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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Railway supporters to rally at Tweed council meeting

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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.


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  1. Fabulous, another 14 years of rot and decay . The existing Tweed Shire Transport Strategy will be thrown out the door and another $250K spent writing up a new one . I am sure the ratepayers and rent payers will be happy with their increase in both rates and rent to cover the cost.
    Will a train suddenly sprout out of the weeds and start running by 2022 ? No look at post 2030 for a train on tracks . Very well thought out as per usual from the NRRAG with blinkers and blind folds on .

  2. Rail enthusiasts question the relative popularity of the rail trail. What is important here Is not the number of users but what spending they will bring . There is no business case that shows that most Elements train users – apart perhaps from some families who might have driven to the Bay specifically to ride the train – will have spent any more in our economy then the $6 return fare and perhaps a drink or two at Elements resort. The impact of the estimated average spending of hundreds of dollars per day by the 88,000 rail trial users – based on Victorian data – will plainly be greater. But again if the rail enthusiasts believe tourist services are so beneficial where is their submission for regional development funding for such a service? The possibility of trains running on the corridor on a regular basis was considered in the Arup corridor study and was found to deliver few benefits and fewer than better timetabled buses would. In the case of the Tweed there is very little commuter traffic south of Murwillumbah, and the Tweed Way does not suffer serious congestion. A commuter train would do nothing that regular disabled-friendly buses cannot do for a fraction of the cost. If someone was funding a tourist train service in the Tweed, or there was any other viable and serious use for the railway, then the rail trail would need to be reconsidered. Tweed residents need to consider then if Mayor Milne is considering raising or diverting rates to fund studies and subsidies for such a commuter service –
    In respect of removing the rails, even the Greens’ transport policy is to support rail trail if inter-alia “…that removing rail lines won’t compromise future passenger and freight needs.” As the Arup report found any future rail would likely require the existing ballast and sleepers to be replaced, removing them for time being for a rail trail will not compromise any future rail.
    Ms Flint again alleges that creating the rail trail legislative framework will remove the protection for the corridor. After Ms Shelly made the same allegation on Prime TV I advised her 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 the matter . Until they are able to provide a legal opinion in support of their allegations that the legislation puts the corridor at risk, NRRAG and its supporters should refrain from any further comment on the matter.
    It is difficult to understand what is the relevance of the matters relating to Arup’s work on roads in Sydney to its estimate of the cost of renewing the rail line. The Arup corridor study and its estimates to restore the railway has never been subject to any peer-reviewable or other credible and professional critique, and there is no such alternative costing done on restoring the line. The Greens have estimated its cost of the Casino section to be $50m which Dr Faruqi advised me “It was an estimate based on comparative costings of regional rail in Victoria” – at least Arup did consider the issues realting to our line! In the absence of any professionally done critique or alternative costing, Beth Shelley, NRRAG and the Greens’ estimates can have little credibility with the public and certainly will have none with the NSW Government, which they expect will fund their train dreams. In conclusion may I ask Ms Shelley in the light of her questioning of Arup’s competence in rail matters if she is advising us not to use the Gold Coast light rail for which it was lead consultant?

    • Rail enthusiasts indeed.
      Public transport means the public are protesting because the public need that transport that a rail trail cannot provide. There is no transport even from the railway station to Council. They, the public of Murwillumbah, march coming up to the month of March to put boot leather to the footpath as they have to complete a feat that their words have weight because we can not wait any longer when we need a train to Casino.

      • No one except you and one other train enthusiast has suggested that the intention of the rail trail is to provide public transport. It is a recreational cycling and walking track that can also enable some people to enjoy the healthy and environmentally friendly private transport that cycles offer.

        What I am tired of hearing is the presumption that public transport and the rail are synonymous. Indeed the high cost of providing rail – and I note that Mayor Milne now appears to accept that it could cost $900m to restore the rail line – means fewer funds would be available for better bus services around the Tweed, and other parts of our region and of NSW. Can I also note that bus services to Murwillumbah can be routed into town and so do not need connections from a train station – one of the many reasons the train line would not provide good commuter transport to our towns and their key destinations and buses can do it better.

