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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Greens ‘disappointed’ over rail trail decision

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The NSW Greens have expressed disappointment that the federal government has approved funding for a rail trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek, ‘making way for the removal of vital train infrastructure’.

Greens NSW transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi said it was ‘a slap in the face to the community that there is practically nothing for public transport for the Northern Rivers but all they do is take.’

‘While Victoria is investing heavily in regional rail, NSW is moving the opposite direction and ripping them up,’ she said.

‘Even if we accept the wildly inflated Casino-Murwillumbah study for restoring the rail, this is a fraction of the more than $11 billion wasted in cost overruns for transport projects in the rest of the state. There are rivers of gold for Sydney tollways but nothing for regional NSW,’ Ms Faruqi added.

‘The closure of any rail line requires an act of parliament and the Greens will be standing with the community. Overwhelmingly the community wants a rail service and the Greens will continue to pressure the Government to reinstate the service, not remove the line.

‘The community was stabbed in the back when Labor closed the line, and now the Liberals and Nationals continue their betrayal of election promises by starving the area of public transport money and moving to dispose of the track.

‘A vibrant and growing Northern Rivers means jobs; rail tourism would bring in many more jobs while also providing a vital services in connecting communities.

Ms Faruqi said the Greens position on rail trails was ‘very clear’.

‘We support rail trails on a case by case basis if there has been extensive and proactive local community consultation, publically available business cases and feasibility studies and assurance that removing rail lines won’t compromise future passenger and freight needs.

‘This Casino- Murwillumbah line doesn’t meet this criteria,’ she said.

 


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19 COMMENTS

  1. There has been extensive public consultation on the rail corridor in the media and in public places, and overwhelmingly people have said they want to retain the corridor for future rail services. There is a publicly available business case for the rail trail and the assessment that found it was feasible . The legislative framework provides explicit assurance that the corridor can only be used for a rail trail, retaining it for future use. So which criteria has not been met? If it is the legislative framework – which the Greens agreed to for the Tumbarumba Rosewood rail trail – why is Dr Faruqi not telling us how it can be strengthened?

    Compare the level of accountability in the documented case for the rail trial with the 2015 Greens Transport Vision booklet. Dr Faruqi refers to the estimate to restore the line as over-inflated, but her office advised me the Greens estimate of $50m for the Casino Lismore section “…was an estimate based on comparative costings of regional rail in Victoria.” I have asked Dr Faruqi’s office for more detail but they have not responded. At least Arup considered the state of our line and issues to do with our corridor! Her email went on “ Our transport planning is based on increasing and integrating public transport access, including buses, rail and community transport.”. So why is their mention of one short rail service in their “Vision” and no reference at all to providing improved bus services around our region particularly for the growing older population in areas like Ballina and the Tweed Coast? Why were the Greens not lobbying for some of the 3,300 new bus services announced by the NSW Governement in the budget or the thousands more announced later in the year. We do not need rivers of gold, Dr Faruqi, to fund more regualr disabled friendly buses where people need to go.

    If Dr Faruqi cannot explain why the legislative framework the Greens agreed to previously is not adequate – and how it can be strengthened – and continues to force local Greens representatives to oppose sustainable active transport, recreation and tourism , I have no doubt Greens and like-minded environmentally conscious supporters in this area will seek other candidates who are more proactive in meeting our needs.

  2. Dear Editor,

    Is there some technical reason why this important information from Mehreen Faruqi is hidden from the public and not placed in a more prominent space?

    It’s really difficult getting information to the public which exposes the behaviour of the dodgy National Party. The Murdoch press won’t do it.

    • Perhaps unlike Dr Faruqi the journalists in the Murdoch press in our region understand the importance of bringing a proven concept in sustainable tourism to areas in our region away form the coastal resorts. Perhaps unlike Dr Faruqi they understand the transport needs of this area and its demographics, and that there are better approaches to public transport than a very expensive rail that would shift transport spending away from where those that need it live and does not go near most of the key destinations people need to go to. Perhaps too they appreciate that the public here wants to protect the corridor for transport, and they understand the best way to protect it is by using it for sustainable transport, recreation and tourism, with the strong legislative framework in place that the Greens agreed to for the Tumbarumba trail.

