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Byron Shire
February 4, 2023

Rail trail has no social licence

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Marianne Melnikas, Banora Point

The rail trail will indeed bring in tourists who do nothing but chase down and travel along all the rails trails across this Country.

Back on May 16th 2004 the last train ran, the service was stopped by the Carr Government due to lack of support and the skyrocketing costs of keeping the service running.
Those who want a functional railway running between Casino and Murwillumbah will need to think deeply about the associated costs that would be involved in reinstating such a service, including the number of people using it. The costs of providing such a service to the community should be covered recouped by the bums on seats usage.
The rail trail will provide financial benefits to all the places along the trail, the upkeep would be minimal with benefits outweighing any costs.
Looking at the Victorian story many places were in the same mind, we want our trains back which did not happen. They are now quite happy with the rail trail as it has had the flow on effect of more employment opportunities in local communities and opened up doors for new and evolving business.
In far flung areas having all this going on it such a boost and plus.

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  1. We, here on the Northern Rivers live in a thriving, continually growing region, just a ‘stones throw’ to Tweed City, Lismore is a City – denied, yet with such a variety of happenings across the whole area – for night & day events, a bike, Segway, walking, wheel chairs, motor scooters, horse riding, walking with your pooch, is not going to ‘cut it’ to be able to get to all those happenings of which so many people would love to go to but because of all the individual reasons & including night events, they just have to miss out! The land is what ‘entrepreneurs’ see.. that is – the $$$$$ signs flashing brightly but for whom? Why themselves of course & the governments have sure shown they couldn’t care less – in fact – they sure have ‘helped the process’ along just nicely – for of course – the ‘entrepreneurs’.

  2. Actually, the cost was $11m per annum and the income was $22m per annum for the C-M train service. Also passenger cost per person was cheaper on our Casino to Murwillumbah train service than city passengers per person. Funny that – and how this is always buried, never to see the light of day! To think that train ran at a profit! When all the Rail Trail, Governments & many Councillors continue repeating over & over how the bringing back of the train, is just impossible, the cost is just so massive! As a Professor some years ago always said: “How is that so”? That is a good question for our commuter train service and tourism. Oh, that another point – the only one that gets the nod, so great for tourism, is the bike etc track on the railway corridor, although we do see on TV ads and newspapers – ads for train tourism by the government!

    • The cost of the C-M train service is hardly buried – train buffs drag out those figures as regularly as showers fall in Ballina or the Bay, but they are never. At the time it was closed the train did not run at a profit. Railcorp told the Legislative Council inquiry in 2004 it cost net $5m per annum – to provide the service form Casino to Murwillumbah – and that was estimated to rise to $15m over the following five years. The inquiry was further told with continuing declining patronage the average subsidy would be over $100 per passenger. Even the PwC proposed commuter service that train buffs point to would have required a subsidy of around $6m and the LC Inquiry was told by Railcorp – which would have had to run the service – the proposal was understaffed and under costed, had insufficient attention to safety, and was optimistic in its estimates of passengers. The Arup C-M corridor study found similarly, and that it was cheaper and would provide greater social and environmental benefits, to improve the bus services. Any public transport is expensive per passenger but rail costs more. Spending limited funds on rail jest shifts a large proportion of spending away from those who most need public transport to the younger population along that corridor who have less need and show little inclination to use public transport.

      You are quite right in your overall concern about transport Jillian and that people have difficulty getting to so many happenings in our region. People need to be able to attend not just medical appointments and other essential appointments, as the Human Rights Commissioner states is the right of all seniors – but also the social and entertainment gatherings around our region with families and friends. But since most of our elderly do not live near the line, since most essential appointments are at hospitals and offices not near stations, and since most of those family and friends have cars, the only way to get people to where they need and want to go is by road. That is why the NR Social Development Council recommended more disabled buses services and not trains in its Submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry – Access to Transport for Seniors and Disadvantaged People in Rural and Regional NSW 2016.

  3. Rail trails = tourism, economic development, jobs, and dollars. This is the same outcome seen in Victoria, New Zealand, USA, & Canada. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work in Northern NSW. Publicly-owned but unused infrastructure must be made available to the public through recycling (no pun intended).

  4. What a wonderful improvement for our areas public transport needs if the $13 million in funding, allocated for regional development activities, could be directed towards improved bus services and more disabled-friendly buses, and possibly the growing use of electric buses that can run for hundreds of kms on renewable power.


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