacy in Jonson Street in the Bay in the 60s by truck –even then railway freight was not efficient for what is effectively a local distribution exercise. If you reinstate the rail you would still need to transfer any freight from the North Coast line from Brisbane at Casino to a local service, or if as some suggest have a rail from QLD, you would need to transfer from the QLD to NSW trains or replace the current line with a QLD gauge line which on top of a connection would be prohibitively expensive.
    All this is speculative. There is no reason to expect tourists would want to use a train unless it came straight from Brisbane or the regional airports to tourist destinations. The 2036 Regional Plan shows that growth in the region will be steady not spectacular, particularly in the towns along the corridor. It does not even show the rail line – the NSW government has no intention of reintroducing a service. It is time that Toots and its supporters recognise this reality and with it the risk of a break-up of the corridor if it is not in use – people are already eyeing off the corridor for a bypass in the Bay and are expecting support from the NSW government, The legislative framework for a rail trail would prevent such a sell off for other purposes and protect it for any future rail use, but if the trail does not proceed expect this government to move sooner rather than later to cash in on the real estate along the corridor. And if the trail does proceed maybe those who care about public transport will start lobbying for transport that meets the needs of people not rails.


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