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May 6, 2021

Let’s not destroy our valuable rail line for some gimmicky trail

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People need to stop writing unsubstantiated rubbish about train services on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line.

Tweed Shire Council is not ‘looking at a train system that will fit within the existing Pacific Highway corridor’.

Even if there was room for a train line on the Pacific Highway, (imagine the danger and disruption to fast moving traffic of people accessing the train) trains are not the responsibility of local government.

Like highways, train lines are state owned infrastructure, and council staff have no expertise in building any such system or running train services.

No politician, or state government, are proposing to build, or fund, any new train line anywhere on the North Coast.

Despite the state government’s own 2012 Condition Assessment report on the C-M line clearly showing that over three quarters of the line only needs  minor maintenance, our  local state politicians, Thomas George and Geoff Provest, are planning to spend over $12 million of taxpayer’s money destroying this valuable, publicly owned, infrastructure.

Despite their criminal neglect of the C-M line, we know that it will cost a fraction of what the politicians have claimed to repair the line for trains.

Political parties receive so much money from the road transport lobby they’d rather waste millions destroying the line, but it’s very clear to the community that if we allow them to do so, there will never be another one built.

No matter how many times the bikers claim that buses are better, that local bus services currenetly have such low patronage clearly demonstrates they are not popular with commuters.

That applies even more so to the huge, noisy CountryLink buses running through our towns spewing toxic diesel fumes everywhere, costing taxpayers’ millions, with one or two people on board!

Local buses are great to get people around town and to and from train stations, but only the train line provides the connection needed between towns, to the main line at Casino, and eventually to Coolangatta Airport and Brisbane.

As for bendy train lines, people who used the old rail motor in 2004 know that it took ten minutes to get between Mullumbimby, Byron and Bangalow, much faster than driving, despite the bends. No need to spend time driving around looking for non-existent parking spots either.

Only people who have never used commuter trains would make such a silly claim that they are so noisy they need to be deviated around towns.

Modern, fuel efficient commuter trains are less noisy than buses.

One of the most valuable aspects of the C-M line is that it runs through the center of so many towns and population centers and the convenience that provides for commuters who are then able to walk, or heaven forbid, cycle around town.

You can’t take bicycles on buses.

It’s no secret that locals are losing patience with the number of tourists being packed into our towns and the accompanying traffic congestion that is destroying our quality of life and local amenity.

People are sick of seeing so much taxpayers’ money spent by the state government continually promoting the area to encourage more tourists.

Locals want that money spent on infrastructure, particularly a train service, to ameliorate some of the traffic congestion, and lack of parking in our towns.

Good heavens, It may even make towns safer for people to cycle to work, school, or the shops, as they used to do.

But it’s clear that the bikers will use any silly excuse to try and justify ripping up the valuable, publicly owned, C-M line for a tourist gimmick bike track.

Locals are much better informed about the condition and value of the line and the cost effective, safe public transport it will provide for locals and 4.6 million tourists to the region.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores


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  1. Well said Louise. You are absolutely right and I couldn’t agree more. It seems rail trail proponents will say almost whatever suits their agenda. The proposed rail trail is just that – A gimmick. Cyclists will love it but very few outside of this minuscule group will use it at all. It would be something that people look at when it first opens, but after the initial period of hype fades people will ride it once or twice then move on. It would become run-down and vandalised in no time at all. We must not lose sight of the greater good for ALL residents and tourists, and that is the rail transportation we once had. It’s also important the self-interest of a very vocal minority does not irreversibly kill off the prospect of rail services now and into the future. It’s inevitable that once the rail trail fails the land will be sectioned off and sold to the highest bidder by the Government. There will be no railway legislation stopping them then.

    • Cyclists are not a “minuscule group”. Cycling is one of the most popular recreation activities in Australia, and the lack of off road cycling infrastructure is the main reason people give for not cycling more. The estimates of use for the rail trail are available in the initial study and based on the tens of thousands that use similar trails in Australasia, in places that do not enjoy our mild climate and in most class further than we are from an extended city of some three million people. There is no evidence that shows any fall off in those numbers and no basis for the suggestion that it will fail – like so much criticism of the rail trail concept it completely evidenced. Suggesting that the line will serve the greater good of all residents is another example of defining our region by the towns and villages along the line. I will recast what I have already said. The growing areas of older people who will need public transport live in the Ballina Shire and the coastal parts of the Tweed and Richmond Valley. The line runs predominately through the Lismore and Byron LGAs which have a higher proportion of car-owning households and a markedly younger population – only a quarter of the households that do not have a car are along the line. In the 1990s an inquiry into the possibility of extending the line to the Gold Coast was told by RailCorp that would be expensive and would only exacerbate the then existing inequalities in transport spending in our region (ie the inequalities caused by the high cost of the XPT). Reinstating rail services would bring back that inequality, shifting spending to the well educated and articulate residents of the Byron Shire and adjoining hinterland, at the expense of older people elsewhere who have to put up with poor access to medical and other needs because we do not have a regular bus services across our region.

