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Byron Shire
February 3, 2023

Tweed Council gives rail trail go-ahead despite some concerns

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Murwillumbah Station will soon be the starting point for the North Coast Rail trail after Tweed Shire Council voted to go ahead with the project. Photo Flickr/RailWA

At its meeting last week, Tweed Shire Council resolved to accept the offer of $6.5 million in federal grant funding to construct the 24-kilometre long Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek section of the rail trail project.

But a council spokesperson said ‘a number of safeguards’ had been put in place ‘to ensure the rail corridor remains’.

The council will also explore whether it is economically viable to build the trail beside the existing track and whether additional opportunities such as driverless electric carts could be used to make the trail more palatable to staunch train enthusiasts, who have campaigned for more than a decade for the return of rail services.

Tweed Mayor Katie Milne said she ‘was very pleased that we will be getting an opportunity to go to the market to also see if the trail could be built next to the track’.

‘There would obviously be a greater range of opportunities for transport and tourism if we could utilise both the track and an adjacent trail,’ she said.

The council also resolved to seek an annual contribution from the state government to fund operations and maintenance of the regional tourism facility and is proposing a Trust be established to oversee governance and management of the trail, which could eventually extend all the way to Casino.

The resolution also included the following wording about safeguards:

‘To ensure that appropriate legislation is in place that would:

  1. Maintain the corridor in public ownership in perpetuity for exclusive use as a rail Ttrail, for the return of rail or public transport
  2. Allow under lease or license to the Trust uses complementary to the success of the rail trail (for example rail carriages used on parts of the disused line that would add character and services to the rail trail – such as a coffee cart, art and craft, bike hire, accommodation, etc) – and that income derived from these be quarantined for maintenance of the rail trail, corridor and associated infrastructure (former stations).
  3. Require an Act of Parliament as opposed to ministerial approval for the sale of any part of the corridor.

With the federal grant funds adding to the $6.5 million already committed by the NSW Government last August, the Tweed Valley Rail Trail project is now fully funded.

 


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9 COMMENTS

  1. The “Tweed Rail Trail Conundrum”
    The mind boggles at the desperate and frantic thought bubbling that appears to go on at the local council meeting level, with regard to the rail corridor resolution, at least.
    The Tweed council meeting last Thursday night, had an absent rail trail supporting councilor, which meant that the pro rail group had the Mayor’s vote, plus her casting vote to block the $13million NSW and Federal governments’ funding for the construction of the 24kms long Tweed Valley Rail Trail.
    This of course would have been a huge loss of economic potential to the Tweed Shire, and so last minute frantic vote changing concepts had to be thrown in to get the funding accepted. These included “alternative tenders” for an engineering firm to build the trail alongside the decaying rail line, where possible, to somehow “protect the status of the line”.
    Also, to give Elon Musk a call, to see if he could offer ideas for driverless rail transport!
    The Mayor, Katie Milne, is prepared to commit her shire’s ratepayers to any additional costs beyond the $13million, to keep the rusting tracks rusting for an unforeseeable future, until, well, who knows what might happen?
    Of course, the reality is, that the tracks are useless; a sacred cow, very like the facade of the Byron Bay Community Center that was religiously and expensively propped up to appease the objectors, then finally replaced with a brand new lookalike, prior to the grand opening.
    But for Tweed’s section of the rail corridor, they are now looking at 24 kilometers of very expensive facade, to “protect” the steel tracks, which replacement value would likely be a fraction of the costs in building the trail alongside them.
    These costs would have to include the complex design terms of reference, then the engineering design, then the costs of constructing the actual concrete retaining walls and highly involved drainage for the now, two formations, not just the original one. The new trail formation will need expensive ballustrading to protect the public from falling off the retaining wall edges, where applicable. Then there’s the built in safety requirements, in case the mythical train service ever materialises. But what about the 475 meter long Burringbar Tunnel, do I hear you ask? With 100 metres of ridge above the tunnel, that would likely involve expensive removable decking over the tracks, which would then thwart rust mitigating ventilation of the very tracks intended to be “preserved”.
    You’d be forgiven if you thought this all resembles a rats’ picnic, but I’m afraid this is what the poor Tweed Shire engineers are now faced with.
    It’s going to be very interesting to see how this complex issue develops.
    The big plus, is that the train dreamers will finally start on their journey of realising what things really cost in this world.
    That in itself, has been sorely missing for 14 years.

  2. How many economically viable studies do you need to have?Commonsense tells me that its cheaper to build your beloved cycle track next to the railway line.

    • Johnno The rail trial is a community trail for cycling, walking and other recreation, not just a cycle track.

      While it might appear to make sense to put a trail beside the track the initial rail trail study explains the issues:

      “In a majority of locations, the removal of track, sleepers and ballast material will be required, where a trail cannot be economically formed adjacent to the existing line and remain within the existing railway corridor boundary. Given the relative narrowness of the corridor along the majority of the route, there will only be select locations, such as the Byron Bay town centre where existing rails, sleepers and ballast can remain and a trail formed immediately adjacent.
      In certain locations, typically where the formation or corridor width allows, it may be possible to form the trail adjacent to the rail, allowing for existing rail sections to remain in place as a reminder of the origins of the rail corridor.”

      We will read the outcome of the tenders with interest and if it can be done more cheaply beside lengths of the rail that will be pleasing for all. However what we do not want to be sharply pushing the cost up and putting off older cyclists and walkers, those cycling with kids in trailers and others challenged by hills, by re-routing the path over hills because the rails are retained in narrow cuttings and tunnels for some rail purpose that will likely never happen.

    • Hey Jonno common sense would suggest exactly the opposite! It is common sense to construct the cycle way on the existing alignment.

  3. Don’t dismiss the driverless buggies. They’re safer than bikes. The more people that can use the rail trail the greater the political imperative to preserve the corridor.

  4. I’m looking forward to some serious costing of both on and off formation. This will not just be an engineering estimate it will be exactly how much somebody is willing to spend and construct the rail trail.
    Remembering it is a community trail, mainly for walking and bikes I’d hate to see over commercialism and people having to pay to use it plus making it dangerous for kids and others riding bikes.
    The whole point is to remove vehicular traffic and make it safe. A kid from Mooball could safely ride to Burringbar Public school away from vehicles
    $13 million is to build a rail trail within 2 years, still the train supporters have not sought similar funding to bring a train back, they expect somebody else to do the hard yards

  5. If this project was managed by a private company building their own rail corridor, the current $ 13 Million would enable about 60% completion of the 24 Km in two years. As this project will be run by bureaucrats and consultants, 40% at best will be completed in four years and $ 13 Million.

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