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May 11, 2021

Stop sale of Byron railway land: Greens

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The Greens’ NSW transport spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi and Ballina MP Tamara Smith are calling on the NSW Government to urgently stop the sale of rail corridor land to property developers in Byron Bay.

Residents have just one day left to make submissions on the development application, which was lodged with Byron Shire Council by developer Wollongbar Properties, and has been on exhibition over the holiday period.

It covers a 611sqm parcel of railway land behind the Wollongbar Motel on Shirley Street in Byron Bay, which the proponent plans to buy from Transport for NSW.

Dr Faruqi said the Government ‘must immediately stop any sale of rail corridor land in Byron.’

‘It’s really concerning that part of the corridor is being sold off just for the sake of private developers building luxury apartments,’ she said.

Act of parliament

‘I have written to the minister urgently seeking clarification about how rail corridor land can be sold off without the required Act of Parliament. Are they trying to find a roundabout way of selling off precious public transport land? The government must stop the sale and undermining of this rail corridor.

‘People of the North Coast have been campaigning for a real public transport solution since the Labor Government closed the Casino-Murwillumbah line nearly 14 years ago. Keeping the rail corridor in public hands and restoration of regional rail services must be the priority, not private luxury apartment complexes,’ Dr Faruqi said.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith agreed that keeping the rail corridors in the region in public hands was ‘vital’.

‘These spaces belong to the community and are common land corridors for transport and public use – they ought never be sold off to developers. Once you start down that path there is no going back.

‘Our rail corridors are public places and public spaces that should never be privatised because they belong to the community in perpetuity,’ she said.

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  1. Totally agree with tbe sentiment expressed…these rail corridors should remain public land…..one can see the long term outcome of having to buyback land for transport corridors…the australian community paying twice!!! Lol government and capitalism at its worst for all to see…come on give the community a break and show some longterm thinking for the good of the community.

  2. There should be no long term decisions that prevent options that benefit the community as a whole. This is public land. How about we just regenerate it with native plants and help protect the sensitive coastline that sits right behind the rail corridor ?

  3. Thanks to Dr Mehreen Faruqi for pointing out that the North Coast community have been fighting to have a commuter train service (not the old, dirty XPT) provided on the Casino to Murwillumbah line since 2004.

    Greens policy is to have train services restored to the C-M line to service the fast growing population and five million tourists to the region. The connection to Coolangatta needs to be built.

    It’s the responsibility of our local’ well paid MPs, regardless of which party they represent, to ensure necessary services are provided to their communities.

    How many more people and cars can be stuffed into our towns before the situation becomes unbearable for locals and tourists alike?

    • The Greens five year funded infrastructure plan includes “$50 million to reopen the Casino-Lismore component of the closed Casino-Murwillumbah line” Its transport policy states this will be “followed by the rest of the service” but it does not include any reference to funding of commuter services on the line. Worryingly the Greens policy makes no reference to improving the bus services in our region, ignoring that the overwhelming bulk of transport dependent people live away from the line, including their constituents in Ballina electorate which in the Ballina area has the largest concentration of older transport dependent people in the Northern Rivers.
      The Greens argue that the $50m for Casino Lismore has been “fairly costed”. That is only a quarter of the line and is relatively good condition. So even if you do not accept the estimate of $900m by the lead consultants of the Gold Coast light rail, that still means more than $200m is needed to restore the length of the line. It might be possible for the Greens to negotiate with a government to extend the new faster XPT replacement to Lismore, but it is quite unrealistic to think any government would waste hundreds of millions more to take it beyond there.
      The Green mayor of the Tweed flagged at NRRAG’s Murwillumbah pro-rail publicity stunt the need to consult with her ratepayers on the use of the railway corridor. But will she point out to her constituents the heavy capital and recurrent costs of retaining and restoring the lines and providing a commuter rail services. That of course begs the question as to why she is so keen to consult about an unused railway. In the ACT the Greens used their balance of power to force the Labor government to build a 20km light rail that will cost householders across the ACT hundreds in dollars of additional rates. Ratepayers in Lismore, Byron and Tweed LGAs should be wary of those Greens who are making strategic moves towards rail services that no state government in the foreseeable future has any intention of funding.
      Some Greens display better sense and Tamara Smith proudly tells us she will lobby for improved bus service in her electorate. That is pleasing for those of us who care about equitable public transport for all who need it in our region, the majority of whom live away from the line. Pleasing too for anyone who understands that trains are inflexible in their routeing, not in practice more sustainable than road transport, and will not shift more than a handful of people in our area away from car use.
      The needs of those people in our region who need to use public transport should not be ignored because hundreds of millions have been wasted on providing an occasional train service to a noisy activist minority who happen to live near the rail line.

  4. Yes 14 years have passed since the last trains ran on this land. This is what happens to disused crown land – it gets sold off which is why a rail trail would help save the corridor. Trains are simply not coming back on this corridor and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply dreaming. It really is time the TOOT and NRRT groups accepted this and found a new cause. A rail trail would prevent the corridor from being sold off and give public access to this public land. Rail trails interstate and overseas have been hugely popular. In fact just over the border the QLD Govt has committed to spending 4 million dollars over the next 4 years to improve the hugely popular Brisbane Valley Rail Trail! Let’s hope NSW can get on the rail trail wagon!

