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May 16, 2021

New railway group to form at M’bah meeting

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A photo taken at the last meeting held in Murwillumbah. (supplied)
A photo taken at the last meeting held in Murwillumbah. (supplied)

A new Railway Action Group will be starting in Murwillumbah at a meeting held on Wednesday at 7pm at the Murwillumbah RSL.

As the threat of losing the railway track from Casino to Murwillumbah becomes more urgent, Bill Fenelon of the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) is proposing to start Murwillumbah’s own group for those who care about the future of rail in this region.

‘This will be the third NRRAG meeting to be held in Murwillumbah this year and there is strong community desire to see this railway reopened,’ Mr Fenelon said.

‘We call on supporters to attend this meeting and send a strong message to the NSW Government that the region needs a commuter rail service connection from the Gold Coast and throughout the Northern NSW Region, connecting to Sydney through Casino.”

NNRAG spokesperson Beth Shelley said people seem confused about what’s happening with the railway track as they’ve been told a rail trail/bike path proposal will protect the rail corridor.

‘Some people think it means having the bike path next to the railway track. It’s not true.

‘In order to remove the railway tracks to have a bike path it is first necessary to pass an act of parliament closing the railway line. This means the land becomes Crown reserve and no longer protected as a rail corridor.

‘If the funding was provided and the legislation goes through for the Murwillumbah rail trail proposal of 26 kms, the rest of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor is crown land and therefore disposable.’

Tweed Shire Mayor Katie Milne will be attending and said: “In the end a solution needs to be driven by the community. We need to support each other and come together instead of being divided.”

Ms Shelley said trains were needed because  ‘we are a fast-growing population of nearly 300,000 with over 4.6 million tourists yearly. We are the biggest area for tourism in NSW after Sydney and so the rate of our traffic congestion, road accidents and road maintenance costs is very high. We need a regular, commuter rail service to make our roads safer for all and cut carbon emissions.

‘In 18 months we have a NSW state election coming up. We need to vote for people who care that the Northern Rivers community has good public services, including transport. Railways are about fairness and equal access to support and opportunities for all people.’

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  1. It is plainly laughable that after over 13 years of closing the ever increasingly expensive rail service, there are still people in their belief systems that some government may still commit taxpayers’ money to the rebuilding of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor.

    But not only that, but to extend it into Queensland as well.

    Who on Earth can tell these people..
    “They’re Dreamin’ ” ??

    It aint goin to happen. Period.

    These same people don’t realise that to prevent any eventual sale of this unused asset, the government needs a viable activation strategy presented to them, like a rail trail, to keep the corridor held in public ownership.
    This would mean that if or when our population levels and transport needs change in the distant future, we at least have a corridor in-situ, which may well be re-utilised.

    The surest way to default to a sell-off, is to push for a train service NOW, as this only helps to maintain its “unused asset” status.

    So please, get a grip on what you’re actually advocating for . . .

    • Go do some real research tim, once the tracks are removed by an act of parliament the corridor is reverted to crown land and the corridor is gone for good and that is just plan fact right there. To reactivate this line will not cost as much as what the politicians tell you or whats in a report which has a over inflated price tag. Rail trails are a waste of time and tax payers money and after the initial novelty has worn off they are very rarely used and a burden on tax payers to maintain which ends up being put back on councils to do out of there budget. It is now time for the line to be reactivated and serve its public once again with the extension of the line to Queensland. Maybe a similar setup to whats happening in Newcastle with heavy rail to murwillumbah and light rail the rest of the way to gold coast perhaps with regular commuter services between murwillumbah to casino. This would be of more benefit to the region then a silly bike track and lets face it there is plenty of tracks and trails in the bush to enjoy or the national parks.

