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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Trains and transport

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Geoff Bensley, Byron Bay

The local train groups didn’t have any strategies or options in place that would correspond and work with the 2011 Tweed Shire Transport Strategy document, and as such they ruined any chance of getting trains for the Northern Rivers. The Tweed shire states in this document that a train system will most likely follow the Pacific Highway corridor as that best suits the population growth regions of their Shire.
The train groups ie TOOTs and NRRAG didn’t show any interest or support for this route and instead used the following options to give this region slow trains.
This groups options are:
1: Trains on the old corridor
2: Trains on the old corridor
3: Trains on the old corridor
4: Trains on the old corridor.

Even the new mayor of Tweed shire must not have read the Transport Strategy document , talk about an oversight.
These train groups are so blinkered that they haven’t looked at other options for a train system on the Northern Rivers and we also lost any chance of  the High Speed Rail line (that can also be used for normal outer urban trains ) that was on the short list for going thru Lismore and Mullumbimby to the Gold Coast and Brisbane . We had a chance of getting this but for the noisy and misguided of not wanting anything but ‘Trains on our old corridor ‘.

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  1. A High-Speed Rail line means just that or it is not high speed. Therefore the stops between Brisbane and Sydney would be Brisbane, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle, Sydney as the main passenger traffic would be in Sydney and Brisbane and that means competing in speed, time, and cost against Air travel as the people in the cities have the money to pay. That means there will be no stopping. Try stopping a train at 350 kph when it weights many hundreds of tonnes and then accelerating again back up to cruising speed as that adds to maintenance costs while the brake pads wear out. So as stopping adds to maintenance of the train the people getting on at Coffs Harbour and Newcastle would have to pay more as the maintenance costs rise exponentially for every stop between the main terminuses.

  2. Because geoff is such an expert on toot lol. He has been to zero meetings and talked to zero members of toot. His only interest is the rail trail which is why he tries to convince everyone that a new line is feasible. BTW, is this another one of his fb pages? Hasnt he read the high speed rail reports where it says it would go through either casino or lismore, only one stop for the whole northern rivers, but could in fact connect to a local service on the c-m line? Where will his fantasy rail line go when the new highway has already been built? It cant go down the middle of the hwy so how much more land and koala habitat will need to be sacrificed? How many peoples homes? How will it get through st helena tunnel? He does not answer any of these questions. He must know it would be far more expensive than using the existing line and that feeder buses will need to transport people to the train adding more buses and road damage to towns. When the existing line already goes through the centre of all the towns and connects them.

  3. The suggestion that buses add congestion or any significant damage to roads is nonsense. Modern buses are large tyred relatively light compared with loaded trucks , travel within tight speed limits and are few in number compared with rucks. As long as the road has not been allowed to deteriorate – and the M1 and roads that parallel the rail corridor are in good condition – the cost of road damage of buses is a fraction of the cost of maintaining a working railway, and it is a worthwhile cost in terms of the providing equitable transport to school children and other transport dependent people.. Congestion is only a problem in a few areas, notably Byron Bay, and that is not caused by buses , but by the Bay’s inadequate street system (allowing locals to park free does not help the problem). Most of the room taken up on the road by traveling vehicles is the stopping distance, so a bus takes only a marginal space more on the road compared with a traveling car. However each bus takes nearly as many cars off the road as it carries passengers. Discussion of high speed rail is theoretical – it will be along time if ever before it is built, as the unsubsidised cost of our low speed rail is as often or not more expensive than air travel to Sydney .
    The issues you raise in respect of feeder buses also apply to public transport by rail along the corridor, as most of the key health and education destinations are not within walking distance of the corridor, and most potential passengers live away form the corridor. Regular well routed buses mean more people who do not drive can move around with less waiting time and minimal change of transport. That is why the school service to Mullum High changed from train and bus to bus only in the sixties. An elderly person in Mullum would not be able to go to to Byron hospital on the train without a change to a bus – and bear in mind buses would need to be cut to finance the rail service. The sort of amateurish demo that Toots did at SCU is easy for the government to dismiss – it only shows up the ignorance of the demonstrators of public transport issues here. Forget the rails and start thinking about people – lobby the government for the better timetabled bus services their own analyses call for they have shown they are willing to deliver.