  2. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-02-15/mandurah-line-a-roaring-success-mactiernan/1043674
    I can see that Lois has not been doing her research before putting fingers on the keyboard again . The Mandurah to Perth train runs within the highway corridor and is hugely successful.
    Now go straight to page 25 of the Tweed Shire Transport Strategy and it clearly states that the preferred railway route is within the highway easement all way from Chinderah to Yelgun.Please read local government documents and stop listening to hearsay from uninformed councillors or mayors.
    Next I dragged out an old train timetable from circa 1999 . Departure times are as follows- Bangalow 8.40, Byron Bay 8.54,Mullum 9.12 (total 32 minutes) – Bangalow 9.35, Byron Bay 9.53, Mullumbimby 10.10 (total 35 minutes) and Mullumbimby 5.13, Byron Bay 5.29,Bangalow 5.49 (total 36 minutes).
    If you are going to state information at least make it true and not by grabbing information willy nilly or from thin air .

  3. Once again Louise is writing unsubstantiated, and unsupported rubbish about the rail trails and the C-M line in general. Louise, can you actually backup any of your statements eg “Despite their criminal neglect of the C-M line, we know that it will cost a fraction of what the politicians have claimed to repair the line for trains.” How do you know this? How many rail lines have you restored? Are you disputing the ARUP report into feasibility of restoring the line? ARUP is an international company of designers, engineers and planners. I’d be really interested to know what your qualifications are as you claim to know better.

    Rail trails both interstate and overseas have proven to be very popular not just with cyclists but bushwalkers, horse riders and runners. They have reinvigorated the towns and communities along them by bringing responsible eco tourists who eat at the local cafes and stay in local accommodation. The nearby Brisbane Valley Rail trail continues to grow in popularity and is being extended by the local councils. If it was a ‘gimmick’ then the forward thinking councils wouldn’t be investing so heavily in the trail.

    The C-M line had already being destroyed by floods, landslides and vandalism after 14 years of disuse and neglect. A rail trail is the only viable option to preserve the corridor and stop it from being sold off. The trains are not coming back. Lets not waste another 14 years waiting for train that is never going to appear. Bring on the Rail Trail!

    • Good heavens is there no end to this irrelevant nonsense?

      I REPEAT the state government’s own Condition Assessment Report and map clearly shows that over three quarters of the Casino to Murwillumbah line only needs MINOR REPAIRS which means it will cost a fraction to repair for trains than politicians have claimed. This is not someone’s thought bubble or ‘estimate’ it’s a detailed government report.

      That’s all that matters-the line can be repaired quickly and cheaply for trains and the community will not stand by and allow an extremely valuable piece of public infrastructure be destroyed to be replaced with an expensive gimmicky trail.

      Not that that will make a scrap of difference to the bikers and their selfish agenda.

  4. Great letter and information Louise. This discussion would be well and truly over if it were not for the three right wing, ‘development at any cost’ Councillors being Polglase, Allsop and Owen and over paid Tweed Shire staff who use their positions to make false, public claims about the ‘rail trail’ to nowhere.

  5. More rubbish from the bikers. The aspirations in the Tweed Shire Transport strategy are irrelevant-logal government staff do not have the expertise or the funds to plan ,build or run train services.

    The 2001 Murwillumbah to Sydney XPT timetable is as follows: Murwillubah 21.50pm, Mullumbimby 22.28pm, Byron Bay 22.43pm (15mins) NO STOP at Bangalow. The train NEVER stopped at Bangalow.

    It’s a bit rich for people who regularly spread unsubstantiated myths (some would call them lies) to be claiming other people have not done their research. But they’ll say anything to try and justify the criminal vandalism of destroying valuable public infrastructure.

    You would think they’d have better things to do, but apparently not.

    • Louise You use strong language to disparage those who do not agree with you , but the arguments for improving road transport rather than rail are well founded in the general literature and regional and State-wide analyses of people’s transport needs. You disparage the staff of Tweed Shire Council involved with its Transport Strategy, but the strategy draws on sound advice from the transport planning literature, and is consistent with the advice given to the Legislative Council inquiry by RailCorp, and the analysis of the Casino Murwillumbah corridor study – that restoring the rail service would be expensive and would not provide good value (I trust you accept the expertise in planning, building and running rail services of RailCorp and Arup, the lead consultant for the Gold Coast light rail. What the Strategy did do – and Byron Shire Strategic Transport Statement did not – was base its strategy on the changing demographics of the Shire and their current and projected movements. That is why the Tweed strategy rejected investing in the Casino Murbah rail which would not serve the growing population on the coast, and the destinations away from the line they are likely to visit (to which we can now add the new hospital to be built between Pottsville and Tweed Heads).
      Your outline of the XPT timetable is interesting as it shows that the rail was no faster than coaches. Murwillumbah – Byron Bay took an hour on the train; it now takes 58 minutes on the coach, which also stops at Brunswick Heads and Ocean Shores. From Casino the XPT took over 2 hr 14 mins to Murbah while the coach takes 1 hr 38 mins. The times for a shuttle rail service trying to also provide commuter services would of course be longer – it took twice as long from the Bay to Mullum when the train provided a commuter service for high school students in the ‘60s. If it was required to provide the main connection with the XPT would require an additional change for those North of Murbah, and with a likely headway of around two hours for an eight a day shuttle, it would likely require longer connection times in Casino and Murwillumbah. Whichever way you cut it the rail line is less flexible and it was built to provide for the demographic and transport needs of another age, and so would provide a slower and poorer service today than well timetabled and routed buses can.
      The Government’s future transport Draft Regional NSW Services & Infrastructure Plan was launched this week, appropriately in Ballina. It proposes for the North Coast: new bus and coach service improvements for the region to improve connectivity between regional cities and centres and within centres ; extending light rail from Gold Coast Airport to Tweed Heads; and investigating “… potential new servicing patterns and associated enabling infrastructure requirements with a focus on travel between Regional Cities and Centres to accompany new diesel fleet to enable better connections and day return opportunities for regional communities”. We need to be thinking about what those intra regional services will look lie and how we can use the post 2020 M1 to provide express inter regional services to meet the new faster diesel fleet in Grafton and Coffs, and better services into Queensland.