    • oh and surely a ‘real transport’ solution would include a bus service which is much more flexible than the train line and can serve a greater proportion of the population and not just those that live a couple of hundred metres from a train station. Ballina has just introduced a commuter bus service, hopefully Byron can do the same. Maybe this is something TOOT and NRRT can campaign for and you know what they might actually get a result assuming better public transport and not just a train is what they are campaigning for!

  5. I believe the Tweed mayor pointed out that 1 km of road at Sexton’s Hill cost $230 million. An estimate from the Byron Railroad engineer is $325 million for the whole 130 kms of our railway. It’s so cheap it’s ridiculous.
    Apparently the Byron train has already completed 10,000 trips and the owners are considering extending the line.
    I’m very grateful to the Greens for supporting the return of real public transport to this area and so excited about the potential of the Byron Railroad pushing for further rail. I knew that little train was going to show how great rail transport can be. We really needed to have one political party standing up for public transport in this area and I believe it’s because the Greens are not taking donations from road and oil companies. They are honest and understand the real needs of this community.

    • The little train is a tourist train Beth. Apart from a handful of park-and-riders – who will make their own contribution to the traffic problems at Ewingsdale Road and Bayshore Drive how many of those 10,000 trips were people who would otherwise have driven from Lawson Street to Elements? They even suggested to one older woman who wanted to ride it from town and back that someone go out to Bayshore Drive to pick her up! Real public transport Beth is based on analyses of who lives where, who does not have access to a car and where they need to go. Don’t you think it a disgrace that a supposedly public transport-aware Council has never done that analysis and does not refer to regional transport planning or even the need to consider existing transport in the terms of reference for its Byron Line?

      If the little train is extended to Mullum it may be popular for a tourist trip too, although it may be difficult to maintain an hourly clock-faced timetabling that is part of what makes this one attractive. I am sure a few locals would use it, but I wonder how many of the 57 households in Mullum who do not have a car can afford the $30 return fare ($20 for children) based on the km cost per passenger of the Elements train and the cost per passenger of the Casino Murwillumbah XPT. That would be around $100 for an average family! To put in place the Government-funded commuter rail service NRRAG nags the NSW Government for, those are the sort of funding resources you would shift from higher priority transport towns like Ballina, which has 687 households without a car. The Elements train and station manager thought it unlikely rail would service other parts of the region because “Rail costs a lot of many to build and upgrade’, while the proponent of the Tramlink tourist tram wrote: “However as for providing a regular passenger transport service it’s doubtful there would be sufficient passengers to sustain the operation. Fares would be astronomical and the government would not subsidise the service”. Enjoy the Elements train Beth because no sensible government will waste large sums of public money on a train which will serve few public transport needs.

  6. I believe the Tweed mayor mentioned that 1 km of road at Sextons Hill cost $230 million. The Byron Railroad engineer has estimated the cost of repairs for our whole railway of 130 kms as $325 million. It’s so cheap, it’s ridiculous. We really needed a political party to stand up for public transport in this area. I’m grateful to the Greens for this. Maybe it’s because they don’t take donations from road and oil companies and they also understand the real needs of this community and they care about them.

    • The Tweed Mayor might think the Sextons Hill roadwork was a waste but if she consulted with her constituents do you think the majority regret the safety and faster trip it has brought? It is part of the reason that passengers on shuttle bus services can travel to Coolangatta from the Bay faster than the XPT took to get to Murwillumbah.

      The final cost of restoring the line would not be known unless a tender was let for the work. In deciding whether to invest in the line is it more likely that the Government will be guided by the view of one engineer on what a private company can achieve unfettered by public sector accountability, or its advice of over $900m from a major international rail consultancy firm experienced in public tendering (it was chosen as the lead consultant for the Gold Coast light rail)? But even if the cost were less, why would the Government waste even $325 million to provide public transport that compared with modern bus services:
      • is no safer
      • is no faster
      • brings no greater environmental or accessibility benefit
      • cannot run all day as buses now can on renewable power
      • cannot be routed past key destinations like hospitals or campuses
      • would be less frequent requiring up to two hour waits for those connecting journeys
      • cannot serve all the major am and pm commuter routes in both directions
      • would be more inequitable by shifting funding away from the areas with the highest transport needs.

      Mayor Milne told NRRAG’s pro-rail publicity stunt she is keen to consult with the Tweed on the future of the corridor. This is because she wants to introduce commuter rail. She knows full well the Government will not fund commuter rail – it is not recommended in her Shire’s transport plan and it is not even in the Greens transport policy. In the ACT they are paying hundreds of dollars in higher rates to fund a commuter rail that was part of Labor’s deal with the Greens. Ratepayers in the Tweed and other Shires along the line should be worried indeed by strategic moves by Greens like Milne who do not care about their roads, but would have them pay higher rates to fund commuter rail. Just remember what has happened in Canberra – commuter rail mean higher rates.

  7. There is no way the Northern Rivers have the population density to support rail between Casino and Murwillumbah. What a joke. Has anyone noted how expensive tickets are in far more densely populated areas like Gold Coast, yet you believe a train can be supported. Pie in the sky.

    The sell off of a small parcel of land should be good news for rail trail campaigners. It clearly shows the State Govt. has not appetite to return rail to the area. There is a perfectly good road network in the region and excellent bus service. Rail trails worldwide have been proven time and time again to attract international tourism.

    What surprises a lot of people is that you would think a rail trail would support greens ideals, as apposed to rail. Weird!!!


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