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Byron Shire
June 25, 2024

Rail transport is the future for north coast

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In all the kerfuffle about the Byron Masterplan and the proposed bus terminal on the Butler Street reserve, not one person has mentioned the one thing that would save us wasting $20-million-plus on infrastructure to increase road transport, a train service.

With a valuable train line and train station in the centre of town, there’s absolutely no need for anyone to arrive in Byron (or Bangalow or Mullum) by road.

Building the 22-kilometre section of line from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta would allow the millions who arrive at the airport to travel to Byron by rail.

It will also provide easy access for locals to medical and education facilities, and allow our young people to access well paid employment in Brisbane without the need to relocate away from families.

It’s time the state government, who are happy to keep providing seemingly unlimited funds to promote tourism in the region, which is overwhelming our local communities, started funding the necessary transport services.

Exactly what is the government’s plan to deal with a doubling of traffic to the region in the next decade? More expensive roads and bypasses carving up our communities? Expensive multi-story car-parks on rail land? Anything but trains it seems.

You would think that with the arrival in Byron of the world’s first Solar Train, people might start to rethink the ineffective, polluting, wasteful way we are doing things in the 21st century. But apparently not.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores


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  1. Yet another litany of inaccurate information and fanciful suggestions about transport in our region. Certainly the new bus station should flow from a consideration of transport needs. But that is difficult when the Shire’s 2008 Transport Strategy was never based on any analysis of transport need, transport needs have been similarly overlooked in the Byron Line proposals and so is any consideration of though any contribution to public transport will fit with bus services.
    How ironic that Louise refers to people getting to medical facilities when the rail goes nowhere near the Byron Hospital – just as it does not go near any other hospital or tertiary campus in our region, nor will it go near the proposed new Tweed Hospital. And how would the eight a day – two hourly – commuter service that NRRAG proposes get kids to school, when it is also touted to serve peak hour commuter needs to and from Lismore, Casino and Murwillumbah? That Louise, along with the need to transfer kids to buses to actually get them to and from school, is why parents in the Bay lobbied to replace the school train to Mullumbimby; you just cannot schedule rail services to meet conflicting priories and avoid transfers to the extend you can with smaller more flexible buses.
    It is 27 km along the shortest route from Tweed Heads to the end of the line Louise, not 20km. It is as quick on Easy Bus from the Bay to Coolangatta airport than the XPT was to Murwillumbah. And if you have any care for our planet why would you have people fly to from Sydney or Melbourne Coolangatta and then bring them by train to the Bay – it is shorter and more fuel efficient to go to Ballina airport and catch a train to the Bay – sorry I forgot, there is no train, but of course there are bus services! And to suggest anyone would commute from our region to work or study in Brisbane is fanciful indeed. A slow and winding trip deviating through Murwillumbah, a wait and change at Tweed Heads to the light rail to Varsity Lakes, another wait and change to the heavy rail and then another hour to Brisbane. Did you have in mind sleeper carriages! The PwC proposal found to refurbish the line to be able to provide a suitable low maintenance track for the sort of commuter service NRRAG envisages – not a slow tourist tram – would require extensive refurbishment of the line; even the Greens accept it would be of the order of $2m pr km. If not $900m at least a quarter of a billion dollars, and millions a year more in subsidies, to provide what the likes of Easy Bus already do for no additional capital outlay and for a fraction of the recurrent costs. The 1994 study by Kearney – Sinclair Knight for the State Rail Authority of NSW entitled “Review of Investment Options – Casino to Murwillumbah line” did not favour the extension of the line to Robina; it found “The mooted connecting line between Robina in the Gold Coast and Murwillumbah would merely reinforce this existing poor targeting of the service. Moreover, the present population density in the area is too low to provide adequate benefit to cost ratios on investments in the line” Those words ring even truer today. The number of non-car households along the lines has fallen; the number of older transport dependent households has grown in the coastal areas away from the line; and all of the key destinations have been with road transport in mind, not rail.
    Most of us know what the Arup corridor study found, that any public transport will only displace a small fraction of cars on our roads. We still need better public transport though. You would think that with the arrival in Canberra of disabled friendly buses that run all day on renewable electricity – buses similar to those that have been in use for years in Europe and are being built in Adelaide – some people might start to rethink returning to the ineffective, slow, expensive , wasteful , inequitable way we did things in the 20th century. But apparently not.

  2. Here here Louise. The new solar train here in was just recently delivered in Byron and is a great start and far better than the rail trail that has been talked about could ever be. Transport in this region would be so much easier for everyone if a train service was reinstated. It would be such a great journey too. Rail services here are long overdue and couldn’t come sooner. The Byron Bay train is a good start however. Hopefully it gets extended.

    • Gary, you obviously believe that people who do not live along the rail line are some sort of sub-human, not deserving of being included in your definition of “everybody”. Like other rail buffs you imagine our region is the Byron and Lismore LGAs and the Tweed hinterland along the line. Not only do two thirds of the Northern Rivers population live away from the line, if you look at the census data on where people live, even in and out of Lismore and the Bay, the rail corridor is not the busiest transport route. How will it be easier for the older people in Ballina – the highest concentration of households without a car – to get to hospitals in Lismore or to go to an event in the Bay? How will it make it easier for a young Ballina resident to get to SCU or to their hospitality job in the Bay (Ballina is the busiest commute to and from Byron Bay). How will it be easier for anyone to get from say Mullum to Byron hospital? They would have to go to the Bay connect to wait for what would be an occasional bus back out to Ewingsdale – still occasional because you have not lobbied to improve the bus services and there is no money left over anyway – another long wait to get back to the station and up to two hours wait to catch the train. I could go on about the many circumstances around our region the train will not help, but for far less money you could have hourly services on any of the routes I mention.. Even along the line, an eight a day, two hourly train, would service no more than two or three at most of the commuter routes like Casino to Lismore , and only at a time that would suit a small proportion of the commuters along those routes. Whichever way you cut it commuter rail here would be very expensive, of very limited benefit to anyone, and at the expense of higher transport priorities.


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