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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Ripping up the tracks

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Beth Shelley
Boorie Creek

I heard ex-Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell on the radio last week saying the Rail Trail would protect the corridor. Maybe Jenny has trusted someone who’s given her incorrect information.
The current rail trail proposal concerns ripping up the railway tracks to have a bike path so its necessary to pass an act of parliament closing the railway line. This is the only protection our rail corridor has. Rail trail legislation has to go through parliament for the rail line to be closed.
The land would then become 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 130 km Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor becomes crown land and therefore disposable. The government will be able to sell it off.
As Don Page said in the Northern Star 10/09/2016 Casino to M’bah rail corridor ‘sell off’ not so far fetched, “You can imagine the pressures the State Government will come under from developers, particularly in Byron Bay… that land is very valuable right in the centre of town”.
If there is no Rail Trail legislation and no reason to remove the railway tracks then the corridor is safe until we get a sensible government that cares about saving lives on our damaged, congested and unsafe roads.

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  1. Beth continues to peddle this tired and erroneous line that the rail trial legislative amendments will allow for a sell-off of the corridor. Urged by the Rail Trail group – but curiously not the NRRAG or TOOTs – the Greens and Labor successfully added to the model Tumbarumba Rosewood rail trail amendment the explicit reference to the corridor being only used for a cycling trail, reflecting the Explanatory Memorandum which referred to that intention. Any sell-off for another purpose would need another amendment just as it does now. Tamara Smith gave a speech in support of the stronger amendment that was passed, asking rhetorically how could she as a Green not be supporting sustainable cycle tourism.
    Why do the rail buffs persist with their misleading and erroneous references to the legislation? Because they have not been able to come up with other reasons to suggest the rail trail will deliver successful environmental, economic and public health benefits. The benefits are outlined in the rail trail study and are based on proven successful trails elsewhere in Australasia. I have just visited Wangaratta, a city of Lismore’s dimension in which people are happy to tell you how it and the towns on the Murray to Mountain Rail Trail benefiting from it. Contrary to what rail buffs speculate, local entrepreneurs servicing cyclists told me it is used all year round and far from declining continues to grow in popularity (it was mid thirties in Wangaratta this week and people were riding it). Council is plainly supportive – they have built a marvellous end-of-ride facility with bike lockers, bike tool bay and showers.
    Don Page’s warning was that if the corridor is not used it will be ripe for a sell-off or, as is happening in New England, a campaign to have the corridor land gifted to adjacent farmers. NRRAG and TOOTs have never provided a convincing case that a train service would meet any real transport needs or provide more than a marginal impact on traffic in our area – all the analyses by transport planners show it would not and would be a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars, and no government is interested in using the rail lines for any public transport purpose for the foreseeable future . If people do want to keep the corridor in public hands, use it for a linear purpose that protects it for its length; a rail trial with a protective legislative framework is an ideal purpose.


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