  3. Here we go again. What do these people think, someone is going to spend big on refurbishing a last century, single line, slow, clunky old bit of infrastructure that nobody used even when it was still running?
    And not that many people want to travel to Murwillumbah anyway (I know, I live there).
    What IS needed is a double line moderately straight service from Ballina to connect with Gold Coast line to Brisbane. People would certainly use that if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg, which is unlikely.
    But we don’t do infrastructure in Australia, only talk about it. And get off on pathetic little protests.

  4. With so much hot air, Hatfield should refrain from any further comment on the matter. In the meantime, the vast majority of North coast residents rightly deserve to have passenger rail as a transport option as they have stated over and over again. No amount of political “pulling the wool” will change the reality that a viable rail service that connects into QLD will provide economic benefit to towns along the way (a narrative that the Rail trail lobby have attempted to steal for themselves), and will become increasingly valuable to future generations. NRRAG, TOOT and Reinstate rail in Murwillumbah deserve all the support they can get.

    • Milton
      I appreciate I write often on this subject, but I believe it is important correct errors of fact and logic and I am presented with ample opportunities. I welcome any comment and corrections to anything I write, but expect that the writers back up their assertions.
      There has never been a poll of “the vast majority of North coast residents”; all of the polling has elicited responses disproportionately from along the corroder and not from the areas away from it where more older, non-internet savvy and transport dependent residents live. The Sustain Northern Rivers Transport Survey did broaden its reach beyond the corridor to capture those areas with more people dependent on public transport. It found that yes many people would like a train, but overwhelmingly people were more concerned about timetabling issues, timing, frequency and routing, all matters better addressed by buses, and more affordably so higher priority road transport services away from the corridor would not be compromised. .
      The benefits of the rail trail are outlined in the study and the business case put to government for funding. I am not aware of any such study that shows a viable rail service that connects into QLD will provide economic benefit to towns along the way. The May 1994 study by Kearney – Sinclair Knight for the State Rail Authority of NSW entitled ‘Review of Investment Options – Casino to Murwillumbah line’ did not favour the extension of the line to Robina: It found connecting the line between Robina in the Gold Coast and Murwillumbah would merely reinforce the then existing poor targeting of the service, and the present population density in the area is too low to provide adequate benefit to cost ratios on investments in the line. The population in our areas has grown but not so substantially along the rail corridor as to justify the large investment needed to fund a commuter service opt QLD, and to do so would simply return us to the poorly targeted transport funding Kearney SKM identified in the 90s.
      People do like the idea of a train, and the population might grow along the corridor to Gold Coast levels to justify it. The corridor will be far more likely to be available to those future generations if it remains in use for its length, protected by legislation that requires it to be dedicated as Crown Land for a rail trial for recreational use, a dedication that cannot be revoked under Section 84 (3) of the Crown Lands Act if either House of Parliament passes a resolution disallowing the proposed revocation.

      • A population would not grow along a proposed rail corridor between Murwillumbah and Tweed. Much of the eastern side of the Tweed river consists is almost entirely cane fields on a wide flood plain. The land is too flood prone to support housing development.

        The other side of the river is also low lying until it reaches Tumbulgum when the line would then encounter very difficult to negotiate terrain of Terranora Hill. Trains cannot climb the steep rises and the land is unsuited to buildings.

        One bizarre solution put forward by train enthusiast was to tunnel through Terranora Hill followed by a via duct around the inlet up to the airport. This “low cost” solution would save on land resumptions and the material from the excavation could be used for ballast.

        Such disregard for sensibilities and appreciation of the costs of engineering is quite common among TOOTers who are completely blinded by their religious devotion to a rail service.

  5. If you would like a train back on our corridor, you may be surprised to know that the best way to achieve any possibility of this, is to keep the corridor in public ownership. Otherwise, it will be sold off to hungry developers willing to pay lots to get their hands on it.