    • Peter Hatfield, Read Don Page’s speech 2004, Thomas George’s & Greg Alpin – about buses, especially Don’s detailed speech! Comparing bus travel on roads to trains on railway lines are as different as chalk & cheese. How many MPs & all the other bike track enthusiasts have actually suffered that bus trip to the Casino Railway Station? They are usually empty going to the station as people hate travelling on them, only the many passengers being forced to leave the train – because no train to LISMORE CITY & on, catch the buses as they do not have a choice! When I have told them where the train line goes, they are rather angry & not happy at all!
      The trains are being deliberately ignored as tourism & the so many people cannot ride bikes, whereas they could go places for enjoyment on a train!
      Shame on the politicians who have ignored their constituents. This has been a one-sided cabal episode only pushing for the bike, horse riding, walking, motor scooters – bikes, horses, walkers, etc – all on a little bike track? Jillian Spring

      • Jillian, all the major cities in Australia have buses. I’m not sure why you so against buses that have a much more flexible timetable and route than the C-M train. I’m also not sure how quoting a 13 year old speech by a MP is really that relevant. The trains haven’t run for 13 years, don’t you think it is time to look at other options for transport in the region? Do you really want to be writing these letters in another 13 years with very little achieved?

        • Damon, Did you read Don Page’s speech? He is a hypocrite as he has gone back on what he said! Thomas George too. Country Labor the same – went back on their word. Plus, we have been ignored, never contacted, unless a bike rider, which I was & a bus traveller! The wonderful thing though, I could hop on the train at Billie, have a much better ride than on the bus to Casino. One hr from top of St Helena hill to Billinudgel. That is why a lot of people go by car to Casino instead of the bus. I went last Christmas to Kempsey. Terrible trip on the bus, especially on the return trip from Casino station. I would go more often but no way.
          So many people need the comfort of a train, they cannot go on a bus & the train line is the spine of the Northern Rivers. Fancy Lismore a City but not train service – what an indictment on the politicians who say they represent us! Tweed has been declared a CITY, trains are coming to Coolangatta, David Oxenham director of engineering Tweed Council – supports that! For us, no way – a bike track, plus horses, etc etc,.
          There are just so many issues that I have ‘uncovered’ lets say, so all I can express, is there has been a cabal in action in relation to our HERITAGE RAIL CORRIDOR C-M. so why would I trust. John Holland has been granted $$$s to refurbish existing railway structures at 4 stations in Sydney but here us to be taken away. ???

          • Jillian, I’m sorry you feel like you’ve been duped by the pollies. They wouldn’t be the first pollies in history to go back on their words. However that was 13 years ago and times change. Also a feasibility study to reintroduce trains was commissioned so in my mind they actually did deliver on their promise. If it had been found feasible then the trains would be back.The study was the first step in bringing the trains back. However this was not the case and you can argue about costings etc until the cows come home! The fact is this study was done by a well respected international organisation with well qualified engineers who if anything may have benefited from a positive finding.

            I’m sorry you don’t like catching buses but the train is not coming back. A rail trail has been found feasible and now has funding something the trains don’t. Please can you accept this so we can all move on.

