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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Cycleway will destroy rail line

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After 14 years of campaigning by thousands of north coast residents, and all the information, studies and inquiries recommending a commuter train service be introduced on the Casino to Murwillumbah (C-M) rail line, a few local cycling enthusiasts, who want the line destroyed for a cycleway, continue to spread inaccurate rubbish.

Meanwhile, the northern rivers community has done the research and know full well that a train service on the C-M line is the most cost effective way of reducing traffic gridlock, and providing safe, sustainable, low emissions transport for locals, most of whom live in eight out of ten major, fast growing, population centers situated along the line, and 4.6 million tourists who visit the region every year.

This is precisely what was recommended in the Price Waterhouse Coopers study in 2004 and the 2004  NSW Legislative Council inquiry.

Informed, intelligent people know that our rail system has been neglected for decades as politicians/governments are captives of the fossil fool industry, who donate millions to politicians’ election campaigns.

Consequently this industry of the dinosaurs is protected, while every year we have record temperatures and the community is denied the infrastructure needed to reduce our carbon emissions and preserve our quality of life.

Politicians should be made to wear t-shirts covered with the logos of these corporations then the public would understand why our taxes are being wasted on expensive, unsustainable road projects while rail is neglected.

A few muscle-bound cyclists have constantly claimed that the C-M corridor is too windy and not suitable for commuter trains as they would not be able to travel at speed.

Now they claim that any proposed Fast Train would have used the corridor through ‘Lismore, Mullumbimby to the Gold Coast’!  They can’t even be consistent, let alone accurate!.

Then, in the very same letter, Tweed Shire Councils’ Transport Strategy Document is quoted, which says ‘(a train system) will most likely follow the Pacific Highway corridor’.

What on earth does that mean? The community has never called for, and no government has ever claimed they would build any rail line down the Pacific Highway corridor, and certainly no studies, costings or ‘short list’ have been produced.

Apart from anything else the cost and disruption to speeding traffic would be prohibitive. Trains along the Pacific Highway is nothing more than another myth being spread by the cycling lobby, who have zero credibility.

It’s complete nonsense to suggest people would prefer to battle the traffic and drive kilometers to a train station on the highway rather than walk, cycle or catch a bus to the train station in the center of town and be able to walk to all amenities at their destination. This is how it works in other regional centers, such as the Central Coast.

The truth is, over decades of discussions about a possible Fast Train service-no actual plan or costings have been done-the only stopping place ever mentioned for the north coast is Casino. In which case the C-M line is ideally placed to connect north coast locals and tourists to any future Fast Train service.

Local politicians know a train service is needed on the C-M line, and promised to provide one for almost a decade.

They also understand if they try and destroy this valuable line all hell will break loose.

Instead of being slaves to the fossil fool industry, politicians need to start looking after the environment and the needs of the people they’re supposed represent (who also pay their very generous wages and superannuation) and get the trains running on C-M rail line.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores 


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  1. I don’t think any State Government would have the appetite for the extreme risk of reintroducing the train on the old alignment. Passenger rail services, if reintroduced would have to be of the same standard as passenger services elsewhere in the State thus the $950 Million estimates for duplicating the track including all the bridges, tunnels and cuttings. Is it a coincidence that the corridor was closed a little over a year after the Waterfall Rail Accident in which seven people lost their lives? No Government will ever be convinced to spend nearly a billion dollars for the fantasy train. This isn’t about public transport, you never hear train supporters talking about integrated transportation solutions which could include coaches, minibuses, (soon) driverless cars, community transport and potentially new tech sustainable small vehicles for use on the rail trail.

