Railway supporters will today demand that the Tweed Shire Council refrain from making any decisions regarding a rail trail that would result in the ripping up of railway tracks.
Members of Reinstall Murwillumbah Rail and the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) will meet at 3pm to march from Murwillumbah railway station to the Tweed Shire Council public access at 4pm.
The Tweed Council has received $13 million in funding for a rail trail.
NRRG spokesperson Beth Shelley said the community wanted any rail trail to run beside the railway instead of ripping up the railway tracks and losing the option of trains in the future.
‘This rally will demonstrate that the community questions the need to close the railway in order to develop a cycling and walking tourist attraction. If the funding was used to build the path beside the track then we could see if it actually does draw tourism to the area without risking the loss of future rail options,’ Ms Shelley said.
Since the closure of the Casino to Murwillumbah line Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) and NRRAG have collected over 18 thousand signatures demanding reinstatement of train services. The groups argue there is no social licence to create a recreational bike track which causes the destruction of local rail infrastructure.
Tweed Daily News (Council could derail trail project, 12th Feb) states that Tweed Shire Council asked in September last year for a report into community consultation about the divisive project and the issue was set down for debate at this Thursday’s council meeting. Previous councillor Barry Longland was quoted as saying that the costs of returning trains to the line – priced at almost $1 billion – would be prohibitive.
Ms Shelley refuted that claim saying the figure of $1 billion was to be found in a report by the Arup group who a month ago was subjected to a $2.2 billion lawsuit.
In an article from the Financial Review (Dec 27 A stretch too far: how Arup was brought to the brink by Airport Link) it states Arup was sued “for misleading and deceptive conduct, as well as gross negligence”.
‘This indicates their costing for the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line is highly questionable. On the other hand the PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2004 plan was for a 16 train a day railcar service that would cost $28.8 million over 7 years for the repairs to the line,’ Ms Shelley said.
Dian Flint, a member of NRRAG, said the public wanted trains which run on a regular daily timetable.
‘The Byron Solar Train has demonstrated the popularity of such a train service by having 10 thousand passengers in 19 days of operation. Is a rail trail really going to attract this many people?
‘If the existing railway tracks are removed for the Murwillumbah rail trail we forever lose the chance of innovative solutions such as the Byron Solar Train. If the rail trail legislation is passed covering the whole corridor it will remove the current protection so the land will become Crown land and we could possibly see the loss of the Byron train itself,’ Ms Flint said.