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Byron Shire
December 3, 2021

Rail trail fully funded but not universally supported

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Tweed Shire Council has welcomed Friday’s (February 2) announcement of a $6.5 million federal grant for the Tweed Valley Rail Trail project, matching the funds committed by the NSW Government last year.

Federal regional development minister John McVeigh announced the funding as part of the Regional Jobs and Investment Program in Murwillumbah.

Tweed deputy mayor Reece Byrnes said the announcement meant the project to build a 24-kilometre long trail trail from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek was now fully funded, with more than $13 million committed.

‘I welcome today’s announcement by the federal government of Tweed Shire Council’s success under the latest funding round for the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail,’ Cr Byrnes said.

‘The rail trail will be a great injection into our tourism and small business sector, particularly in Murwillumbah.

‘Make no mistake, this is a community victory and one we all share.

‘This announcement comes after years of tireless work from members of the community and in particular the members of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Board,’ Cr Byrnes said.

Legislation change

But not all of his constituents, and indeed north coast residents generally, are in support of the move.

The Northern Rivers Railway Action Group said it was ‘deeply disappointed in the news of federal funding for the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek Rail Trail/bike path’.

Spokesperson Beth Shelley that when legislation was passed in parliament in 2015 closing the heavy rail line in Newcastle, SMH quoted then Premier Mike Baird as confirming that ‘much of the land used for the current rail corridor would be open for development’.

Ms Shelley said, ‘It has been stated very clearly in the minister’s speech to the parliament over the Tumbarumaba Rail Trail legislation that closing the railway line means the land would become crown land. It is possible that the state government could then decide to open the Casino to Murwillumbah railway for development.’

Byron train

‘State Rail owns a large section of Byron CBD and is already attempting to sell some of that land, despite needing to take it to parliament first, so it’s not hard to see that once the government gets the chance they would happily sell the whole corridor.’

‘The popularity of the Byron train is proving how many people would like to use trains in this area. There has never been any public consultation on whether the local community wants to keep the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line for future trains in the region,’ Ms Shelley said.

Community use

But the chairman of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Board, John Greer, said the rail trail was ‘the best way to keep the land the rails are on intact and preserve it for community use’.

‘What is really special about this… is seeing federal, state and local government representatives getting behind a project which will have so many positive outcomes,’ Mr Greer said.

‘This shows what can be achieved when different levels of government work together and are focused on a common goal,’ Mr Greer said.

Tweed to deliver

Tweed Shire Council will be responsible for delivering the project and the council’s Director Engineering David Oxenham said the next step is to begin work on detailed concept designs.

‘This announcement is great news, especially for all the people in our community who have worked hard to make it happen but there is still lots of work to do before the project gets underway,’ Mr Oxenham said.

The NSW State Government announced in August 2017 that it would commit $6.5 million to the rail trail in Tweed Shire, which it sees as Stage 1 of a larger Northern Rivers Rail Trail along the full length of the Murwillumbah to Casino rail line.

 


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41 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic news and well done all involved! Can’t wait to ride this section of the rail trail. Hopefully it can be extended to Bryon in the near future.

  2. It’s clear the majority does not support this. There has been no consultation whatsoever, and the millions being spent on minority groups is ludicrous.

    • How is that so Gary? Better than spending millions if not billions on a train that nobody will use which is why it was discontinued 14 years ago.

    • If we want the Tweed Shire to more forward into the future then this Rail Trail is one way in which it can. Rail Trails draw in many visitors who wish to avail themselves of the journey along the trail to enjoy all the beauty that is there.
      Many areas in other States that have introduced rails trails have found increased tourism for the area covered by the trails.
      It is far better to have bicycles travelling along these trails together with walkers than leave the tracks to rust and the areas be overgrown.
      Those who want the trains back are simply living in the past, when I have questioned those who insist
      a train running is better about whether or not they would use it, they all said NO.
      I look forward to taking a walk along parts of the rails trail with my camera to catch all the beauty of mother nature.

    • There has never been any survey or other data that shows the majority of the population in our region want a train, let alone would be prepared to pay the cost of having such a service. And it worth repeating people have been consulted about public transport. The Sustain Northern Rivers Transport Survey 2013 found issues around routing, timetabling and connectivity were all more important than having a train, and the recent NRMA Roadshow in Lismore similarly found rt that while the closure of the train was raised, just as many people accepted that it was not coming back as advocated for its return, and all agreed that, regardless of whether it was a train or not, connectivity was critical. But the best expression of people’s wishes is by their actions. Bus patronage by the population that lives along the corridor shows fewer are interested in using public transport than the older population in coastal areas away form the line like Ballina and the Tweed Coast.

