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Byron Shire
December 4, 2021

Better rail service tipped for Tamworth – why not us?

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So many people I speak to say they want trains in this area but they’ve given up believing it’s possible. ‘The government will never pay for it, they say, the track is falling apart.’

It’s interesting to look at what’s happening out West in NSW at the moment. The Northern Daily Leader, August 14, – All aboard, MP flags more train rides from town – talks about new potential rail connections between Tamworth and Dubbo, Newcastle and Sydney.

This article also states, ‘Dubbo was identified as the preferred location to construct a brand new rail maintenance facility, bringing with it a big boost for jobs, as the entire regional train fleet is replaced.’

It seems that the local Nationals MP for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, is the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and Transport and is pushing for more rail services for his area. Our local Nationals MPs, Thomas George and Geoff Provest have been pushing for funding for rail trails.

Our cities are as populated and more numerous than out West and in fact Tweed has more than twice the population of Dubbo. Maybe we just need some new MPs.

 


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13 COMMENTS

  1. Yes Beth. The well paid MPs who refuse to listen to, and represent, the community’s need for a public train service for the Northern Rivers population and the 4.6m tourists who visit the region every year have to go.

    It’s even more outrageous that they will happily sit back and watch the traffic congestion increase every year, and WASTE $12m of taxpayers’ money destroying the valuable Casino to Murwillumbah train line which could make a huge difference to that traffic congestion..

    • The Casino – Murwillumbah corridor study examined three possibilities of improving public transprot in the region and found that re-instating the XPT would have the least shift, putting in place a regular shuttle rail would cause a greater shift, while improving bus timetabling would bring about the greatest shift. On the shuttle it stated “Very minor shift predicted from car to the more sustainable public transport mode”. It is not unreasonable to question the exact extent of any shift – this is not an exact science – but plainly putting in place a rail service will not bring make “a huge difference to that traffic congestion”. The report notes that most visitors come by car, either their own or by rental cars – like locals they are not interested in using public transport. . What is outrageous is proposing transport solutions without any kind of analytic support and proposing solutions that will not serve the needs of public transport dependent people, 85% of whom are elderly, and predominately and increasingly live in the Tweed and Ballina Shires away form the corridor. The one group likely to park their car during their stay will be those riding the rail trail and on other safe cycling areas that we create – already in Ballina many elderly and family visitors bring bikes to enjoy the good quality cycle infrastructure the “non-progressive” David Wright and his Council have created.

  2. A 2016 Gratton Institute report “Roads to Riches” outlines the political nature of too much transport infrastructure funding, including and examples the political nature of heavy funding over the years on the New England highway compared with other higher priority roads (how many people have been killed on the Pacific as a result?) – the New England area has long distorted transport funding. I have said many times the regional transport plan outlines why rail will not work here as well as better buses would. So we should not encourage our politicians to emulate this New England pork barrelling by wasting money on a rail service that would deliver few benefits, would strip recurrent funding from existing higher priority bus services, and take away funding badly needed for new services and to make our local buses as accessible as are those in our cities. You choose to example waste elsewhere, but never commented when other areas got hundreds of new bus services in the budget , a far more achievable and useful thing that would have better serve aged care facilities, hospitals campuses etc that are nowhere near the corridor. What would be more useful in respect of rail is to consider how we can improve our bus service connections, taking advantage of the coming completion of the M1 to better connections to the faster XPT replacement up the main North Coast line, for the small number of people who do not drive or fly.

  3. No mention is made of passenger services in the article and Tamworth and Dubbo are both already served by an XPT Service and then buses to places beyond.

    At present, NSW has no more rolling stock for further passenger services. The XPT stock is old and tired, to the extent they need to run two locomotives just to shift five carriages.

    Any hope of an increased passenger service in the foreseeable future is just a pipe dream in NSW.

    • From the nonsense they keep writing it’s obvious these people know nothing about train services and probably have never been on a bus or train.

      No more rolling stock! What the……….The state government is investing in new rolling stock all time! Though most of it comes from China.

      Northern Rivers people have been asking for a cost effective, smaller, regular commuter train service on the C-M line-NOT AN OLD CLAPPED OUT XPT!

      Why do you people continually ignore 4.6m tourists to the region who need transport? Because it blows your argument to rip up the line for an expensive bike track out of the water.

      The buses that replaced the train cost $5m per year in 2004 (that’s $70 million over fourteen years! (twice what it would have cost to repair the line for commuter trains) and are probably costing taxpayers’ twice that now-that’s why politicians won’t reveal the cost. Even worse, as the cramped, uncomfortable buses take twice as long as the train did, there’s usually only one or two people on them. That’s how much people want bus services.

