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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Rail trail’s $13m funding a rip-off for taxpayers

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Despite so many polls and surveys showing the overwhelming majority of North Coast residents wanting train services on the Casino to Murwillumbah (C-M) train line and repairs to the line for trains costing little more than a bike track,  our illustrious state and federal politicians see fit to waste $13 million of taxpayer’s dollars ripping up the extremely valuable train line to replace it with a bike track for a few cyclists.

This makes about as much sense as the NSW Minister for Transport spending so much of his time and taxpayers’ money on silly names for Sydney ferries. Not surprising the transport service is chaotic or non-existent.

The Southern Cross University survey in 2007 found 90 per cent of respondents would use a train service regularly if it was connected to Coolangatta.

The Northern Star newspaper poll found 70% per centof participants wanted trains on the C-M line.

The recent ABC radio on-line poll found 60 per cent of people want trains not a bike track.  That’s before five million tourists are counted.

Tweed Shire council are currently surveying their residents on whether they wants trains or a bike track. This survey will most likely confirm all previous surveys or the politicians would have waited for the results before announcing funding to destroy the train line.

It cost $600,000 per kilometre to repair the Byron train line for a train service which is being used by almost 16,000 people per month, and people want the service extended.

Spending at least $541,000 per kilometre to rip up the valuable C-M train line, which goes through eight out of ten North Coast major population centers, for a bike track for a few cyclists is beyond crazy.

This makes no sense on any level, environmentally, socially or economically. Lack of train services means increasing traffic congestion is already impacting on tourism and the local economy, and as traffic congestion continues to increase so will the economic impact.

The C-M line is currently protected by legislation. Legislation to remove protection of the line is being presented to the NSW Parliament for the third time, it has been defeated twice before by strong community action.

People need to write to local Members of Parliament, the NSW Minister for Transport and the opposition Shadow Minister for Transport and tell them we why need train services for locals and five million tourists to the region.

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores


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  1. A condition of the funding should be that the bikies do not remove the rails and provide dedicated and obvious space for pedestrians too. Hearing tinkling bells behind one and not knowing which side the lycra will pass ruins a good walk.

  2. The misconception lies in the words “Bike track, bicycle & cyclists” This proposal for a rail trail is for use by any form of non motorised transport such as walking, running, wheel chairs & mobility scooters, not just bicycles. It will be a linear recreation reserve, exactly the same as any other park, oval, playground or footpath in the area, available for use by any person who chooses to use it without involving a motorised vehicle (except mobility scooters).
    Councils will more than likely be responsible for the maintenance and insurance, just like they are with parks, pools, public halls and council roads.
    Emergency services will respond to incidents along the trails Justas they do with any emergency anywhere in the area.
    Yes the tourist track at Byron was refurbished at a cost of $600,000 per km, but it only involved one bridge on a flat, straight line servicing a tourist resort. To reinstate to CM line with tunnels, bridges, cuttings and curves to carry a train at average speeds of over 80km per hour will cost much more than that. If there was a real need for public transport, then the roads would be full of buses, not cars.

  3. Is it just me or does anyone else think that the tooters need a hobby? The trains are not coming back. For the slow witted…NOT coming back. As someone who has ridden rail trails I can assure you that the benefits to the area will be great. Just ask the towns on the Victorian trails or the people who were against the trails there and now say “best thing that could have happened”. I was with a group of 20 people who payed for air fairs and accommodation in New Zealand just to ride the Otago rail trail. That trail is not as good as ours will be and imagine the money that will be spent in our region instead of there, Victoria and Queensland.
    I would suggest any one who hasn’t, should ride a trail and see for themselves the benefits they produce.
    Time to accept reality.

  4. None of the surveys that you mentioned gave people any sense of the cost of the choices they offered Louise. Whatever costing you use a rail services would cost manifold what a rail trial costs and far more than hourly bus services (like that along the Tweed Coast that carries as many people a month as the XPT did and similar too to the number of tourists that the Elements train did at the height of the holidays). When you talk to people or read the Facebook comments on the ABC survey you will see that a lot of people want a train service, but most are realistic that it is not going to happen in the near future.
    What they are anxious is that corridor is not lost, and the majority recognise that a rail trail is the way to preserve it for future rail. NRRAGs spokesperson on Prime television repeated the line that a rail trial will remove its protection. I advised her the following day on Facebook – as I have many other times – that the rail trail legislative framework makes the corridor Crown Land only for the purpose of cycling trail, a purpose that cannot be changed without going back to the parliament. She then asked me how that could be so as there was not such reference in the rail trail legislation itself. I referred her to the Crown Lands legislation but it was quite plain she and NRRAG have never sought any legal advice on a matter on which they are giving ill informed commentary. .
    Can you point readers to any published or peer reviewed analysis or other well qualified opinion that suggests the rail can be repaired along the length for the cost of the short section in Byron Bay? There is none Louise – even the Greens estimate it would cost four times that.
    Once again you repeat the comment that the path is for a “a few cyclists’, but you have never given any evidence to suggest why our path will not be as popular as those in places like Victoria. The path can be used by walkers and cyclists, and the estimate number of cyclists based on a comparable path in Victoria is that our completed path is 88,000 spending around $200 per day in towns and villages along the line. That is why the NSW and Commonwealth governments considered the business case worthwhile.
    People need to write to local Members of Parliament, the NSW Minister for Transport and the opposition Shadow Minister for Transport and tell them we do not need a train train service – we need our share of the thousand of bus services the NSW government funded last year, as recommended by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council submission to the Government’s inquiry last year into access to transport for seniors and disadvantaged people in regional NSW, which did not once mention the train or the rail, but which offered practical and affordable suggestions on how to make the buses more accessible.


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