    • Hi Gary,

      We had the same problem in Newcastle. The old rail lines that served coal mines were quickly “developed” ie lost as transport corridors , except for the Fernleigh track where a few managed to beat the developer and get a cycleway. We lost a rail link but preserved the corridor meanwhile the Government closed the rail line into Newcastle & sold off the land to developers. Gone for good.

  3. Ms Shelley again repeats NRRAG scaremongering saying, ‘It has been stated very clearly in the minister’s speech to the parliament over the Tumbarumaba Rail Trail legislation that closing the railway line means the land would become crown land. It is possible that the state government could then decide to open the Casino to Murwillumbah railway for development.’ As always she ignores the full wording of the Tumbarumba legislation – which Tamara Smith spoke in favour of – which goes on to state: “… disposal of the land concerned is limited to the land being dedicated under the Crown lands legislation as a rail trail for recreational use”. The land cannot be re-purposed or sold off without the Crown Lands Minister if the parliament does not agree (just as now). Those additional words were added by the Greens and Labor with the encouragement of NRRT. NRRAG never bothered to make any suggestion that would have strengthened the legislative framework. Australians judge people more by what they do than what they say; it is easy to see who by their actions has worked to ensure the legislation does not allow a sell off. It appears straight forward to me, but if NRRAG remains unhappy about the legislative framework, I would urge them to put forward their own suggestions or to discuss the issues with Tamara and other members who share their wish to have the corridor remain available for any future rail.

    The popularity of the Byron train simply proves how many people like to take a short tourist trip once or twice in their stay in this area. The popularity of the Pottsville Tweed heads bus shows what a regular timetabled hourly seven day a week bus service can achieve – patronage comparable to the Elements train. And can I suggest very few tourists drove their car to Pottsville just to ride that bus – those numbers are ordinary people who could not or did not drive for their journey, taking cars off our roads
    .
    It is not correct that there has never been any public consultation on whether the local community wants to keep the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line for future trains in the region. The Sustain Northern Rivers Transport Survey 2013 asked respondents what were the restraints to public transport. The lack of a train was only sixth in respondent’s priorities, with issues around routing, timetabling and connectivity all more important, and all more easily addressed with buses. he survey findings were also reflected in the public transport issues raised at the recent NRMA Roadshow in Lismore. The top three issues were: petrol prices, road condition and public transport. The closure of the train was raised but just as many people accepted that it was not coming back as advocated for its return, and all agreed that, regardless of whether it was a train or not, connectivity was critical and so were “first mile – last mile” issues – how do you get from your home to the transport and from the transport to your final destination. Connectivity and “first mile – last mile” issues are problematic with train services here as the rail line does not go anywhere near where most elderly and other transport dependent people live, nor near the campuses or hospitals or most other key destinations, necessitating changes to buses and longer trips). And you do not need to consult with people to see who is interested in using public transport. All of the popular bus routes in our area are away from the corridor.

  4. The obvious short to medium, and quite possibly long term use of the corridor as a Rail Trail, is indeed on a roll, as it must be, in order to save our corridor from sell-off through derelict disuse.

    Rail Trails are the caretakers of disused rail corridors, by making them available for community use and enjoyment, whilst generating tourism opportunities for many locals.

    Any future use as a rail corridor, will require a total track rebuild to meet modern safety requirements.
    In this event, NRRT will have served its purpose as a noble regional corridor caretaker.

  5. What a load of crap.Are these so called politicians blind?The demand for a restoration of a train to casino from murwillumbah is astounding.The majority want a train not a bicycle trail.Wake up!!!

  6. What a dismal day in the history of a once proud land !
    Infrastructure is to be destroyed for short term financial gain of developers and crooked politicians.
    All involved should hang your heads in shame.
    G”)

  7. Fantastic to see this great initiative moving forward, it will be so go for the region and the local economy, I am really excited about the potential of the trail and the prospects for small businesses on and around the rail corridor. Don’t let a few naysayers hold you back, they will eventually come around when they see the outcome.

  8. That´s beautiful news! We want to compliment everybody on this wonderful outcome (especially our friend Marie Lawton). We look forward to riding from Crabbes Creek to Murwillumbha one day.

    And we would appreciate it if the rail trail were extended to Byron Bay as well. It would be an extraordinary opportunity for all people who live in this area and vistit this area.

  9. It is not clear at all, that there is minimal support for a rail trail. Governments and councils are supposed to make informed decisions that are in the best interests of the community as a whole, not just the majority or minority. Despite what some people may think this type of infrastructure has been hugely successful in other areas especially Newcastle and southern Queensland. Once built all ability levels of cyclists and walkers can use the trails. Waiting for a train on this line would be like waiting for Godot.