    As far as the Price Waterhouse Coopers recommendations are concerned, train supporters never mention the very long list of disclaimers that precede the main body of the study that seriously undermine the scope of the recommendations. In fact this is their patented method of creating a smokescreen and inventing meaningless false facts. They ignore irrefutable truths and practical realities yet cherry pick anything that might suit their agenda and rail against any expert opinion that disagrees with them. They make vague statements about engineering realities “most of the track is perfectly serviceable” but none of them have any qualifications or experience that may underpin their outrageous claims. Louise obviously has no knowledge about tourism or she wouldn’t be spouting such rubbish about the tourism potential of the train. The train lobby has a lot to answer for!

  2. Louise Where does one start! Perhaps with “…and all the information, studies and inquiries recommending a commuter train service be introduced on the Casino to Murwillumbah (C-M) rail line”. The only such study is the now thirteen year old PwC that noted the poor timetabling of the buses that replaced the train, but one that was saddled with such limited Terms of Reference did not allow it to consider the common sense response: improve the timetabling of buses! The more recent Casino to Murwillumbah study was not thus hampered and concluded that for the same cost improving the bus services in the region would improve transport for far more people. Every other transport study has come to the same conclusion, and it is consistent with the more general advice that commuter rail services only work in areas of high population Monash University Institute of Transport Studies suggests over 5,000 passengers an hour), and that for lower density areas bus can provide much more frequent and better routed services.
    One of the many myths rail supporters continue to peddle is that rail systems have a low carbon footprint. Lenzen of Uni of Sydney found that buses and trains have similar carbon footprints, and in peak hour in cities they are both about twice as efficient as a car with a sole passenger. At non-peak hour times when public transport is not full cars are as efficient as either. Renewable electric vehicles like the vaunted Elements tram? All electric vehicles add to the total electricity consumption so even if the user draws on renewable or generates their own renewable, until we have a surplus of renewable power every electric vehicle will delay the closure of coal fired power, which will be purchased by low income people who cannot afford the premium put on renewable electricity. Want more electricity generated by coal or coal seam gas – use an electric vehicles! Over time with increased renewable capacity electric vehicles will no doubt take over. They do not have to be trains though: Britain and France are moving to electric vehicles in future decades, in Europe solar/battery buses are in service and an Australian built bus has already travelled on one charge from Melbourne to Brisbane. For far less than your dream of commuter trains serving just 40% of our population – and then not taking them to hospital or uni – you could have a comprehensive network of buses serving all of the region, and that bus fleet can be as easily electrified by renewables as any train could.
    At the moment there is one guaranteed 100% carbon free transport that some fossil fools seem to eschew – the bicycle. If you look on my Facebook page – search for Peter Hatfield , birthplace Byron Bay – you will note that your charecterisation of cyclists as “muscle-bound” is not accurate.
    I will not buy into debates about fast rail as I do not believe at the projected population growth in our region any rail is likely in my lifetime. We have very fast planes that are cheaper per passenger than a fast train or even the current very slow train and, at the high rates of occupancy they garner, provide a means of long distance travel of comparable energy efficiency. It is amusing thought to read your complaint that “…people would prefer to battle the traffic and drive kilometers to a train station on the highway “. Nevertheless you expect unwell to get from Byron Bay railway station to Byron Hospital out at Ewingsdale, currently served by a bus that would probably be one of the ones cut to fund your train! I apologise for raising Byron hospital in every letter but I am still waiting for a response from any of the rail supporters on this clear example of the inadequacy of rail as a commuter service.
    I am unsure which local politicians you think favour rail. The Nationals do not of course but Tamara in her Second Reading Speech on the Rosewood Tumbarumba trail publicly stated her support for public transport and for rail trails. It is interesting that to give an impression of Green support for your failed cause you had to drag in the hard line leftist Lee Rhiannon – is that the local politician you are talking about? Perhaps our politicians do “… understand if they try and destroy this valuable line all hell will break loose”, which is why the legislative arrangements to create a rail trail include the explanation that it be for a “walking and cycle trail”, ensuring any attempt to use it for something else will fail and it remains as legally protected from being broken up or sold off as it is now.