      Those buses are an absolutely scandalous waste of our money!

      Large buses do enormous damage to roads, are not cost effective, they are extremely uncomfortable on a long trip and not accessible for anyone with mobility problems, prams or bicycles.

      But the bikers aren’t interested in any of this, just want to destroy the extremely valuable train line. Well locals will never stand by and allow that to happen.

  4. Peter Hatfield, By crikey, you sure do love buses Peter. I’ve sure done a massive amount of bus transport but I sure did love that train journey across the Northern Rivers, no road traffic holdups, no b-doubles & other trucks blasting past, cars, utes, blasting along. I’ve done a lot of driving too & love driving but parking in Mullum is becoming a bit of a problem. More buses you say. There sure are a lot of other people the same as me.
    You may know Peter, because Thomas George, Geoff Provest, Don Page, Justine Eliott, the Tweed Crs – Lib, Nats, Labor & Tamara Smith sure wont tell either, ie – what is the cost of the QLD Sunstate Charter buses that NSW Trainlink use? Funny that & they are all for the bike track – are they going to ride their bike to work? What a silly statement, of course they can’t, all dressed up wouldn’t exactly be bike riding gear. Jillian Spring

    • I am sure I have said before Jillian I do not particularly like buses, but I accept the analyses that show they are cheaper and better able to meet people’s transport needs than trains. I also do not know the exact cost of the Sunstate subsidy either, but the reviews into the rail in 2004 and the more recent analysis of the corridor point out what the general literature would lead you to expect – a rail service on the corridor would cost more. That additional cost must, I repeat must, be at the expensive of either existing bus services or improved bus services. Like many people I quite like trains but I would rather catch one bus where I want to go than catch a train and then have to catch another connecting transport. Again, like most users who live along a rail, I would rather have a bus every half hour than a train a few times a day.
      I must say I think your memories of the train are somewhat rose coloured. The last time I tried to catch the train from Murbah was during one of its regular strikes, and there was no alternative bus because NSW protected the rail from bus competition; the last time I tried to catch the XPT to Sydney from Canberra it has been suspended for many months for track repairs.
      I do not know if the local politicians will ride to work. My next door neighbour in Ballina was a Canberra bus driver who regularly passed our former local member and rail trail patron – Doug Anthony – riding to the Parliament on his small wheeled Moulton – a fine example of the most efficient, environmentally friendly and democratic transport. What a contrast with NRRAG’s unofficial patroness Lee Rhiannon, schooled in Moscow in the imposition on the masses of the most inefficient, top down, hierarchically managed and inflexible transport of all – passenger rail.

      • Peter Hatfield, You say The last rime you tried to catch the train from Murbah was during one of its regular strikes. If I read this correctly, you mean the train service was stopped because of so much strike h? Oh, that hardly ever happened & we used the train as our ‘clock’ as we could see the train rolling along from our place on the hill. Always great excitement, children racing to wave as the train went along, passengers probably couldn’t see them waving but they loved to wave.
        No, not memories of the train travel through rose coloured glasses. A 100% trust and comfort especially compared to the squashed buses that we are forced to endue. Shame on the Nationals with their petitions for the bike, horse riding, walking, mobility scooters, wheelchairs, track at their offices. I speak out because of all the people who I talk to who want the train – young, old, you name it – they want trains! Oh, yes, they say but what’s the use, the politicians don’t listen to us. These people have given up but are very thankful for someone speaking for them. I don’t give up as this has been a disgrace all these years and I am fed up with the one-sided ridiculous bike etc track, with massive media & political coverage of total favouritism! Also how politicians had argued so vehemently for the trains, but could back down the way they have leaves big questions unanswered. Jillian Spring

        • Jillian Catch the bus down to Ballina and you might meet some people who are as not as keen as your interlocutors are on the train. Or perhaps read the Sustain Northern Rivers Transport Survey 2013 which found the main barrier to public transport was service provision, with frequency of service (39.5%), service unavailability (34%), timetabling constraints (30%), inconvenience (28%), long waiting times (25%), cost (24%), slowness (21%) and lack of information/timetables (19%). Only 9% thought not having a train would help increase public transport use, compared with frequency/regularity (27%) and availability (17.5%). I would also recommend read the recommendations of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC) submission to the Government’s inquiry last year into access to transport for seniors and disadvantaged people in regional NSW, which did not once mention the train or the rail, but which offered practical and affordable suggestions on how to make the buses more accessible.

          • It would be interesting to know who the NRSDC surveyed to reach the conclusion more accessible buses would
            provide better public transport for seniors or people with disabilities. Certainly not the 17,000+ people who have signed petitions to get the trains running. If people were so keen on buses they’d be using the Countrylink buses-but they’re not. Those buses, which are costing taxpayers’ an outrageous $5 million plus per year, are usually empty.