    The only possible way around this, is, shock horror, a rail trail.
    Yes, a rail trail has already achieved government funding to protect the corridor, so in the future, trains at least have a chance.

    Without a corridor, there is no chance. Period.

    The main purpose of a Rail Trail, is to protect the old rail corridor for community use and safeguarding.

    If you think keeping the existing rusting tracks is the way to get trains back, think again!

    Any government funding for a future train service, will require stringent engineering and safety standards that will see it last for 100 years or so.

    This means a complete re-build.

    At the moment, there isn’t anywhere near enough potential passengers to warrant such an outlay, but there may be in the future. That’s why it’s so important to keep our corridor safe.

    Without a corridor, there’s no chance at all.

    So don’t let reckless misinformed people pull the wool over your eyes.
    Be smart and patient with your train aspirations.

    Your grand-kids will love you for it.

  6. Ah I remember travelling on the iron horse to and from Murwillumbah in the 60’s & 70’s and think it should remain a quaint and nostalgic memory. Of course a modern light rail from Coolangatta Airport through the coastal population centers is a different matter .

  7. In respect of the Arup estimate I note that Tweed Mayor Milne stated in her Mayoral message today: ” I, for one, believe our community is worth $950M and will maintain the fight for our rail corridor whatever happens.” It would appear that unlike NRRAG, Ms Milne now accepts the only professionally done estimate of the cost of restoring the line.

    Rail trail supporters join her in maintaining the fight to keep the rail corridor, offering the protection afforded by a community of cyclists and rail enthusiasts, and the interested businesses, employees and their families who will benefit from the trail, with protective legislation that only allows the rails to be removed if it is declared Crown Land for the purpose of a cycling path – something the Minister can not change if the parliament does not agree. .

  8. Public transport is a very important part of the sustainability for our grandchildren and their planet into the future. We need to safeguard our rail corridors and reinstate real train services wherever possible. Soon the children of the world will be asking what we did to help their survival.

  9. Give us a year NRRAG, when will the train service be fully funded by Government, and which party will do it? Don’t tell us the Greens please, they are so far from winning an election they can promise anything knowing they will never have to deliver. Okay, let’s say despite all the certain protests from the same band against development, the population reaches the several hundred thousand in the area to make a train viable. Surely that will take at least 30 years. Now looking at the massive deterioration that has occurred in the last 14, does NRRAG actually believe that a Government would take the risk of running new trains on those tracks, risking people’s lives? Would the public accept such a proposal? Of course NOT! Common NRRAG present your
    Proposal. Raise the $75 k the NRRT did from public donations and use it to to back up your claims. Give as a train timetable at least, on a one way winding track. Explain how people in Balina or the Tweed Coast, or Ocean Shores are going to get to their nearest train station. Figure out how many buses it will take, and who is going to pay for it. Come on NRRAG please present the community with current studies conducted by experts in this field. Otherwise stop the fear mongering. These tracks and bridges have had it. Removing them
    Now and repairimg slips and overgrowth makes the return of trains much cheaper when the time comes.

    • Sol Ibrahim, How do people get to Ballina or Gold Coast Airport? That’s right – on the mad traffic road but you continue to just bash the train & rubbish that people would not be able to get to a railway station. The per annum income from the trains was $22m & the costs per annum @11m; public passenger cost per person were less on our Casino to Murwillumbah rail than Sydney passengers. Also, trains take people to all the towns along the line from Casino & north – planes don’t. That bus trip that RTers keep on about – what a joke. You have not listened to the people as to why those buses are empty – that’s because people hate the drive in them & the road! Jillian Spring