  3. I thought it worthwhile addressing specifically your comment about locals “ most of whom live in eight out of ten major, fast growing, population centers (sic) situated along the line”. That would come as a surprise to the residents of Tweed Heads the largest urban centre in the region, or Ballina which is the third largest after Lismore and faster growing, or the similarly fast growing Tweed Coast, Alstonville plateau, and Lennox and Evans Heads. Indeed only 40% of the population lives along the corridor and even in the towns along the line suburbs like Suffolk Park and Goonelabah are away from the line. The overall population growth in the area is a modest 1.2% per annum and the fastest growth is occurring away from the corridor in the Ballina and Tweed Shires. Unless there was a change to the careful and environmentally sensitive development policies of all of our councils – not just the Byron Shire – the modest rate of growth along the corridor is unlikely to change. As there is unlikely to be a quantum shift from private to public transport – notwithstanding our friends Angie’s admirable commitment to public transport I see nothing in the broader younger generation’s attitudes and practices that suggests that will happen – that will leave the area well short of the million or so people normally expected to be able to economically support rail services in a dispersed non-linear “city” like ours where most people by choice own and use cars.

  4. Well I have caught out Louise for not reading documents and especially the Phase 1 Fast Train document https://infrastructure.gov.au/rail/trains/high_speed/files/HSR_Phase_2_Appendix_Group_3_Preferred_HSR_alignment.pdf. , but at 328 pages it does take a while to decipher . If Louise had taken time to read the document she would have seen the route didn’t follow the existing Lismore to Mullumbimby rail corridor , how could it as the old corridor snakes it way across the Northern Rivers . The old corridor has somewhere around 80 curves with a radius less than 400 metres which limits train speed to under 85kmh and multiple curves down to 210 metres radius that require trains slow down to under 65kmh.
    Louise keeps calling it a cycle path for ‘muscle bound’ cyclists but she doesn’t mention it as its true use meaning which is a trail . A trail is used by children walking ,running or cycling ,a trail is used by the aged for walking or their gopher buggies ,the trail is used by walking groups or walking their beloved dogs ,the trail will be used by local schoolchildren for walking ,running or cycling activities on sports or activity days . Now some of these children and school students may also be ‘muscle bound ‘ but not from cycling ,they may be healthy children who prefer getting outdoors in safe and happy linear corridor environment. Many of my over 60 friends could well be termed “muscle bound ” as they swim,cycle , jog ,walk, paddle kayaks , bush walk or just love doing activities that require muscle mass , is this a bad thing ?
    Now I need to jump on Louise again with her statement about’ building train systems within the Pacific Highway will disrupt traffic ‘ . Louise was there any disruption to traffic with the building of the Brisbane to Varsity Lakes railway system ? No. There are no level crossings and I have never been disrupted on my highway trips north to Brisbane during the railway construction, you are really pulling a furphy out of the bag with that one.
    I will post the Tweed Shire Transport Strategy again for readers who do read reports and not hearsay http://www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/Download.aspx?Path=~/Documents/Community/Transportation/TSC01557_Public_Transport_Strategy_Report.pdf
    Last but not least a Railway Transport Conference link that will give information to the readers instead of just stab in the dark information with no reference as Louise appears to spin and throw at unwitting readers
    Come on Louise you can do much better with your writings and research , you are letting down the team of ‘slow trains on the old corridor’ broken record group.

  5. Exactly right Louise. All of the studies that have been done on the line have said – not to reintroduce the xpt – that a frequent local commuter service such as dmu’s like the Byron train would be far more economic and beneficial to the community. I don’t think any of the church ling group have even read the studies

      • I blame some notable politicians and wannabee politicians past and present for cynically using the train as an electioneering tool for their own personal benefit and duping the likes of Louise and Angie into actually believing it was even possible in the first place. Since the service was withdrawn it has only ever been a gravy train, endlessly giving as a profile building exercise for candidates with nothing else to say to their constituents. The smart money has dumped the train now that the gig is clearly up and they’ve left their former devotees to bleat on endlessly and fruitlessly over a lost cause. You only managed 8 people for your “protest”. “Bigger than Bentley” was it?

