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October 22, 2021

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Cartoon of the week – 20 October, 2021

The letters deadline for The Echo is noon Friday. Letters longer than 200 words may be cut. The publication of letters is at the discretion of the letters editor.

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Tim Shanasy, Byron Bay. 

Peter Finch’s comments last week, titled ‘Rail Trail put to rest’, is an array of perplexing views, as if attempting to emulate an excerpt of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Words rolled out like, trumpeting, bleating, and puffery. Puffery indeed.

The NRRT (Northern Rivers Rail Trail) on the contrary, has been working consistently and consultatively with the state government for over four years.

Peter Finch may like to enlighten us all with his achievements to date, in his submissions to the NSW government and the Byron Shire Council, to gain approval for him to single-handedly finance the clearing and restoration of the section of the rail corridor that he proposes to operate his commercial venture involving his heritage electric trams.

As for his fanciful and mysterious 98.9 per cent figure of those disinterested in his Casino to Eltham ‘fantasy trai’l, well, this too may have come from his very own ‘puffery’.

Really Mr Finch, are you trying to take on, where Lewis Carroll left off?

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  1. The letter Tim refers to here and that written by Geoff Dawes published 16/8/17 that John Scrivener referred to in John’s online letter also of 16/8/17 do not appear to be available on-line. Transport in our region encompasses more than the Byron Shire and those along the corridor, and outside the Byron Shire we cannot easily get hold of the paper copy of the Echo which is I presume where the letters referred to were published. In that regard it would be useful if the Echo made available on-line the letters like Geoff’s and that of Peter Finch that are being commented on. You never know I might want to add a comment too (wouldn’t that be a surprise)!

  2. I was able to find the PDF of the Echo and read Peter Finch’s letter; it is a litany of unsupported disparagement of the rail trail proposals He notes correctly that the health benefits are not provable but there is an extensive academic literature linking cycling and improved health outcomes, and showing that an increase in cycling follows the construction of off road infrastructure – the recent Australian multi disciplinary academic work “Cycling Futures” gives a good summary of the issues. The economic benefits in any feasibility study for public funding are similarly never provable. The rail trail Feasibility Study however is written in language any educated layperson can read, is logical in it argument, has a well documented cost benefit and risk analyses, and outlines the range of high and low case scenaria and draws on relevant empirical data for its assessment of benefits. The issue of maintenance of the trail is not ignored in the Study. It is mentioned some 40 times through the main body of the study and detailed further in the appendix covering Engineering Assessments. Its disclaimers are appropriate for that stage of the assessment process – it is only after funding of the detailed design work to come that the questions anticipated in the disclaimers can be resolved. Mr Finch of course does not provide any reason or factual basis to question the validity of its findings. Like other rail enthusiasts he ignores that in Victoria councils not only accept the documented benefits from the well established trails, other councils have followed by supporting new ones and at least one council, South Gippsland, has agreed to investigate an extension of its existing trail – nothing “airy-fairy” about these actions Mr Finch.
    I note here that Peter Finch is only able to comment on the documents because everything about this project is open to public scrutiny and comment and the proposals and the Feasibility Study are publicly available. Its Facebook site is open to comment by rail and trail advocates and the commentary on it, and the support for its fundraising and from the main political players suggest there is a lot more public support for the trail than there is for diverting funding from other public transport for a rail service along the corridor. . Mr Finch falls back on the suggestion of a rail beside trail but is he prepared to put up the additional cost that sharing with his tram would entail – as the Byron Line proposes rail operators would – particularly over the difficult St Helena route he intends using Rail enthusiasts have plainly not come to grips with the reality that after years of the corridor sitting idle awaiting a rail use there is now contestability over the use of what is public land of all of the people of NSW – not just rail buffs.


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