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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

Tweed’s rail-trail funding bid derailed

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The recent failure of a federal funding bid to secure $6.5 million for the Tweed’s 24-kilometre stage of the northern rivers rail-trail project from Murwillumbah railway station to Crabbes Creek has prompted backers to look for other options to fund it.

Tweed Shire Council’s engineering director, David Oxenham, said council still believed the project was viable and would welcome any other avenues to secure the necessary funding.

Council has allotted $600,000 for the project and the state government last month promised $6.5 million toward it, all dependent on the federal ‘Building Better Regions’ funding bid.

Backers of the project were disappointed on the lack of federal support, after the initial joy at the state funding announcement, but detractors who fear removal of the disused rail corridor will prevent future rail transport, quietly welcomed the news.

The project has thus only managed to secure half the $13 million cost for the project.

Mr Oxenham thanked local state and federal MPs who had supported the project and ‘recognised the tremendous economic and public health boost the rail trail would bring to the Tweed and the northern rivers’.

‘It would be a real lost opportunity of we were unable to convert thje disused rail corridor into a major asset for this area, so we will continue to look for funding opportunities,’ he said.


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  1. Rail supporters have ince 2004 provided the NSW Government with an excuse not to improve public transport in our region – their endless demos most recently playing its part in us not getting any of the new bus routes in the last budget. In doing so they undermine the Australian Human Rights Commission’s declared right in retirement to: “… to maintain your independence as much as possible and this means being able to travel to attend appointments or access goods and services” , noting that every expert advice on public transport in the area since and including all of the RailCorp and other professional advice the 2004 Legislative Committee report on the rail, is that the rail would meet public transprot needs in the whole region “as much as possible”, and as well would not make any significant contribution to relieving traffic congestion, carbon and other pollution or transport safety. This whole push to demo for rail copied UK demos following the Beecham “reforms” in the UK in the 60s, were taken up in southern cites in Australia. and brought to our region by green left activists in the 70s. While they might have had some relevance in London or Melbourne , the idea of commuter rail that they advocate for flies in the face of basic transport economics, transport planning and environmental analyses. Having undermined efforts to improve public transport through their opposition to anything but rail, and unable to accept that the informed advice that rail is not relevant, they are now putting at risk the jobs and incomes of small businesses in villages and towns along the lines, and most absurdly undermining the possibility of sustainable low impact, non-party central recreation and tourism. Local politicians recognise the benefits of the rail trail. Tamara Smith has recognised the absurdity of her party not supporting a trail which is so consistent with her Party’s tourism and cycling polices, but even among those Greens publicly opposed some admit privately their support for the trail, but that they cannot afford politically to go against the inner city hard line NSW Green left and their supporter here (which explains why they had to get the left-wing Lee Rhiannon to publicly support their failed cause). It is time that people in the Northern Rivers who support sustainable transport for all stand up to these ill-informed single issue ideologues so we can provide our people with the transport and recreation we need.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful commentary, Peter. You make a good point that the pro-rail crew are preventing the development of other transport alternatives.

      If someone in Dunoon wants to travel to Goonellabah there’s no way they will ever be able to travel by rail. But a fleet of small on-demand buses could service that route at a fraction of the cost.

      If the pro-train crowd were fair dinkum about improving public transport they would turn their attention to alternatives like these instead of wasting everybody’s time and money trying to fund their nostalgia.

      • I do have a life Louise and as a part of it I advocate for two related things that are important to me: public transport and cycling. If you have specific comments on anything I have written – if it is wrong or illogical or whatever please do tell me. I do not make offensive personal remarks about supporters of rail and I in turn would prefer though not to be the butt of offensive remarks because I take the trouble to address in detail issues that I believe are wrong.

    • Perhaps you could be a little more explicit – I thought the article was just a factual explanation o this unfortunate development an the rail trail group’s reaction to it.

    • You do not tell us what you think is rubbish. Is it that I point the absurdity of a handful of people demonstrating for an irrelevant cause, ignorant of the basic issues of public transport they purport to support and of how it can work in our region? The Four Corners episode this evening brought out Lee Rhiannon‘s quiet but vicious intolerance of any criticism and it is unsurprising that the rail supporters saw fit to bring in such a dogmatic politician to shore up their “cause”. It would be the stuff of comedy – perhaps Waugh or Punch – except their inaction leaves the elderly and other people waiting for the bus that never comes because they couldn’t be bothered to lobby for it. Some of our Green politicians are cowed into publicly following the NSW left’s inflexible transport policies. Thank goodness people of spirit and common sense like Tamara are willing to stand up to these relics of ‘70s student politics, and point out the absurdity of a green party not supporting cycle tourism.

  2. Bringing back the trains to Northern NSW will bring more tourists, keep cars ? and trucks off the road. And a family can have weekends together on the train without stress on the roads. It makes sense when you think ? about it. Thanks?