    • How ironic to accuse the cycling groups of not reading the relevant studies. I have never read a rail supporter refer to the prime transport planning document for our region the Northern Rivers Regional Transport Plan, which of course does not recommend reinstating the train but improving the buses. The Tweed mayor has stated her support for the train but has never once referred to her Shire’s principle transport planning document, let alone explain why she does not accept its perfectly sensible findings – do not reinstate the train or extend it to the Gold Coast improve the buses.
      The only study that suggested a commuter rail service was the 2004 PwC study. As always when you approach such a study, the first thing you do is read the Terms of Reference. Nowhere was the PwC study tasked to consider the more usual solution in a lower density area of more regular bus services – even though it noted the poor timetabling of the buses that replaced the XPT. Noting that the general rule of thumb for commuter rail services is a population of around a million people the omission of consideration of buses – the conventional approach to commuter transport in a population like ours- brings the objectivity of the PwC study sharply into question. It leaves open that it was commissioned by someone in Council with a penchant for trains. The PwC’s findings in that era are not altogether unsurprising. Lenzen of Uni of Sydney did an ex-post analysis of commuter rail services built in the latter part of the 20c and it was common that their justification was based on optimistic passenger numbers that were never achieved. Some in higher population areas have provided a good service but were still poor value for money; express bus services and busways could have achieved the same result for far less cost.
      The Casino Murwillumbah corridor study did what the PwC did not and compared the impact of commuter rail services with improved buses. It compared the XPT service, a nine-a-day rail shuttle service with additional CountryLink bus services within corridor and found that while the shuttle rail generated the higher mode shift from cars to public transport, improved bus services gave the greatest increase, though the increase with even the best outcome was marginal. The Tweed Shire Transport Plan similarly rejected the reinstatement of train services to Murwillumbah and any connection to the Gold Coast as it did not address the priority travel within or connecting to the Shire, would not significantly improve public transport and would have been far too expensive.
      The analyses have been done on transport needs and solutions Angie. Had their recommendation to improve the buses been other than what you would generally expect in a dispersed semi-rural area like ours than maybe the analyses would be worth They are exactly what you would expect. What is needed now is for people with a genuine interest in public transport to work with Councils and the government to prioritise how best to improve our inadequate buses and their routeing and timetabling, and lobby the state government for those better services. Our bus hopping Premier and her government would take that a lot more seriously than single issue demos and we might actually get some change.

  6. We all love rail transport but the economic and political reality is the trains ain’t coming back on these steam age NSW lines.
    Best option is to keep the corridor in public hands as a Rail Trail. Use it or lose it.

  7. Angie’s comments did prompt me to reread in more detail than I had before the 2004 NSW Legislative Council inquiry which as you note recommended taking up the PwC proposal of a commuter service on the line. . The PwC proposals were panned in the submission of RailCorp as optimistic in patronage, and underestimating in costs. Even though the Committee was recommending a service provided by the State government the Committee dismissed RailCorps concerns. It is unclear why either PwC or the members of the Legislative Council had greater expertise in the costs and patronage of State government public transport than RailCorp. It is open to suggest that the Committee, which was chaired by a National supported by a Green, could not endorse the Government’s closure and put undue and uncritical weight on the PwC report which came to a different conclusion from RailCorp and the government. The Committee recognised that commuter rail would be more expensive than bus services and recommending funding it with additional funds available at the time Apart form the questionable and dated costing and patronage issues in the PwC report and the deterioration of the line since then, proponents of such a service would need to identify how it would be funded now, and why that would take precedence over better bus services to areas with greater and growing older populations like the Tweed Coast or Ballina Shire (the LC Committee made the mistake made by many rail proponents of allowing he “region” to be defined by the towns and LGAs that the line passed through). As I have noted elsewhere the subsequent analysis of the Casino Murwillumbah line and the Northern Rivers Regional Transport Plan moved on from the PwC’s and the LC Committee’s limited view of what constitutes our region and what transport options are available and their analyses are rightly preferred by the current government than those dated and flawed 2004 reports. .