      • Jillian I regularly catch buses and have no idea what you problem is. I find they are perfectly comfortable for the sort of distances you can travel in our region and its vicinity. I wonder how you and imagine traveling half an hour on a coach to Casino is “suffering” – it is quicker than the bus I caught every day to work in Canberra. People from Canberra catch a NSW rail coach to connect to the Melbourne train – about half the passengers join the train at nearby Yass; the remainder stay on the bus for the journey on roads that are no better than the Bruxner and catch the train at Cootamundra. I note again it was on the Melbourne train not the bus that my neighbour’s port fell off the rack as the train swayed – I suspect the train has got a lot smoother in your memory than it ever was. There is nowhere along the Northern Rivers train corridor that is not served by a bus and they are more frequent than the train ever was. I note that the main issue people have with public transport is its frequency and you other rail supporters never ‘fess up as to what bus services you will cut so you can have the luxury of traveling on your preferred transport. Catching a bus when you need to is a normal part of life for other Australians who appreciate it gives them more services than rail could, that the services are more likely to go where they want to go, and particularly for females and in evenings it is safer than being in an unattended train carriage. It is high time rail enthusiasts stopped ignoring the needs of public transport users, and started lobbying for the better timetabled bus services we need.

        • Peter Hatfield, I trust you will be able to see my reply to Damon and I reply a short note to you. It’s about time representatives told the truth, especially about our HERITAGE RAIL CORRIDOR C-M instead of saying it will be safe for ever as a rail corridor but what about this Crown Land bit? Sure has been a lot of parks that should have stayed as parks, but were sold off! So why is that being said now? No, there’s a few questions needing to be answered.
          Why the massive spin for the rail to be changed to a bike path – a massive coverage only for the bike path – massive media! I smell a rat.
          Jillian Spring

          • Jillian
            I read your letter to Damon. I can appreciate people prefer a train for a longer trip than buses, though most now prefer to fly or drive which costs less in real costs (rather than the concessional or free ticket cost that the majority of train travellers pay or don’t pay). But I remain perplexed what you find so objectionable about travelling by bus for the relatively short trips within the region, which are no longer than bus journeys I took in Canberra. We are just talking about a seat to get you where you need to go. Lismore city is as I have noted just half an hour from the main Brisbane Sydney line – most Canberrans or Sydney-siders would take longer by bus to Central or Canberra railway stations. The issues you refer to about the time taken are about timetabling and route – if you lobby constantly and only for a train you will not get better bus services that other regions did in the budget that would improve the timetabling issues. I was amused to read your comment on people driving to Casino instead of the bus; I can remember mum in the fifties driving dad the 90 minute trip from the Bay to Casino in our Hillman, because the train time was so inconvenient! And with the coming completion of the M1 you should be able to catch an express bus down the M1 to Grafton or even Coffs railway station faster than the train takes from Casino – if you take the trouble to lobby for better bus services. Time to stop waxing lyrical about the past and start planning for transport linkages using the M1 that will be quicker than the NR rail ever was.
            In respect of the Tweed Council Director of Engineering’s comment many people would support the extension of rail to Coolangatta and possibly into Tweed Heads – they are part of a three million people conurbation. But the Shire’s Transport Plan and the 2036 Regional Plan show the growth in the area is not the hinterland and not Murwillumbah, and there is no projected growth in traffic between Murbah and the Byron area. The priority for the Tweed is to get people from Tweed Heads and the growing coastal strip to the neighbouring Gold Coast. The plan points out that can be best done by with bus services and as population grows a dedicated busway which in the very long term could be a rail corridor. That leaves the rail corridor unused which is why the Council, elected by the people of the Shire, has chosen to proceed with the rail trail.
            A cabal is a secret political clique or faction – the NR Rail Trail group could not be further from that description. They have a website that accurately portrays their organisation and they are completely open about what they are doing, and have sought public support in the media at every step. They have presented a well documented and argued case for a tourist and recreational path and that has been accepted by councils and state government – what is secretive about that?
            I have several times outlined in the Echo and other media the complete wording of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Tumbarumba rail trail legislation that forms a model for other rail trails: “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. ” As the Mundaka Upanishad states “Truth alone Triumphs and not Untruth” and the truth here is that any attempt to on sell the corridor for something else would be clearly inconsistent with the Memorandum that describes the intention of the Amendment and therefore not be allowed. No rail supporter has responded to my comments outlining the legislative framework in full, so can I therefore ask rail supporters to stop repeating the misinformation suggesting the rail trail will allow a sell off of the corridor for some other purpose or profit.