  10. It is clear that the majority would prefer rotten bridges , weed infestation and an used resource than to let children run or ride on the corridor , or let families spend time walking or riding in a safe linear environment.
    Yes these majority (what a joke) don’t want people to enjoy this wonderful resource. But hey they got a heritage tourist train that WAS getting used a week ago but now is as quiet as dreaming trees on a steam age alignment railway corridor.
    Bring on the rail trail and join the rest of Australia and the world who are relishing their rail trails.

  11. Universal support? Hah! That’s a statement of the bleeding obvious whilst a basket of deplorables with no comprehension of basic, fundamental reality continue to oppose a brilliant scheme to build a rail trail on what is an old steam train track now positioned well away from the greatest areas of conurbation in the Northern Rivers.

    They would prefer to prevaricate and demand the return of a train that is almost certainly never coming back (due to the very high costs of reinstatement, lack of demand and changes in demographic distributions) and will see the sale of corridor land as was reported in the Echo on both the front page and page two on the 24th of January.

    The use of the corridor for a rail trail will see its revegetation creating a 132km long wildlife link between large patches of rainforest, not to mention the earning potential of over 250 hectares of carbon credits, helping to do a huge amount to sop up a bit more CO2. It’s a pity the TOOTers and NRRAGers continue to expel excess CO2 defending the indefensible!

    To say they raise my ire with their pig-headedness is an understatement!

  12. I cannot believe some of the comments stating that the majority want the trains back. My experience of talking to locals is that they realise that trains will never come back on an outdated line and that the only use for this land is as a walking, cycling, horse riding thoroughfare for locals and tourists alike. Congratulations to both State and Federal Governments who have decided to keep the land in public hands and not sell it off. The rail trail will bring pleasure and better health to thousands. I belong to a large outdoor activity club and we can’t wait to walk and cycle weekly along the rail trail in future. The rail trail will be buzzing with participants from day 1.

  13. Such a great commitment to the region and particularly for the villages along this corridor.
    As is the wording of the Tumburumba legislation amendment of 2017, the Government will be compelled (by Labor and Greens) to include that the change of use is limited to the purpose of a rail trail. This will protect it from sell off. This is the best option for the corridor at the moment. If we get a massive increase in population in the future, then the corridor could be considered for some form of cost effective commuter transport at that time.

  14. Great news.Fantastic for families and school groups to ride/walk safely
    and help to tackle our emerging obesity problem.
    I have ridden on railtrails/greenways in many countries …. this will
    become one of the GREATEST and at the same time keep the
    corridor in public hands.
    Lindsay Crisp

  15. Chance of a publicly or privately funded commuter train service between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek ? ZERO! Rail trail supporters love public rail transport as well, on routes that actually connect where people live, work and study! The suggestion that Government is going to spend $13 million on this fantastic project so they can sell off rail land is ludicrous. If that was their plan, they would just do it, as has happened elsewhere. As a local, I can’t wait to take my family for what will be one of the most beautiful cycleways in the WORLD. Come on train lovers, please stop blaming the rail trail for the lack of trains, the two quests are separate.

  16. This is so exciting for our region! I know some people are disappointed that there is no government funding for a return of trains on the line but I hope that you all now embrace what is becoming a reality. A Rail Trail will be a huge economic, social and health benefit for our region.

  17. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t like change . Rail trails are a change for the better , for the recreation of the future generation .
    Also the people who can use it tomorrow.
    .????‍♀️????‍♀️
    Western Australia have rail trails ,
    walking trails second to none
    bring in Millions of tourist dollars,
    , Also provide thousands of jobs.
    We all must support this one all the way ,
    get behind this project it’s a no-brainer
    Can you imagine the small business opportunities that will pop up around the Trail .

  18. Fact – Rail Trails Save Rail Corridors
    Worldwide rail trails have saved rail corridors and revitalised local communities.
    This is fantastic news for the whole northern rivers community.
    I come from Otago in New Zealand and the Otago rail trail has provided many new jobs for local people.
    Bring on the northern rivers rail trail and support something GREAT for our community.

  19. What do you think will happen when the government decides that there isn’t enough trail traffic and then resume the land for their commercial gain ?
    This decision proves democracy is a joke seeing the majority didn’t have any say ,as usual Provest is a dead set bloody liar for it was he who on his first tilt at office told us he would be supporting the train .
    He didn’t .

