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Byron Shire
July 27, 2021

Rail returns to the Bay

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Solar train conductor Sheree Etteridge clips a ticket. Photo Jeff Dawson

Train and public transport enthusiasts celebrated the start of a train service from Belongil into Byron’s CBD on Saturday.

The train can accommodate 100 people and covers three kilometres. A limited service will operate until the full schedule commences in January.

The train leaves on the hour (running from 10am till 5pm) from North Beach, near the Sun Bistro in Sunrise.

From Byron, it leaves 15 minutes past the hour, running from 10.15am till 5.15pm.

There will be no service Sunday December 24 till Tuesday December 26.

For more info visit byronbaytrain.com.au.

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  1. Yes, fantastic!! It’s not just train enthusiasts who are pleased. It’s about safe, affordable, sustainable public transport and caring for our environment.

    Our towns, the environment and community amenity are being needlessly destroyed by dangerous traffic congestion and toxic fumes There’s no need for anyone, let alone two million tourists, to arrive in Byron Bay, Bangalow or Mullumbimby by road when there’s a train line and station in the middle of the town.

    When the state government tried to close the Armidale train service in 2004 their local MP Tony Windsor fought for his community and they still have a train service. That’s what a tenacious, hard working local MP can do for their community.

    The combined population of the Armidale and Tamworth local government areas along that line is just over HALF the population of the Tweed, Byron and Lismore population along the Casino to Murwillumbah line and they don’t get anything like five million tourists to the New England region.

    We now know the Casino to Murwillumbah line can be repaired for less than a third of the amount the state government has claimed. Our well-paid local MPs need to follow Tony Windsor’s example and get the trains running. North Coast people deserve nothing less.

  2. My rail trail friends who rode on the new train tell me that, it was a. This was notwithstanding some uncalled for hostility from a few train supporters on their brief trip. It is sad that some people cannot accept and enjoy the Elements train for what it is: a great example of community and voluntary effort to create an enjoyable tourist experience. Notwithstanding Louise’s comments what it plainly is not is a model for any answer to the area’s public transport needs. Here are some of the reasons.
    Louise constantly refers to traffic issues, but the study into the corridor found a commuter rail service would remove just over 1% of the cars off the roads, and fewer than better buses along the corridor would. I can see why Louise expects more. When you read comments and Facebook posts from train enthusiasts they variously imagine it will serve the commuter needs of people both to and from Casino, Lismore, Bangalow, the Bay, Mullum, Ocean Shores, and Murbah. But they never explain how an eight-a-day commuter rail running at best every two hours, that does not pass key destinations like hospitals and campuses, could serve more than a small proportion of the manifold journeys to work, study and appointments etc made around our dispersed decentralised region. The Elements rail is ok for a short tourist service that most people will drive to to use but the line cannot serve the majority of people who depend on public transport, because they do not live near the line.
    We do not know how much the rail will take to repair unless a contract was let and accepted by the NSW government (presuming state owned rail, the approach is taken of the Green left who are the only politicians that support country rail). The advice to the NSW government is that it will cost $900m and that estimate is well known to all potential bidders. Is it really likely that in a tendering arrangement for a public body, that the bids from major consortia will be a third of the client’s own estimates done by the reputable lead consultancy firm for the nearby Gold Coast light rail? It will not happen of course. Why would the NSW government spend even a third of that to enable a the commuter service – which is what NRRAG supporters are pushing – that would have a much higher recurrent cost, would offer no speed, accessibility, environmental, safety, or for the distances involved, comfort advantages than modern buses (which I again note already run all day on renewable power)?
    Most tourists who arrive in our region either come by car and are uninterested in the train, or by air. The handful who come by train to Casino would need to wait for their commuter train service – I have been specifically told they are not pushing for a return of the XPT. At one service every two hours they would likely face a longer wait – and based on the XPT timetables and the current coach the journey would take at least as long. Train buffs have never shown any interest in transport from the main airport for the Byron Shire at Ballina. If Coolangatta airport was connected by train, how many would be interested in what would be a longer journey through Murbah than on private providers like Easy Bus , and with the platform premiums now charged at airport railway stations for full cost recovery of rail services to airports, to recover the per passenger cost of the billion dollar refurbishment and connection, the fare and platform fee would be well in the three figures to get to Byron Bay (unless you think it is ok to take money from other public transport priorities to subsidise air travellers).
    The recent Grattan Institute report on political infrastructure spending pointed out that the New England area had received disproportionate funding on infrastructure compared with its population , suggesting that that was done for political reasons. Lousie and other rail buffs suggest that people here should engage in simialr blatant pork-barrelling in order to have public transport funding needed for low income and elderly people around NSW skewed to their pet rail, a service that would mainly serve the younger, more car dependent population in the Lismore and Byron LGAs.
    Fortunately our local Green member for Ballina takes a less political, but to her credit a more decent and equitable approach. If Lousie received and read Tamara’s pre Christmas letter she will see Tamara has as a priority better bus services and no mention of the train. When you realise that her constituents in Ballina Shire are more likely to live in a household without a car and are more likely to be in the 80% of older public transport users who are over 65 than her constituents in the Byron Shire; when you realise that the largest movements of people in her seat are along the Lismore Ballina corridor and the Byron Ballina corridor and not the rail corridor; then you can see why her priorities support buses and not rail. Her priorities rightly reflect those of the Northern Rivers Transport Plan and the recommendations of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC) submission to the Government’s 2016 inquiry into access to transport for seniors and disadvantaged people in regional NSW, which did not once mention the train or the rail.
    I wish Louise and other rail enthusiasts well for Christmas and the New Year but I do ask that they take the time over this season to reflect if it is time to do something for those who really need public transport in our region, not just the relative few along the rail line. Join Tamara, me and others and start pushing for affordable achievable and equitable public transport that actually goes where those who need it live, and goes where they need to go.


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