        • Peter, I repeat re a Cabal. I know what a Cabal means, that’s why I wrote that. As far as the NSW Coalition goes and especially Nationals MPs & ?? whoever, a Cabal is the exact, correct term! I am very disappointed with their avoidance of really caring for their constituents. Never contacting them as even stated over & over by their current members they cannot understand them. To be ignored the way they have treated people, shows that they do not really care at all. At least Peter, you, Damon & even Geoff Bensley make ‘contact’, even though you all do not seem to ‘get it’ that the connection from C-M is a social issue & constantly we see reported of the massive depression in our area. Well, no train is a negative & very much a cause of that depression. We have continuing ‘tut tut’, we’re so concerned about the mental health of people but the actual truth is to me, that’s all the actions show – just words! Sound good media news. At a Transport Forum at Oceans Shores, which I was an initiator for, why did NRRT want to change their speaking time to much earlier and when the in-depth train information was to commence, they quickly departed! Why did they not stay & listen? Also, when I saw mention of the promotion of the Old Casino Railway Station/Museum/Mini-rail a number of yrs ago, with the NRRT ‘claiming’ the site! Isn’t anything ‘safe’ I thought! A chap (from NRRT had to be), was seen taking photos, he was asked what he was doing & told to leave as he was trespassing & NRRT were told to take their reference of the Old Casino Railway Station of their website but no they did not – I checked. Eventually, they ‘changed’ it to ‘advertise’ the OCRS but NRRT ideas have expanded! So I am rather sceptical of their reports. Also Peter, Damon & Geoff, the pro-rail MPs love your passion which you profess as the only possible way but this is joy to them as they can keep quiet and they can go on ‘whiteanting’. Sorry but that’s how I see the situation now. Jillian

          • My point about the word “Cabal” Jillian is that the process around the rail trail could not be more transparent. Without getting into what happened thirteen years ago there is also nothing hidden in decision making around the corridor more generally. Like the Rail Trail Feasibility Study, the NR Transport Plan and the C-M corridor study are publicly available and plain English documents that put the case that the restoring rail services would not be a good value way to provide transprot int he region. The Tweed Shire Transport Plan reaches similar conclusions. These documents are written in the context of a moderate density rural area where most people own and use cars, but recognise that there is a minority of people who need public transport. You are quite correct that it is an important social issue and that social isolation is related to mental health. That is exactly why it is important that we secure our share of funding from the State Government for public transport and we use it the way that provides the best transport options across the region for limited money. That is why we do not ignore the general advice that you do not implement rail on a route for fewer than some 5,000 people an hour – otherwise your service will be infrequent and not as well patronised as more frequent and better routed bus services would be (the advice of the corridor report). That is why you route your public transport past the key destinations of public transport users – particularly medical and educational destinations – which since the fifties have been built away from the rail corridor.. That is why you pay heed to the demographic trends which show growth along the corridor is slower than in the Ballina Shire and along the Tweed Coast – and so too the growth of older transport dependent people. It is all very well to rake over the coals of battles long fought, of NRRT did this and the politicians did that; fine fireside stories among friends but it does nothing to help people with their transport issues. Insisting on a particular mode of transport that has no support in either side of viable government or in any recent transport analysis again does nothing to get better public transport for our region. I am sorry if these words are harsh, but either you care enough about people who need public transport to read the analyses that outline their needs, to know what government is willing and able to deliver, and lobby for that, or you do not and we continue to go without better public transprot.

