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Byron Shire
June 17, 2021

Multi-use rail doesn’t rule out trail

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Basil Cameron, Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT). 

Okay. I get it. There are some disciples of trail without rails who continue to present blinkered views on their pet project and perhaps it is unlikely that they will ever consider the views of the majority of the community. It is however a shame that blatant myths and misrepresentations continue to be put forward to the detriment of our sustainable future.

John Scriverner’s letter last week is a prime example of presenting a false dichotomy between a so called “rail trail” (really a trail without rail) or nothing. Referring to the discredited ’train study’ and pretending that this assessment reflects what ‘local train supporters’ are promoting is misleading at best. John’s argument hangs off his statement that Tweed Heads and Ballina are not currently connected by rail, but he does not mention that eight of the ten largest population centres in our region are connected by rail or considers that Byron Bay with it’s two million annual visitors is at the centre of the line.

The ‘train study’ and John both refuse to consider the markets for tourist visitors even though the trail without rails is highly dependent on acknowledging such a market. It is also the case that the trail without rails proposal rejected by the NSW Government was highly dependent on being subsidised by Councils, drawing funds away from local road networks.

Refurbished rail within the corridor will have much lower construction and long term maintenance costs than roads of similar length and capacity especially when a rail line has a life of around 100 years compared to roads that require expensive major upgrades every 20 years.

TOOT has always promoted a multi use solution of rail and a trail in the existing corridor. This solution can be achieved with light rail and overcomes the problem identified by Alistrer Bell of a trail without rail that caters only to high priced tourists, leaving locals and commuters without sustainable transport options. Only a multi use corridor can reduce the number of cars on our roads, provide accessible commuter transport and economic benefits to the broader community.


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  1. Basil,
    And what will the insurance bill be when bike wheels get caught in the rail tracks and people get killed in cycle crashes. There is no room for a multi-use trail and a train with both transport means using the same space at the same time. Injuries will result.

    • Light rail happily co-exists with pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles in Melbourne. No reason that couldn’t be possible here although I wouldn’t expect the rail any time soon. However we won’t see it at all if we remove the rails, and there is no reason whatsoever to remove them.

      • Hi Robin,

        Removing the tracks will not prevent a train coming back on the corridor. The new legislation for Tumbarumba (a template for other rail trails in NSW), states that the corridor can be returned for use of a train if necessary. It also states that the land can’t be sold off without another act of parliament. This is a win/win for everyone. If our corridor was to be used for a train again, it would need to be turned into a double track line to make it useful as a public transport option. There is no talk of this happening in either major party at this time, but at least we can keep the corridor with a rail trail. This is the most important thing.
        Light rail works well in cities, but not county areas as we don’t have the population and we probably don’t want to become like the Gold Coast.

  2. Len,
    The track is so wide that you do not have to use the part used by the train. You only use a part of the corridor. If needed a lowe fence between the train and the walker ore cyclist..
    Tjerk from the Netherlands

  3. Monash University Institute of Transport Studies suggests rail transport is only an economic way to provide commuter transport with patronage of 5,000 passengers an hour. The census confirms the North Coast Regional Plan 2036 projection for population in our region – growth will be steady not spectacular, and will be greatest along the Ballina and Tweed coasts – not along the corridor. It will be a long time before anywhere on our dispersed region could generate anything like that traffic – we are not Brisbane or event the linear Gold Coast, and who of our readers wants us to be so? There are two rail possibilities on the line. One a short tram to a luxury tourist resort; the other a possible tram to Bangalow. When I queried how the latter would fit with the with Regional Transport Plan the promoter advised that while locals would be able to use it, he was quite explicit that it was not intended be a commuter service but as a way of encouraging tourists to see a little of the hinterland.
    Our region does need better public transport but the rail line does not go near where the transport dependant people are or will be living and does not go to where they are likely to want to go – campuses, hospitals, and, without billions of dollars of spending, extra-regional transport hubs like Ballina and Coolangatta airport. Better public transport is possible but the less well off elderly, disabled and other transport dependent people in our region have missed out because Toots and its supporters prefer self-indulgent protests for a train. For no more reason than they do not like buses and would rather catch a train they have neglected to lobby for the realistic and achievable improved road transport the NSW government has planned for and shown it is willing to deliver. There are sins of commission and of omission, and Toots and the train lobby are in part culpable for our not getting a share of the 3,300 new bus services announced in the budget.

  4. I separately note the train is not a transport option let alone a sustainable transprot option, but as I prefer to I will separability address the repeated suggestion that the rail trail – caters only to ” high priced tourists” or any other elite. I will not use your “rail without trail” neologism,;”rail trail” is the term used internationally for what we are talking about. We know from the data gathered elsewhere in Australia rail trail visitors spend an average of $200 a day, but the trail can be accessed by any local walker or cyclist and plenty will. An impecunious cyclists needs only to bring a packet of sandwiches and maybe a thermos in their bag to pedal any of the major stages . Even those who overnight can do it with a tent and camping gear – I bicycled for 15 months with nothing more. We know the trail will bring plenty of spending to local businesses along the length of the corridor, but it will be easily accessible to locals who want to enjoy its pleasures.


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