  3. Blanches have started a Byron bay to Lismore service.These are the most important centres which would be connected by a restored rail service. But guess what! Only a handful of people are using the Blanches service. Where on earth do the Greens think the crowds are going to come from who want to go from Murbah to Crabbes Creek.
    Anyone who has ever used a piece of timber can see the old wooden trestle bridges are rotten just as are all the timber sleepers. There is no way a passenger rail service would be viable enough to cover the cost of railway restoration.

    By all means have a rail trail which means the rail line is preserved for when we get a rail service extending to Varsity Lakes or Coolangatta Airport and then on to Brisbane. But this is decades away and the winding parts of the line will probably never be used again for the faster trains.

    If the Tooters ( Trains On Our Tracks mob) can’t find the enormous number of passengers needed then will they please go away and let us have the Rail Trail while preserving the corridor.

    • Precisely Ron and Peter.

      TOOTers are their own worst enemy, by standing in the way of preserving our corridor for future generations.

      The friggin train aint coming back, so wake up, or we’ll all lose our corridor.

    • The crowds will come from the same people who have signed petitions and responded to surveys for a commuter train service on the track. The SCU survey found that 90% of respondents would use trains regularly if connected to Coolangatta. The Northern Star poll found 70% of respondents wanted trains not bike trails, in the ABC facebook poll this morning 60% of people want trains only 40% want a bike track.That’s before you count the five million tourists to the region who need transport .

      Ten thousand people used the Byron zero emissions solar train in nineteen days. It has clearly shown that trains will be viable with the right service that suits people’s needs.

      There’s something very smelly about the way the National Party are bulldozing ahead with this travesty before the results of Tweed Council’s survey are in. They clearly know the results will confirm the above surveys.

      Repairs to the Byron line cost $1.8m for 3.4 kilometers of track, or $530,000 per kilometer. The Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek bike track would cost taxpayers at least $540,000 per kilometer for a few cyclists to use. Nothing viable about that.

      That’s before you even start to count the cost to councils for maintenance, the cost of policing people illegally riding motor cycles on the track, the cost of trespassers on farmland camping, lighting fires and leaving a mess behind as they do in our National Parks, Nature Reserves and on our beaches.

      A train service will save taxpayers over $5m per year (2004 cost) on the huge, empty CountryLink buses which do enormous damage to our clapped out roads.Then there’s the enormous cost of lives lost or ruined, the cost to our environment, wildlife and toxic emissions from road transport.

      The state government’s own 2012 Condition Assessment report on the line clearly shows 75% of the line only needs minor maintenance. Considering minimum maintenance had been done on the line for decades, it’s a
      miracle anything is left standing. The corridor alone is worth many billions and the state government has already started selling it off to developers.. Once legislation that protects the line is removed so it can can be ripped up, it’s obvious what will happen to the rest of the train line.

      Developers are salivating.

      • Louise , a comprehensive study has been done and to restore the railway is a major and very expensive project. The recent Byron tourist train on a level site and only 3km of track with only 2 stops costs should be an indication of the sort of costs involved.
        Developers are salivating as you say but only because if the corridor is not protected by legislation, put to use , and embraced by the community it will come up for grabs as Rail NSW looks to get rid of their obligations to meet minimum “ landlord “ requirements and transfer them into private hands.
        If the corridor is preserved in public hands and the economics due to demand or technology makes it viable as a public transport corridor then perhaps we get light rail , hover rail or who knows what. In the meantime preserve the corridor, put it to positive public use and concentrate on proper legislation.
        If you go back to the Hansard of the day 2004 when Carr and Labor abandoned the railway you will see Thomas George fought a good fight to try and save the railway and lost — that was when it was in serviceable condition, that time has now passed , 14 years of decay and non use or maintenance, and now Thomas is trying to preserve the corridor in public hands for public use .If he was as scurrilous as you suggest they would just quietly transfer pieces into private hands and sell it off and send the money to Sydney.

      • If the countrylink “huge buses” are empty and following the same route as the rail why would putting empty trains on a line save any money at all?

        Then there are the statements “regularly” what does that mean, for some people once a month in regular but that won’t sustain a rail line, you need regular users that will use it every day..