            Buses are great for short trips and getting people to and from train stations.

            People still remember the horrendous bus crashes at Cowper and Tyndale which killed over 80 people and left many others with serious injuries.

            People will not stand by and see the valuable C-M line destroyed and replaced with an expensive, useless bike track.

  5. Louise asked who the NRSDC surveyed. It is detailed in the methodology , but they are from all over the Northern Rivers, with the largest numbers form Grafton, Yamba and Lismore. Importantly it investigated restraints and did not just ask people whether they wanted something – people always will say “yes” to such surveys – or sign such petitions – if they are not confronted with the opportunity cost of what is being proposed. The rail Toots and NRRAG proposes will cost twice the amount you quote for buses which serve all of the area, not just the minority who live along the corridor.. Ask people if they are willing to have their rates hiked by hundreds of dollars – as Canberra is doing to fund its light rail – and you might get a different response. The Legislative Council inquiry was told in 2004 patronage dropped on Countrylink because people simply went by car to Casino XPT station. It is no further from Lismore than the stations in the four capitals the XPT serves, but the bus is still there for those that need it. Why would they use a shuttle train service when they would still have to change at Casino and the train would face the same need to arrive in good time to meet the XPT. Those coming from Tweed Heads and QLD would still need a coach or face a more roundabout journey and a second change at Murwillumbah. Just as we remember the Granville disaster we all remember with sadness the Cowper and Tyndale crashes, which is the reason we have spent so much on the Pacific Highway . There is however no evidence to show that bus travel is not as safe as train travel -all the evidence suggests they are both very safe. You may see the rail trail as useless but without the taxes paid by customers, businesses and their employees, such as those that stand to benefit from the trail, we would not be able to continue to subsidise any transport in our region.

    • Petrus, In the NRSDC survey, you say the largest numbers were from Grafton,Yamba & Lismore. We have much more festivals, markets, happenings now than in 2004 where people want to go to. People started going by car to Casino railway because the buses were a failure – squashed, down every ‘back ally’ – round & round they go – especially in Lismore so the train trip is nothing like that. How can you compare that bus trip with the train! Why do you keep harping on ‘the minority’ who live along the corridor; Destination Byron (gov), Destination Tweed (gov), Destination NSW Gov,Tweed Chambers, all state population increases & now 2017 – not 2004! You have to admit, from well south of the Tweed River, traffic madness starts & gets worse. 2004 population compared to 2017 population. Lismore City & no train, what a joke – shame on Lismore Crs, politicians, & Richmond Valley Crs who voted for a bike track. Tweed Geoff Provest too, we’re not like in Holland or China for easy riding of bikes but our rail trail are touted for horse riding, mobility scooters, wheel chairs etc, my it’s going to be a bit crowded. Jillian Spring

      • I apologise to Louise in answering her question, and to you and other readers. The respondents I mentioned were those outlined in the Sustain Northern Rivers Transport Survey 2013. I mentioned the three largest groups who responded, but a lot more responses came from all over the Northern Rivers. The NRSDC does not outline the basis of its submission. It does however represent seniors and disadvantaged across the region, which is appropriate, and its recommendations accord with the Sustain survey and the NR Transport Plan. They took a realistic and evidence-based approach to their submission. The C-M Corridor Study notes that “Currently, only 40 per cent of the population of the Northern Rivers region would have reasonable access to the rail line.” More significantly it continues ” With continued growth along the coastal corridor, by 2031, it will serve less than 25 per cent of the population.” That trend has been confirmed in the projections in the 2036 Strategic Plan, and the trends in the 2016 Census. Linking those not along the line involves changes of transport mode, means you need to invest in more buses and in making them disabled friendly, and those additional costs are after you have more than doubled the Government’s regional transport outlay just to put a train on one route. The RailCorp advice to the Legislative Council inquiry makes sense – there was a drop in patronage from the XPT to Coach, particularly from Lismore, because people no longer having an XPT direct to Sydney from their local station made the short car trip to Casino. It was not the speed per se from Casino to the most popular destinations in our area – at just 25 minutes the coach is a quicker than the XPT was to Lismore and takes the same time to the Bay – but the additional connection time which would also apply to a shuttle rail service (and the shuttle would take longer form Casino to the Bay if like the current coach that serves Mullum and other destinations up the line it is not an express). It is unfortunate that we have not ended up with a standard gauge to Brisbane, but as we do not so we are better off planning a road transport the best possible intra-regional services and inter-regional connections.

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