  6. I will not comment on Louise’s letter in respect of trains down the rail corridor – I do not have the benefit of the original letter but agree the NSW government is not going to build such a train line, just as it is not going to reopen rail services along the existing corridor. I did want to correct the numerous errors in her commentary.
    Of all her comments nothing shows how out of touch Louise is with modern public transport than her statement: “You can’t take bicycles on buses”. I am sorry Louise but I took mine on the Canberra buses every day for several years (they provide a rack just for them). It is similarly quite absurd to suggest that only the train provides connections to Casino, and other towns – plainly buses do it every day, they already do it to both of the main airports, and they provide direct commuter services to Brisbane without the waiting time and inconvenience of changing because of different gauges. Contrary to your suggestion that the buses are unpopular the Byron Easy Bus is able to run with very good patronage without the need for any government subsidy (the publically funded bus services often appear underutilised because they use larger buses needed for the twice daily school runs). Across NSW rural buses carry 2.5 times more passengers than rail. . I have used Countrylink coaches for travel around NSW and worked near Canberra’s coach terminal; the patronage varied but I have never seen one with one or two people nor one that belched smoke.
    I could not understand the reference to the “old rail motor” in 2004 running between Bangalow Byron Bay and Mullumbimby. The XPT did travel from the Bay to Mullum in ten minutes but how is that relevant to creating a commuter shuttle service without spending the estimated $900m to restore the line to XPT standard? Once again Louise repeats the myth that a train service will shift people from cars. The largest movements of people in and out of the Byron Shire are from Ballina, not along the corridor, and wherever they come to and from people will always choose the more frequent services that road can affordably provide (if you are serious about addressing parking and congestion lobby your Shire to apply parking charges to its residents). She refer to the train service being safe– how ironic given the PwC proposals were criticised for lack of attention to safety – implying that road public transport is not. That again is an oft repeated myth without supporting evidence. And as for “One of the most valuable aspects of the C-M line is that it runs through the center of so many towns and population centers and the convenience that provides for commuters “ – more irony given buses can and do go through the centres of all, not just a few, of our towns and unlike the train go past key destinations like campuses, hospitals and aged care centres
    Perhaps rather than suggesting people are sick of the State government spending money attracting tourists, it might be better to ask people if they would prefer to develop a new type of outdoor tourism in our area, attracting people who do not want to just stay in the Bay, who are not here to party, who will not drive around the towns, and will spend their money along the length of the line.
    It is high time rail buffs stopped relying on longstanding beliefs about rail and public transport in our region, and provide some hard evidence to support their many contentions.

  7. Interesting to see a pattern developing here. It’s always the same three rail trail proponents who comment on every pro-rail article, albeit with ill-informed, incorrect information full of assumption, which is ironic because its usually these three that accuse the writer of the letter for writing “unsubstantiated rubbish”.

    • Wayne – it’s a tough job refuting the presumptions of rail buffs but someone has to do it! There are a lot of dated beliefs and assumptions – that rail is necessarily more environmentally friendly or that the community of public transport users live along the line, that have to be continually corrected. I note that notwithstanding your general comment you are unable to point out any of the information that I have provided that is either ill informed and incorrect, nor what assumptions are being made. It is important that this discussion is well informed , based on professionally done transport analyses and on the demographic data for our area, so any spending provides the best benefit to those who need public transport. I also note that I did not use the term “unsubstantiated rubbish”.

  8. Beth Shelly recently wrote a defence of the train service based on her work with disadvantaged people, noting particularly the transport needs of people of indigenous background (Our most disadvantaged need transport too Letters 16 10 2107). I thought it worthwhile to look in our area at where indigenous people live relative to the rail line. There were 9,731 people in the Richmond Tweed who stated in the 2016 census they were indigenous. Of these 1,087 lived in Casino and another 379 lived in other statistical areas that the rail line passes through or along side. As with the elderly and people who live in households without a car, the great majority live nowhere near the rail line. While Beth’s concerns are important and her passion for helping transport disadvantaged people is I believe genuine and by any standard admirable, rail supporters need to pay more heed to where transport dependent people actually live before suggesting more money be wasted preserving a rail line that at best can serve a few short tourist trams.


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