    • Peter Hatfield, did you miss that the letter mentioned high speed rail in the first place?
      It is also amazing how blind your love for buses is, you completely fail to see their downsides despite people repeatedly pointing them out to you. No not all the roads adjacent to the rail line are in good condition, havent you ever seen Ewingsdale rd, or any road in Byron Bay or Mullumbimby? It doesnt sound like it.
      Of course any rail line will need connecting buses to it, its essential, but it would be notably more buses needed of the rail line did not pass through the many towns. That is obvious. It is also obvious that buses do some road damage, road damage can be calculated by the axle weight – infact doubling the axle weight of a vehicle causes 16 times the damage. The majority of the buses in our region are large and only have two axles so believe it or not they do a bit of damage. They also get stuck in traffic like on Ewingsdale rd and commuting people to the festivals in Byron Shire. Then theres when you have to chacge bues etc. In these cases i believe a train on the c-m line could be quicker.
      You really dont understand how buses can be uncomfortable for people but when they are jolting around going over all the potholes they can be really unpleasant, and totally horrible if you have a back injury too! I have been there before. And i really feel for people who have wheelchairs, bikes or double prams and want to use the buses, maybe its possible on some of the newer ones but of course it would be much easier on a train. These days i have two little ones and a double pram and i know i cant use the buses but if there was a train i would be able to get on and off so easily

      • Angie
        I will always respond to those who use a topic to put forward misinformation concerning buses, which I not particularly love – I simply accept the mainstream advice and that given for our region that they are better value public transport for our situation. While people refer to various supposed disadvantages of buses I have responded that other people in comparable situations are quite happy to use them.
        You say that any rail line will need connecting buses to it. So who will pay for both the train when each service would cost more than several comparable buses services? That would mean fewer services along the corridor and no funds left over for the connections. Indeed the existing monies cannot even provide enough bus services to key destinations like Byron hospital. I do sympathise with you having to struggle on the buses here with your double pram. But even if you could fund the train and the buses you would still be left struggling with your double pram on and off the connecting bus. In Canberra non-accessible buses are being phased out and all the new ones lower and are wide enough to allow a wheelchair or double pram to easily enter, with multiple fold up seats to give you plenty of room. As I previously told you the buses there all accommodate standard and foldable bikes. I appreciate that does not help your immediate situation but bear in mind the cost of implementing those accessible buses in Canberra is a lot less than the waste going to providing a less frequent light rail on one existing bus route.
        I have already responded to your concerns about road damage – the cost of the marginal damage caused by the small number of buses on the corridor is much less than the cost of maintaining a separate rail line, and a necessary part of providing a service for school kids and other public transport users. The congestion along Ewingsdale Road is a result of under investing in the Byron Bay’s roads and streets. A more effective way to reduce congestion and carbon impacts is to increase the number of passengers in existing cars and buses. The Reduplication of Ewingsdale Road can be accompanied by bus and multiple occupant lanes for peak hour and peak times, along with fairer parking charges and taxes that target Byron Shire residents and employees who add to congestion on the Bay’s streets. It would seem a strange way to develop public transport policy for a region in response to the congestion at occasional festivals – congestion which appears to be related to the lack of any arrangement that gives priority to buses and multiple occupant vehicles leaving the exit to the venue (an alternative arrangements are being considered).
        I have found the NSW rail and private coaches I’ve used are comparable to a car in comfort and I again reiterate where given a choice between bus and train half of the Canberra passengers catching the Melbourne train at Cootamundra stay on the bus rather than catch the train at the earliest opportunity at Yass. On roads similar to ours, the bus does not sway any more than the train and it is not in any other way uncomfortable. I do not find the roads along the Bruxner, Bangalow Road, the M1 or the Tweed Way are in particularly bad shape. If you and others find them uncomfortable perhaps there is some mechanical issue with the suspension on the buses you use – I am sure it will not cost as much as to repair as the C-M line.
        We need to ensure we get our fair share of the transport envelope and get the best value for all who need public transport. That means making sure we have sufficient buses to provide regular clock-faced services, and those buses need to be comfortable and accessible and I of course would add bike friendly. That’s bit more of a mouthful than just chanting “Toots” but it is achievable and what we need to be lobbying for.