        Looking at Sydney trains, the incoming from ticket sales only covers about 60% of the operating costs of the network. I doubt that this project could even reach 60%

      • Louise Would you rather have a weekend in Woodenbong or a month’s holiday in Europe? Most people are happy to indicate they would prefer the more expensive choice as long as someone else is paying! Regular well timetabled buses like that on the Tweed Coast – which has patronage comparable to the Elements train in peak holiday season – provide a better demonstration of what people will actually use.
        Nevertheless we should not ignore that many people do like the idea of a train – even if as the SCU poll found and the Elements train demonstrates they would only use it occasionally – but most people also recognise the Government is not going to fund a train. The strong consensus though is people want the corridor to be protected as public land and available for any rail services in the future. Their concerns are not unreasonable. NSW Farmers confirmed to me that at its conference in 2016 they agreed to lobby the Government to make the unused New England corridor land available to adjoining farmers. There are plenty of anti-rail trail stories that other farmers have used – such as your trespassers, fires, and camping etc – to make sure a rail trail does not stop their plans to get their hands on disused corridors, but it is interesting I have never heard them in areas where the rail trails are established.
        The rail trial will proceed in the Tweed protected from farmers and developers by legislation that creates the corridor as Crown Land for the purpose of a cycling path, a purpose that cannot be changed under the Crown Land Act if the parliament does not agree. I am not sure why NRRAG questions these legislative arrangements – it has never explained its reasons. However if NRRAG has doubts about the model Tumbarumba legislation, it really needs to be raising those concerns with Greens and Labor members and discussing what is an alternative wording that would satisfy whatever its concerns are – instead of just using it as a tactic to delay the rail trail,
        I do have to rebut the idea of removing the Trainlink coaches to fund the commuter rail that NRRAG members insist is all that they want. The use of the coach from Lismore dropped markedly in 2004 compared with the XPT form Lismore. That is unsurprising as Lismore residents are as close to their XPT station in Casino as are most residents of Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney or Brisbane and many passengers preferred to go the short distance by car. But as with other public transport passengers the greatest numbers of people who need or choose to catch the XPT are older pensioners. They are more likely to live away from the corridor in Ballina, Tweed Heads, the Tweed Coast or the Gold Coast, and if they could not get to a station by car they have always had to a coach to the XPT. If you removed the coaches and they were forced to catch your two hourly commuter train they would need to catch a local bus or buses to a train station – if there was one at the relevant hour – transfer their baggage from the road to the platform and on to the commuter train, and then transfer again to the XPT.

    • Anyone praying for a train service on our 123 year old corridor, clearly has no interest or understanding of economics or civil engineering.

      Mehreen Faruqi is completely out of her depth in both areas and should realise this and stop whipping up and further oxygenating 14 year old dreams of hope in people that should instead be educated in WHY the trains are not coming back, and how important it is that we all SAVE THE CORRIDOR.

      Who knows, in a few decades, our kids may rely on the corridor for purposes far greater than the old train ever offered in its day.

  4. What is not green about walking and cycling, O green party?
    Ron Priestly is right. the old bridges are beyond repair to carry a train and vast numbers of people are needed to make it viable. maybe one day the corridor can be reclaimed for mass transport but an old rattler?
    Very 19th century technology.
    by the way, anyone who wants to know the cost of privatised rail travel, look up the price from London to Edinburgh
    tooters are dreamers.
    Railtrail seems a healthy good sense option

  5. Northern Rivers Rail Trail meets all of the criteria. She has never spoken with anyone from NRRT. Removing the tracks will not compromise the return of a train. The rail trail will preserve the corridor.

  6. We need Senator Lee Rhiannon up here again flying along the corridor at 1000 feet telling everyone how wonderful the train corridor is and getting a commentary from heritage tourist train gunzels. The train line was built following the valleys and easiest route but it only had to be quicker than a horse ride. The route has stayed the same for 130 years and the same slow speed with tight curves . On the other hand the original highway in 1894 was Friday Hut Rd that got moved in 1939 and again in the 1990s up until the present day. So we have a highway limited to 110kmh (but can handle 160knh) and a railway line limited to 85kmh in the majority of its length . The original Casino to Murwillumbah railway trip was 4 1/2 hours with stops at approximately 17 stations , in 2004 it was almost 3 hours with only 4 stops.
    So should I buy a horse or invest a slow winding tourist train ? Neither as they both will waste a lot of money and unlikely to be a winner.

  7. PLEASE just give us a rail public transport infrastructure of some kind.The community wants,desires,needs it.You greedy politicians.Don’t forget us working people are your employers and really I think what we the community desires is not an unreasonable request considering you politicians who I might add again work for us,closed the line suddenly without any discussions with your bosses.