  8. Louise the C-M line is already line is already destroyed from 14 years of disuse and neglect! Bridges are missing, landslides and floods have significantly damaged sections of the lines etc. It is sad that you and Angie still believe trains will come back on this corridor that doesn’t server the major population areas in our region.

    What is being proposed is a rail-trail and not just a cycleway. It will be very popular and you might actually enjoy it, just wait and see. With govt and public funding now in place it’s a matter of when rather if for the trail. The majority of pro trail responses to this letter is proof of the popularity of the trail. I’m afraid to say but after 14 years you’ve lost your battle. Don’t you think it’s time to admit defeat and graciously step aside?

  9. The Rail Trail has my support as I’ve mindfully supported and placed as a goal whilst campaigning, this isn’t just a great track for cyclists and tourists. Will it service Runners and walkers, will there be pedicabs or mobility scooters. These are questions yet to be heard and answered.
    To Return the Rail to our region if it were an option, would have many community issues and lots of repercussions. This is not to say that they couldn’t be overcome. The XPT rail serviced a limited number of people at a great cost and offered a very limited supply of service.
    Hypothetically, If the rail were to be a local service providing for locals and tourists it would need to run more frequently than the XPT service did. The Question is then, how often would we need a train to run a service. What’s the required number of services providing rail movements that would create a beneficial service for the Tweed community and foster and facilitate tourism. The reimplementation of the Rail as a service would impact on many and possibly in some instances, in a negative way. Whilst providing opportunities the corridor crosses many roads as well as farm properties. The free flowing country roads would be impacted upon and whilst this is tolerable it’s not in everyone’s best interest, stop signs and crossing gates would be reintroduced across every road and rail crossing. The noise from a XPT Sydney service was minimal as was the service it provided. To service the community and tourism we may need rail movements possibly every hour or two, would the noise pollution be acceptable, would trains become visual pollution. We might not consider one train a day to be a problem but ten or twelve times a day would make an impact. Owning property or simply living next to a rail line would again impact on these residents. Bringing the Rail Service certainly would create some employment. Is there more or less potential for the Rail Trail to create business and jobs. I guess that is the big question and loaded full of speculation.
    The cost no doubt though will be massive either way. Let’s be honest with ourselves, how often would you personally expect to use a train that is currently only going only south to where and returning to Murwillumbah. Honestly yes it would service some tourism and a handfuls of locals I believe. Yes it would enable us a great facility but could our population support the service we’d be asking for. Ask this, would I personally use this service, and realistically how often would I use it, you will have to pay to ride the service. What is the overall local amenity, Visual, and environmental impact. The footprint in terms of its impact on roads and vehicle flow. Crossings throughout the valley would be reactivated, its long term visual impact a plus or a minus. Is road safety another issue. So would a Rehabilitated Rail Service be a good initiative ?
    The Rail trail has huge potential in that our region in being a product for tourism and a trail to connect our communities. Tourism Products to attract people into our region to show off the lands natural magnificence can’t be such a bad thing. Is it the sounds of nature whilst traveling almost silently the smells and aroma’s of nature the view’s and sights. The experience taking your children or grandchildren on a excursion that has destinations of difference. Local people can to engage with tourists if they want to engage socially or in business sense. The Tweed Valley offers a lot to travellers, this is a beautiful region and will attract visitors. There is potential that the Rail Trail could co exist with a light rail service one day, light rail has a far lesser impact than traditional rail services. Linking to Queensland’s to Gold Coast Airports light rail service would help better service locals and distribute the tourism flows. With an open mind, what do you think ?


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