  4. Commuter trains require large radius curves ie 800metres or greater to allow passenger comfort and reasonable fast speed (105km/hr and above ) , the Northern Rivers between Lismore and Byron Bay plus Mullumbimby to Murwillumbah have numerous sub 400metre radius curves . The best way to keep people in cars and freight on the road is to reinstate the Northern Rivers railway on its existing corridor , keeping everyone travelling at the speed that they have done for the last 130 odd years.
    Or you could be like Tweed Shire Council who are looking at train system that will fit within the existing Pacific Highway corridor between Tweed Heads and Yelgun . This will better serve the coastal population explosion ,give a straight and fast commuter trains, and get people out of cars. You will notice this type of railway construction between Robina and Brisbane , interchange train/bus stations located near highway off ramps or near large shopping precincts.
    Having large carparks and bus drop off lanes are a prerequisite for a train system to work properly , I am not sure if the people of Bangalow would like a multi-storey carpark located in Station St?
    Eumundi Railway Station near Noosa was moved to the south of the town and the railway line was deviated to the east of the town ,keeping the 24/7 trains away from the heart of the town . Bangalow ,Mullumbimby, Byron Bay ,Billinudgel ,Mooball,Burringbar would also need deviating to avoid the joy of 24/7 noisey commuter and freight trains once the line is connected to the QLD rail system at Coolangatta air port.
    You may think this is futuristic but the population is exploding in SE QLD and Northern Rivers , in 20 years a 24/7 freight and passenger train system will be in place, will you want it thru the hearts of these towns or at a location in an already noisy place ie the Pacific and Bruxner Highway corridor?
    Unfortunately we have the heritage train groups feeding misinformation to the existing public railway groups here on the Northern Rivers saying that the existing rail corridor is suitable for trains. Suitable for coal/diesel heritage trains yes but not suitable for a reasonably fast commuter rail system.
    Will people get out of their cars and onto trains if they are slow? No
    Follow Rail QLDs lead with its straightening,deviations and gradient lowering of its railway system, they are getting freight off the road and people out of cars.
    Look at a train timetable and its travel time from Sydney to Casino and you will see a snail train that people don’t use except for the non time dependant and hugely subsidised travellers , it won’t get used by the majority but just a very minority group who have a hate against bus travel . The buses I travel on take 1hr to Coolangatta and 2hrs to Roma St Station , an easy trip ,fast and reasonably priced for the majority but not highly subsidised for the small minority. Reinstating a very slow and very expensive train system for a very small minority group is a waste of taxpayers money ,full stop . As both Damon and Peter state spend your energy on more better timetabled bus routes and timetables .
    TOOTs have been playing the same violin for over 10 years and haven’t had a retune in all this time , they sound like a broken record and the majority of the Northern Rivers residents hate the sound being emitted.

  5. Peter Hatfield, I sense I need to defend why I think it is very relevant of past issues, and why I explained, showing why I do not trust the relevant people now. I did an indepth submission on the ARUP Rail Trail & Rider Levett Bucknall Feasibility Study & many other investigations – which were very pro-train to my delight. Planes are not the answer for everybody either, especially for local connections or to Kempsey, Grafton. We just want to get off those roads. I like driving but not to Kempsey anymore & I am too hectic to have to then cope with a drive down the highway. Jillian Spring

    • Thanks for the explanation on your concerns which lead to your apparent mistrust of people involved. However I would note that it is normal in projects of this type to undertake desk analyses before proceeding with detailed design and costing work. That does not make the estimates wrong, as you stated in the Tweed Daily two years ago, but it simply recognizes you have to have a basis on which to obtain the funding to proceed with further design and delivery work. I understand your concerns about travel to Kempsey – I too visit my sister there and do not enjoy the drive on the road as it stand, and air is less efficient and more expensive for shorter hops. When the M1 is completed in 2020 I would like to see a better express bus connection to South Grafton Rail that would get people in the main centres to the train much quicker than the current “all stations” bus service


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