  8. Repairing the line to Bangalow doesn’t cost much so says a railway manager who maintained the track until it’s closure ,and the major work will be a new bridge between Bangalow and Lismore which shouldn’t be too much of a drama financially .
    What a lot of people don’t realize is that during flooding , the railway being above the flood line is a saviour seeing all the roads are under water .
    The problem with the government is that they rated the track at 100 ton to carry their engines but all we need is light rail made up of rail cars to deliver people all over the district .

  9. Is this woman for real!? She needs to travel to Victoria to see just how much money has been & is continuing to be invested in rail trails in that state & to see first-hand how successful they are. Not much further afield is New Zealand where rail trails have revitalised local communities economically & socially that would otherwise be dead in the water. Then of course there’s the USA, Canada, parts of Europe, etc, etc, etc.

    I used to think Greens had some common-sense & acted in the best interests of the broader community, but it looks like my thoughts were badly misplaced.

  10. The question should be what is the best public transport system for the Northern Rivers? How do we assess that? Unfortunately from my experience most pro train supporters decided very early that the train had to be kept. They searched for information to support their cause and rejected information that did not support their view. Reports became demonised and stereotyped as nonsense.
    Regardless of the evidence that the line does not go to where most people live becomes irrelevant. One argument says that the train will become the ‘spine’. In other words it will become the main form of public transport. Buses will be primarily used to connect to the train.
    One example to consider is the trial Lennox to Lismore bus service that is apparently struggling. Lets hope passenger numbers improve. If the train spine theory were to be applied, a passenger from Lennox would catch a bus to Byron to catch the train to South Lismore and then catch another bus to wherever in Lismore. Ain’t gonna happen.
    To respond to why train supporters are not supporting buses is mostly because the bus replaced the train. Buses are the enemy! Which brings me back to the question. We need to support what is the best public transport system and use our rational mind to analyse the data and evidence as the basis of our decision making.

  11. Your comments are valid Trevor. People present the rail corridor as a spine connecting what they like to refer to as “our community”, ignoring large centres like Ballina and the Tweed Coast where older transport dependent people are more likely to live. The busiest commuter routes in our region are also the busiest bus routes: those in and out of Ballina and Tweed Heads, eclipsing movement along the rail corridor. The Bruxner and Pacific Highways are the spines that connect our communities more so than the roads along the corridor, and far more than the rail ever did.
    Under the heading: Your Right to Transport, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner advises retirees: “You have a right to maintain your independence as much as possible and this means being able to travel to attend appointments or access goods and services. Your right to participate in community life also means having the ability to get around.” In a region like ours where most in the community drive, it is implicit that all people should be able to get public transport that will take them to and from where most of our community travel, not just a minority who happen to live along a train corridor.
    Aside from the large capital outlays , the high recurrent costs of providing train services necessarily impacts on the provision of public transport on other routes, such that two or three bus services would need be forgone for every equivalent train . To define the corridor as “our community” is to diminish the rights the majority of older people in our region who do not live near the corridor their right to transport in their retirement. The Greens only costed transport policy for our region in the next five years is to return the XPT form Casino to Lismore. While that will make it easier for some older people to catch the train South , it shows a poor understanding of the demographics and transport needs of our area and scant regard for the transport needs of the majority of its elderly . No wonder the Greens attract votes from the well-off younger urban Australians – they are the chief beneficiaries of their inequitable policies.

  12. Apparently 78% of people in the Tweed use a car as their means of transport. So we need to spend billons of dollars so people can drive their cars to Murwillumbah Station and catch a train on a supposed rail network to Tweed and further if the Queensland government spends billions of dollars on a supposedly light rail to Coolangatta.
    Or they catch train somewhere south on a outdated single line track that needs well over a billion dollars spend on it, is that what we are to believe as a positive transport plan.
    I think the 78% of people driving cars in the Tweed would rather see money spend on better and safer roads with a cycling lane. The future cars and buses will be electric as well with the growing popularity of ebikes. People like the convenience of their own cars they go when they want to where they want and that’s what they’re will keep doing.
    I cannot see trains meeting the needs of such a small and diverse traveling public.
    The best outcome is to support this small section 23 kms being turn into a Rail Trail for this small cost and see what benefits come from it with the reinsurance that it will stay in public ownership.

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