      • Jillian You continue to assert that the buses are empty, but that is not necessarily so. People get to and from the airports on very well patronised safe comfortable buses, that travel on good roads with few serious traffic problems in less time than the XPT took for comparable trips, for far less than the XPT’s cost and none the government. Apart from the large number of kids they carry every morning, the local buses that serve the areas with the largest number of older transport dependent households also enjoy relatively good patronage (they are often not full because it is cheaper to use the large school run buses during the day). It is the bus services along the corridor that have low patronage, reflecting the younger car owning, car using household that the census shows live in the Lismore and Byron LGAs. I suspect many of that younger population who grew up in two car homes and never learnt to catch public transport, even to school.
        It is unsurprising that many of those younger people are not interested in using the buses when some of the self proclaimed advocates of public – to paraphrase your words – bash the buses. . Many of us who had to use them regularly in cities like Canberra – where it is standing room only in peak hour – find the buses here are a perfectly comfortable way to cover the relatively short distances in our area.
        I appreciate for medium to long distances the XPT is more comfortable, but that is not what the rail groups are advocating for the C-M line. They have told us they would fund their once every two hour commuter train by cutting out the RailLink coaches. So everyone without a car would have to catch the commuter train to Casino, while the mainly older people in places like Ballina, Tweed and the Gold Coast would be forced to catch local buses to connect to the commuter train. Forcing people from the towns with the most older people to catch two local services and face two waits and changes of transport mode just to get onto the XPT is ridiculous. A more sensible approach to making long distance travel more comfortable for the greatest number of older users will be to use the completed M1 after 2020 to provide express coaches from the main centres to meet the XPT or its faster replacement at South Grafton or Coffs – only one change of transport, a faster trip to Sydney, and the comfort of the train for the longer part.
        On your assertion that the train ran at a profit – at the time of its closure the Legislative Committee was told that at 68% Country link services were less subsidised than Citylink at 72%. The reality is while most of us like trains they are expensive and they could only be reinstated in our area by cutting out far more bus coaches services needed for the elderly and other transport dependent people here or elsewhere in NSW.

  10. Rip up the old rail line or make a trail beside it what the difference? They will need to clear all the trees and growth that cover it now . Even if a train comes back one day with the huge cost of replacing all the bridges relaying 23 km is minimal and they be relaying the new line over the new bridges. Which they won’t be needing for the Rail Trail as they will cross with stepping stones or lighter weight bridges suitable for walking and cyclists.
    These rail groups just blow out hot air and this Mayor Miline is happy to use this as a scrap goat from public getting to know about her failed court cases and continuing waste of ratepayers money , which she will continue to do with this pointless survey.
    The money is on the table use it build this tourist icon , keep the corridor public hands let the town of Murwillumbah and the villagers south on the corridor move into a new era.

  11. Virtually every proponent of the return of the train bases their argument on the notion of a new line being constructed from Murwillumbah to Tweed. Without that extension it would be pointless restoring the existing line, especially the section from Murwillumbah to Byron.

    A line to Tweed would require resuming a vast tract of both farm land and residential suburias, require millions of tonnes of rock to build it up above the floodplain and probably negotiating acid sulphate soils. The economic, social and environment costs would be prohibitive. Moreover the line would simply replicate Tweed Valley Way which only carries light traffic.

    Rail proponents tell us the we should stop being concerned about costs and instead listen to the community wishes and that we “deserve” the rail. Restoring and extending the rail would amount to several tens of thousands of dollars per public transport user in the region. Luxury free busses could be provided for decades at less than the infrastructure expenditure alone..

    Compare the costs of rail against projects such as the new $500 million hospital at Tweed. Given a more realistic choice between multiple new hospitals and bringing back the trains I have no doubt the community would choose the hospitals.

    Mullumbimby, Byron and Bangalow are each just seven kilometres from the Pacific Highway. Taking a bus along the motorway would be much faster than a slow train winding through the Burringbar ranges.

  12. Walk the section of rail corridor from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek and you will see the idea of running the railway line and rail trail alongside each other is pure folly. It’s also folly to suggest ripping up the rails and sleepers would spell the end of any return of train services (although it will never happen in the foreseeable future, if ever, along that corridor). The vast majority of that infrastructure, if not all, would have to be replaced anyway because of deterioration and the standard of infrastructure needed to accommodate modern trains.