      • Beth Shelley refers to the need to have an Act to enable the rail trail. That is not so – an Amendment to the Act is what is required. Her inaccurate language shows quite clearly that NRRAG and its supporters are not basing its commentary on any legal advice. The model Amendment is quite explicit that it is for use as a rail trail – it cannot be used for another purpose without further amendment just as is the case now – and that wording was made explicit at the behest of the Rail Trail group, the Greens and Labor.
        There is no evidence to support your contention that rail trails are a novelty. Annual usage in the established Victorian trails is in the tens of thousands and is increasing. Taxpayers do not maintain the trails there. Some councils are very happy to do though. In Wangaratta which I have just visited the city council has invested in a new end-of-trail shower/locker/bike maintenance facility, which in South Gippsland, far from reluctantly taking on maintenance they are planning to extend the trail. The trails are completely different in character form mountain bike paths, and are, and provide a sustainable experience that is enjoyed by a used by a wide range of ages, bicycle types and walkers.
        The submissions from the environment portfolio and the RailCorp to the Legislative Council inquiry shows train was closed because it was not economic, and that a commuter service would not be viable. The Review of the corridor made similar findings. Rail buffs have refuted the estimated 900k cost of restoring the line by arguing they are not calling for return to heavy distance rail but this meeting is calling for that as well as commuter services. Connecting to QLD would be cost as much again and would still leave users taking a longer slower journey through Murbah and having to change gauge – or change to a street level light rail, Buses currently do it faster, much cheaper, with no more environmental impact , You are concerned about modest maintenance outlays for a rail trial, but are prepared to shift hundreds of millions of transport funding away from higher priority transport needs – remember only a quarter of the area’s non-car households lie along the line – to provide a poorly connected train service that has been rejected by every qualified review of transport needs in our area.

  2. Yes, it’s time to bring back rail transport. It’s idiotic, shortsighted and bad planning to not have an alternative to road transport!

  3. Poor Tim. He doesn’t seem to understand that the rail line to Murwillumbah isn’t a railway to nowhere, it’s an extremely valuable asset that will prove its worth over the coming generations if restored to proper working order and extended to the airport. With the eastern seaboard population inevitably expanding, it’s not that difficult to see that the region needs all the transport options it can get. Or should I say, deserves.

    • Poor Milton,
      You appear to be totally out of touch with how much cost would be involved to materialise what you feel you “deserve”.
      You represent the fiscally irresponsible.
      You probably haven’t even begun to think about costs, and probably never will.
      Remember that there’s only X amount of taxpayer funds available.
      Do you think they’ll spend it on a public transport system to the Moon?
      I’m sure there are people even more “deserving” than you, that think they’re “entitled” to such a service.

  4. Tim is onto something here. Opposition to the rail trail is funded and driven by who? What group could profit from neither a rail trail or train line. Join the dots.

    • You are forgetting about the property developers and real estate agents who would just love the rail trail – Something that will inevitably result in the sale of the highly valued land the rail line currently sits on. Join the dots.

      Trains are already coming back to Byron. There will be the world’s first solar train up and running there soon. The rail trail is the only thing threatening the expansion of this service and the creation of new services that would inevitably happen as a result of the solar train.

      • Wayne,
        There is absolutely no way Elements are going to extend their embarrassingly expensive solar train experiment any further in either direction.
        And in your dreams, maybe you’d like to try to dream up a way of incorporating your future profusions of train operators co-existing on the old single rattler track.
        Good luck with that one.

        Oh, and about your real estate concerns for our corridor, the NRRT rail trail group HAS ALWAYS BEEN EMPHATIC AND REPETITIVE AND CONSISTENT ABOUT KEEPING THE CORRIDOR IN PUBLIC OWNERSHIP, just in case you can’t read in lower case.

  5. It was an act of short sighted insanity to close our M’bah to Casino Railway. Mayor Katie has expressed the situation perfectly. I would like to suggest we run a NORTHERN RIVERS RAILWAY LOTTERY – to help fund it faster. The Sydney Opera House was built on the purpose-funded Opera House Lottery. WE CAN DO IT.

    The bike trail can traverse any other tract of land – but NOT EVER on our Railway. . . which is safer and smarter for all Mayor Katie’s given reasons.