    • Mary The Casino Murwilumabah rail corridor study examined in detail the possibility of a return of the XPT, commuter rail services and funding buses and their respective impact on road traffic. It found the XPT would make little difference, commuter rail would shift more people to public transprot than the XPT, but better bus routes would generate the greatest shift (albeit even that was a quite small shift – most people prefer cars). That is what you expect as the rail does not go near most of the destination that students, the elderly and other potential public transport users would want to go. I am tempted to suggest that a family would have a weekend on the train – all Saturday traveling to their picnic and Sunday coming back – but it was never that slow in my lifetime! More to the point would be the public cost – it is cheaper to fly someone to Sydney than to take them by train from Casino to Murwilllumbah. Someone has to pay that cost and it would come from either new bus routes – and you would get several bus services for the cost of the the train or cutting existing buses. Who do you propose misses out so the family can have a weekend on the train>?

  3. Best news I have heard coming from the fed government for a long time. Such a waste of money when we need public transport. What has Oxenham got to do with this decision, he is just a Council employee not a decision maker.

    • You could have had better public transport if you had lobbied for what the Government is willing to deliver. We missed out on our share of the 3,300 new bus services announced in the budget because some transport advocates here prefer single issue demos about rail and do not pay heed to any of the analyses since 2004 that show the rail was and would be poor value for money, and would not serve the priority transport needs of our region. The probable outcome of this“is that business and potential employees in villages down the line like Crabbes Creek, Mooball and Burringbar will miss out for the moment on the income, recreation and sustainable transport the trail will bring. One mum for example mentioned on the Facebook site how she was liking forward to her daughter being able to cycle to school. I mist say do wonder why depriving people of recreation and livelihoods is you idea of “best news”.

    • You call for trains but as with other rail supporters do not tell us who will pay for it. When the Legislative Council committee in 2004 proposed taking up the PwC proposals, the Committee proposed using additional transport funds available at the time, as it acknowledged that the rail would cost more than bus services. It justified this citing environmental benefits in spite of stating earlier in its report that it could not conclude in the face of expert opinion to the contrary that the rail was more energy efficient. So I ask you Gary, which bus services – and you would need to cut two to three for every trip the train took – would you cut in order to provide people on the corridor with rail services that do what a properly timetabled bus can already do? Within the same transport funding envelope how will you fund the additional buses needed because the train does not go near Byron hospital? Or should you suggest additional funds are needed beyond the State governments transport allocations, which Shires will have their rates hiked to pay for it and by how many hundred a year – noting that rate hikes of that order are how the ACT Government is funding its change to a less frequent rail service on a handful of express commuter bus routes? These are not rhetorical questions Gary – people in the region have a right to know who NRRAG and its supporters have in mind who will miss out on existing or new services – or who will have to face rate hikes – to fund your preference for rail.

  4. Ultimately public transport is sorely needed on the north coast and the rail line /corridor is a good place to start.. the line might not be the fastest but it serves lots of great towns and villages along the way and the views are wonderful especially in Tweed and Byron shires. Tourists will love a train service which caters for them ,their bikes and surfboards and luggage prams . It will work especially if as much as possible has a bike trail next to it. Costs have been accurately predicted by the Price Waterhouse Coopers report of 2005 [$30 mill then] and innacuratley and exaggeratedly by the recent NSW govt Arup report[ $900 mill].
    The rail trails are cute and nice and yuppies love it but are useless for any locals wanting to travel from a to b . Governments of many persuasions have rail it but the power confluence to really make it happen have been elusive.
    The line will be starting to be used in Byron shire soon for the “Elements’ Solar train. Watch how successful it is and how the calls and demand for its to extend take off. Its a no brainer ..always has been just never had the appropriate service for the 2.2 million tourists a year who visit Byron shire.

  5. Public transport is indeed needed on the North Coast but why on earth is the corridor a good place to start? The people who are most likely to use it – particularly the elderly- are more likely to live away from the corridor; the places passengers need to go are not within walking distance either, so people would face the inconvenience of catching connecting buses to campuses, hospitals etc. Except the high cost of rail would mean you would not be able to fund connecting uses and indeed would have to cut many of the bus services to fund the rail (NRRAG never tells how they will fund their folly). The costing of commuter rail as proposed by PwC was panned in 2004 by RailCorp, which also found its estimates of passengers to be exaggerated, its staffing insufficient and that it did not properly address safety issues. The more recent Arup report was done by a rail consultancy firm of international repute, the lead consultant for the Gold Coast light rail. I have been involved with Arup through rail projects in the aid program; I have worked for PwC. I know which organisation I would prefer for an opinion on rail costings, and the NSW Government takes the same view. A part of the line has been made available to a luxury resort in Byron Bay for a tram that will serve little transport purpose save for its patrons– how soon will it take for the rest of the line to be sold off for other tourist and agricultural real estate if it is not utilised for its length for a rail trial? The rail trail will be useful for transport for a some locals in its vicinity, but it is primarily intended for recreation for locals and visitors. I am unclear what you mean by the reference to “yuppies”. The Feasibility Study outlines the user ship of other rail trails is across all age groups, not just young adults. And I do not know any y cycle tourist who loves the train – NSW rail still insists we have to box our bikes for every journey – unlike the buses in Canberra which carry bikes and tandem prams (never seen a surfboard tough). Rail proponents have long based their arguments on a set of unsubstantiated assumptions about its alleged virtues; it is high time those assumptions be challenged and put aside so we can get on with the job of improving public transport and allow the corridor be put to good use.


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