  13. 18,000 signatures demanding the return of the rail since it was closed in 2004.

    That is a very stale petition. Many who no longer support the return of the rail, including me, signed it way back when we thought there was a chance, before we knew how badly the infrastructure had decayed and before the we took the time to fully consider the issue.

    TOOT and NRAG continually claim to represent “the community” on the basis of that petition.

    Truth is they are a noisy minority and the majority prefer the opportunity to put the North Coast on a world wide list of trails that attract millions of visitors every year.

    Most small towns can only dream of that kind of global exposure. We can start living that dream. All it takes is for the council to focus on what will be a great asset for Tweed and the neighbouring shires, rather than a delusion propounded by an ill-informed group with a chronic sense of entitlement and complete disregard for reality.

  14. TOOT are a very small group of noisy people with little regard for facts and a huge sense of entitlement. They live in the past and oppose all new innovation and progressive ideas. They present a case as if it were 50/50 for and against (similar to the climate change debate) when in fact it is more like 95/5 and yet they demand equal coverage (and often get it!). It is obvious to anyone who objectively weighs up the case for the return of the train service that IT IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!! Let’s get on with the cycle way which will be one of the world’s best. Otherwise the corridor will be lost forever.

  15. All of you should have been in council gallery at community access last week when two professional speakers clearly showed that we could have both a rail trail AND restoration of the train tracks for less than $13 million! They had studies to prove it. One of them Tom Rayner is a civil engineer with 35 years experience who knows his stuff more than any of you nay-sayers.

    Honestly how many of you are going to use the rail trail compared to a leisurely weekend train ride through the countryside on the weekend? Trains are a fabulous way to promote the natural beauty of an area. Look how well they work in Europe for that purpose. Tourism is a significant driver for the economy here in Tweed contributing $278 million annually and I’m sure many more people would travel by train to see a country than by bicycle.

    You are outnumbered by the various polls. The Northern Star poll found 70% wanted trains not bike trails, the ABC facebook poll showed 60% of people want trains only 40% want a bike track (excluding 5 million tourists to the region who need transport).

    And what if we could have reinstatement of the trains AND a rail trail for the $13 million gifted to council? What reason is there to oppose it with so many in favour?

    • The report in the Tweed Daily following the council meeting stated “Earlier, the council was addressed by several speakers in the community access meeting, including civil engineer Tom Rayner who calculated he could build a rail trail beside the tracks for less money than the touted $13 million projected by council”. that is a very different thing from “… we could have both a rail trail AND restoration of the train tracks for less than $13 million!” and as far as I am aware Tom Rayner has not seen fit to correct the Tweed Daily report. We look forward to Mr Raynor’s bid to construct the rail trail within the corridor and beside the rail line. We look forward too to the reaction of those who as you put it outnumbered us in the polls when they realise how many hundreds of dollars a year in additional or diverted rates will go to planning and achieving a rail service in the Tweed.

  16. The nonsense posted by Menkit Prince is typical of the attitude of delusional train enthusiasts.

    It is hardly surprising the a poll comparing a billion dollar rail service restoration against the rail trail would be in favour of the train. The fact is nobody is going to fund the train while the first stage rail trail has been fully funded.

    The rail trail isn’t about locals using it, although many will. Experience with other rail trails shows that they attract thousands of visitors spending vast sums of money in the communities along the trail. Read the case studies done of other trails and then go and find comparable studies that show anything like the number of visitors would come for a train. Put up some real data to back your claim.

    The 13 million dollar funding was for the trail based on detailed assessment by engineers based on the removal of the track. Opinions “professional speakers” with clearly ridiculous off the cuff guestimates are worthless unless they are going to put up a tender for the work.

    Every dollar diverted from the trail construction to preserve the rail would be a dollar wasted and a compromise to the quality of the trail.


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