    • The trails in other places in Australia and NZ are growing in popularity, not declining Neville. But even if the government decided to resume the land for their commercial gain, it will have been as the model Act states “Crown Land for the purpose of a cycling path”. The Crown Land Minister cannot change that without taking it to the both houses of parliament.

  20. People who have visited areas and countries that have Rail Trails see a place where people can walk or take their dog, ride a horse or ride a bike.
     A place away from noisy fossil fuel burning machines. A place for people to have peace and commune with nature. A place where tourism, small business, cafes, accommodation and art and crafts can flourish. 
    A place where fun runs, school cross countries and off road sporting cycling events and challenges can be held. A place which encourages people to be active which in the long run will keep people healthier, thereby easing the pressure on the health budget. 
    Both Labor and the LNP have ruled out reinstating the train. Only the Greens make promises about bringing the train back. It is easy to make this promise as at the most they will get 9% of the votes and they will never form government.
    If you want this corridor to stay in public hands for future generations then the only way is to support the building of a Rail Trail. If you don’t support the rail trail we will see this wonderful asset, with its  heritage structures, rot away or be lost to nature. An equally tragic scenario is that it will eventually be sold off. This is starting to happen already. 
    Keeping the old infrastructure is unnecessary (for those of you who think the train will come back one day), as it will all have to be replaced anyway.  There has been no maintenance for over 14 years.  
    We need to USE IT OR LOSE IT!
    Lets not lose it on our watch!

  21. I am a supporter of rail but in this case it would not be environmentally friendly.
    A train running almost empty most of the time is a big waste of carbon and money. For a train to be efficient in carbon emissions it needs to be almost full, and unfortunately the Northern Rivers does not support a population big enough to support a regular and frequent commuter train.
    What we need is to get behind an autonomous electric bus system powered by renewables. These could then service all the communities in the Northern Rivers not just a few on the existing corridor. Even if these busses weren’t electric they would be more carbon efficient than an almost empty train. Autonomous electric vehicles are the future and we need to embrace them. The cost of this revolutionary service would be minimal to the cost of returning the train and could take kids wanting to get to the surf or the elderly wanting to go shopping or the doctor from their front door where ever it is in the Northern Rivers they want to go.
    Wildlife corridors for our native animals, including koalas are desperately needed. The rail trail could and should be planted out to offer this. Imagine one continuous corridor from Casino to Murwillumbah, and from the coast to our hinterland National Parks. The benefits would be enormous.
    Groups within our community such as those with disabilities and young families will be able to enjoy our environment in a safe and relaxed manner, well away from cars and traffic. This will also be the case for horses riders and cyclists.
    The rail trail will also support a low carbon economy where many new jobs can be created offering work to our young so they don’t have to leave the area to get a good job. Accommodation, cafes, restaurants and transport companies will be developed because of the rail trail. This is seen in countless places around the world where rail trails have been developed.
    What we need to do is embrace the future while looking after our environment and our community.
    We have an opportunity here lets not squander it. Lets conserve, use and enjoy our corridor by supporting the rail trail.

  22. The announcement of the $6.5m funding for the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek rail trail initiative was headline news in another north coast newspaper and the current Member for Page,Kevin Hogan was claiming credit for having got the funding. How can he do so when Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek are NOT townships within his electorate of Page? There has been no rail trail programs granted any funding along the section of the Casino-Murwillumbah line which takes in Casino,Bentley,Lismore,Woodlawn and Eltham(all of which are in the Page electorate). Unless Kevin’s been given a parliamentary secretary post to be stand-in spokesperson when Infrastructure Minister Mr McVeigh can’t come to the region to announce funding grants in marginal government held seats Kevin’s making announcements that SHOULD be being done by the CURRENT Member for Richmond Justine Elliott.

  23. Great news! Congratulations to the Federal & State Governments and the Tweed Shire Council for having the foresight to get behind this project. The Rail Trail will be a fantastic asset for the Tweed, benefiting locals as well as attracting visitors to our region. The Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek Rail Trail section will become the showcase destination for our beautiful Valley.

  24. Big loss for the group behind trains on tracks. What were their motives? Already we hear rail land being taken up as extra carparks. I suspect this was the intention all along. Sure passionate motivated folk wanted low cost public transport. I am talking about the well funded well organised group behind this who have been active well before the train stopped running. It was opposition to the rail trail as the agenda. Pressing the buttons of the protest consciousness here in our area was embarrassingly easy.