  6. The social and employment gains would be fantastic from this reinstatement.
    The people against have no vision of the now or future needs and gains. As for money, the coffers are quite full now with multi billion dollar project everywhere in Sydney, the only downside to this rail is it will bring even more people and settlers here but I am being selfish when I say that as in is inevitable.
    We are not Sydney yet but from where I stand the growth will be huge if people can get around.
    We need a proper plan and costing done to sway the nay sayers to show the real benefits.
    And,include bike trails where appropriate as well as rentals in the towns, on and on the benefits go…

  7. Train line to/ through Murwillumbah is clearly unprofitable! Population centres are elsewhere. Maybe a comuter line between Lismore to Qld via the Tweed Coast could be feasible however out of reach of State Budgets

  8. Sentimentality is a total waste of space, just sell the rail alignment and the make sure the funds are channelled back to create a modern electrified straight line suitable for fast rail transport from Ballina through Lismore with good reliable small bus connections, after all it is 2017 not the 1900s and good luck with negotiations between States, it can be done if you make a good case..

    • William, please study public transport infrastructure, and include topography, demography and social needs. A straight railway line from Ballina to Lismore, not going through any other town, will not be able to drop people off at Wollongbar TAFE etc. nor be financially feasible if the government couldn’t pay the initial $5-10 million per year for C-M line maintenence in 2004 – the reason Labor’s Michael Costa gave for the discontinuation of services.

      The government definitely won’t pay for a ‘Shinkan-sen’ or TGV fast line connecting Ballina to Lismore!

      The right kind of integrated services can only be designed by civil engineers specialising in public transport, and the Northern Rivers is unique in its array of towns and villages – many of which just happen to have a connecting railway corridor through them.

      The folks who put in the lines connected the dots, and to get a rail service from Ballina to Brisbane, we need to get into a time machine going to 1930!

      It’s quite deliberate – NSW governments don’t want people to access Queensland easily!

  9. I wish the enthusiasm and tenacity of the Railway group would spread to the bigger issue of real transport needs in the Northern Rivers.
    Spending up to $1billion on a defunct train line, when that could be used to invest in many, many other options for transport solutions in this area. – Community transport for the elderly and the disabled, Solar buses for the villages and interconnecting (not on the rail corridor) towns, an express bus service for workers between Lismore to Ballina to address the 20000 car movements a day on Bruxner Highway, more frequent and cheaper services around Lismore itself etc etc etc.
    When will any Government or political party or group really take any notice of the many shelved transport studies done in this area?? Never????

    • In the eighties, Northern Rivers was looking towards the future with improved commuter rail services. Everything goes backwards now with support for dangerous, carbon-polluting road transport! We should not have to die on the roads and breathe in the car exhausts.

      As a disability pensioner, I can tell everyone, it is just not possible to get to my support group on the coast or specialist medical treatment in Brisbane by just buses for the day, nor can many people go without toilets for hours going across the region. We need to eat, take medications or do study on the long trip from Grafton to SCU. We need easy access to our large neighbour, Brisbane.

      Friends with MS can’t come here to visit, and ‘tree-changers’ will not live here without a use-able 21st century transport system. Commonwealth Games visitors will just say, “Australia is backwards!”

      Re-connect the heart with equitable, socially inclusive public transport.

      Buses alone don’t work!

  10. Divide and conquer… just what governments love.
    A commute train would benefit a broader range of people.
    There are so many places to cycle already.
    Yes a train and cycle track would be ideal and keep everyone happy, but is this really possible? The cycle lobbying camp occasionally say ‘yes’, but mostly also argue vehemently that ‘no, it’s not possible’
    The ‘its never going to happen’ mantra can become a self fulfilling prophecy.
    The Sydney Harbour bridge, women getting the vote or saving the Franklin would never have become realities had this mantra dominated or not been challenged.
    As for the increasing tendency to see infrastructure projects as ‘deserving’ only if profitable…. well hey what sort of society is that?

    • It is the railway lobby that has played into the Government’s hands by lobbying for an uneconomical transport that has been consistently rejected by its own sound advice. If people advocated for better buses that would seve all the region, not just the quarter of the transport dependant people who happen to live near the rail. For less outlay we could have regular hourly buses on the main routes with connections to outlying areas, instead of an infrequent train for a minority.


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