  25. I totally disagree that a train back on our lines would be hardly used. I frequently drive from Murwillumbah to Robina to catch the train to Brisbane and it always has plenty of passengers, in fact uncomfortably many at peak times and I welcome the eventual extension south to Coolangatta. Sure that part of Southern Queensland is very densely populated but the far north coast population is growing fast and young people from this neck of the woods would benefit by commuting to the many education establishments in SQ by train
    What surprises me is the fact that no-one has mentioned that part of the airport land at Gold Coast Airport is in NSW The ideal setup would be to have our North Coast trains terminating there on the NSW side of the border and taking a shuttle bus over to the airport terminal or to the last train station in SQ which I gather is going to terminate at the airport in the near future. What a wonderfully seamless way to get to GC Airport from as far south asBallina and easily go on to Brisbane City Centre or Airport and all points in between. . How many people caught in M1 traffic jams would love to escape the delays and frustration of freeway commuting. Plenty would be my estimate

  26. I’m concerned about trespassing, heart attacks, and those who become stranded. If you plant a tree corridor where will you travel and what would you see of the landscape?

  27. The argument that “nobody used the trains – that’s why they were taken away 14 years ago” completely misses the point – the trains we used to have (and by the way, myself and my family used them regularly) were XPT services which came through the northern rivers at inconvenient times, and there were only four services (two south, two north) every 24 hours.

    What people are actually asking for is a light rail commuter system running regularly (perhaps two-hourly?) between north coast towns, opening up our area not only for tourists who are uncertain drivers on our local roads but also for anyone who prefers to leave the expense and responsibility of the car at home, and travel to work or study by reliable public transport, which is but a pipe-dream south of the Tweed shire. People too young or not confident enough to drive will be able to engage in TAFE studies. Think of the ridiculous number of cars that will be kept off our desperately busy roads if we have a regular light rail service between our towns in the Byron/Ballina region, for example! And shuttle bus services operating from train stations to hospitals etc. I agree that cheap plane fares almost negate the need for the Sydney-Murwillumbah train – however this does NOT mean that our area no longer needs its train line. As the communities along the rail corridor (which includes some coastal townships) continue to swell, we need a new service for this new century.

  28. Rail trails will not bring prosperity to the Tweed Valley. At the Mullumbimby Big Picture Show, last year, including the Mullumbumby Chamber of Commerce, there was great concern over how the youth were leaving the Northern Rivers because of poor access to education and employment.

    Most LGA have an average age five years or more above the state average, as young people leave the area. The main reason was the poor transport in our Northern Rivers region.

    Kyogle, Lismore and Ballina, all had decreasing population rates. This is since the removal of the XPT in 2004. However, the real demise started with the change of daytime rail services in the eighties, when hundreds of people used rail each day.

    The railways were built when the population of the region was much lower. People’s need for inter-regional travel has increased substantially. We should not be supporting Gold Coast developments down the coast to Ballina, but sensible, not suburban, improvement to the hinterland.

    Rail trails would be disastrous to the hinterland, and rates may increase to pay for their maintenance.

    Rail services would stimulate both tourism and local well-being.

    ‘Rail trails will save the corridor’, is the biggest furphy around.

    Phone or email John McVeigh, [email protected]u and let him know that we want modern transport and we’ll do it ourselves.

    • The Lismore and Byron LGAs are significantly younger than the average for regional NSW and growing only slowly; the Ballina and Tweed Shires are significantly older and have faster goring popualtions, and in the case of the Tweed most of that older population is in Tweed Heads and well away from the corridor. That is part of why bus patronage along the corridor is low while the routes in and out of Ballina and Tweed Heads have good patronage – older people are more dependent on public transport, and know how to use it.

      There is no appetite in hinterland communities for Gold Coast style development along the corridor – in the case of the Byron Shire it would be opposed tooth and nail. Beyond the sort of short tourist service provided by the Elements train, and possibility of a the Bangalow tram, there is no evidence of any private sector interest in tourist rail services, and no business case to show how public investment in one would support developed. Please not that a “furphy” is a deliberately placed mistruth – no one has deliberately or otherwise provided misleading information about the NR Rail Trail.. The business case for our rail trail was independently assessed as positive, based on the success of similar trails in Victoria and elsewhere, and its assessment was accepted by NSW and Commonwealth grant bodies – rather than dismiss it you need to be stating which part of the cost-benefit is not correct . By contrast the study on the C-M corridor found both a return of the XPT and commuter rail would have a poor return on what owuld be a large investment, and a poorer return than improved bus services, in part because of the demographics I outline above.

      Email John McVeigh and also Mehreen Faruqi while you are at it tell them we need modern public transport in our region – which means more frequent and regualr bus services fully enabled for the disabled as recommenced by the NR Social Development Council in its Submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry – Access to Transport for Seniors and Disadvantaged People in Rural and Regional NSW 2016.

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