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Byron Shire
March 5, 2021

Rail trail a world-class farce

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Peter Finch, Byron Bay Tramlink, Lagoon Grass.

Walking the disused railway line with Paul Bibby (Echo April 4) is just another glossy promotional piece from the rail trail movement.

Hans Lovejoy wrote about the tunnel people in The Echo on February 17 last year so there’s nothing new there Paul.

Yes, the rail lines are unused but remember it took Elements Resort seven years to get their train operating. There are several options on the table for using the tracks on the north coast and these will also be privately funded, not paid for by tax payers and local rate payers.

The loudly trumpeted world-class rail trail from Casino to Eltham is a $32 million bike track which will cost $960,000 a year to maintain. The Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek rail trail is a $13 million grant, and the annual maintenance cost is $390,000.

There are so many questions about rail trails remaining unanswered but if you feel $45 million to build and $1.35 million a year to maintain a bike track is good then you are dreaming about a world-class farce.


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9 COMMENTS

  1. Doing nothing with this wonderful corridor is a farce! There is no study in existence to support the return of the trains on this corridor. Are we meant to wait another 14 years to achieve nothing except rotting sleepers and rusting rails? Already large sections of the corridor are simply disappearing as the bush claims the corridor back. All people like Peter Finch and TOOT/NRAAG do is obstruct anything viable happening with the corridor. A rail trail has been proven to be a viable option which will preserve the corridor and make it accessible for all to use and enjoy. A rail trail is not just for cyclists, it;s for walkers, runners and horse riders to use.

    Rail trails interstate and overseas continue to grow in popularity and bring jobs and economic growth to the villages and communities they pass through. Just over the border the QLD Govt has committed another $4 million to upgrade the popular Brisbane Valley Rail trail (BVRT)

    Do yourself a favour Peter, take a walk or a ride on a rail trail and you’ll see how great they are!

  2. You are spot-on Peter preserve the rail corridor. It is our future. Who cares if it will take 14 years to be ulitized for a transport corridor as it belongs to all residents of NSW (taxpayer dollars). The only real interest in the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail would the near access to the coastal areas.
    Stop throwing up other rail trails as comparisons i.e. Victoria, New Zealand, Ipswich to Esk (family members had a farm situated on this Rail Trail with mostly single track overgrown and breaking-up).
    The establishment cost and maintenance could be perhaps passed onto users (Councils and Governments love ‘user pays’) but in the case of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Assoc (owns business in Esk) they only have 500+ members and approx 6 events programmed in the next 5 months (as this is the cooler part of the year in the border regions one would think the majority of activity would be happening then) or Friends of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Inc.with approx 2 events programmed in the next 4 months. Of course there as some other odds and ends also happening with others stating they haven’t ridden the trail in a couple of years. Also the rides appear only half day long. With many sections it could be a long time between drinks for businesses to get one’s location on the section for the upcoming schedule.
    The rail corridor must be preserved so incorporate the trail if need be for the privilaged few. Inovation in rail travel will come and allow the small villages near ‘rail-side’ to grow and take the pressure of the coastly housing. …by the way I ride my ‘townnie’ or my trail bike nearly every day and my husband his ebike.

  3. We must ensure that any train on the line accepts all types of wheelchairs and not be limited like the Byron Bay Train . The doorways on the train won’t allow access to certain electric models .The Disability Act doesn’t allow this unless they have an exemption from the Act. So Byron Shire Council and especially the Byron Line must ensure that all trains will be compliant with this Act . If these local trains can’t carry all types of mobility aids it is discriminatory and doesn’t do the job that it is designed for ie helping the people who really need public transport.
    I wonder if the Byron Tramlink trams comply with the Act or will it also get an exemption under the ‘heritage status’ like the Byron Bay Train ? Hopefully our Green council will ensure compliance for all.

  4. I think we should turn Ewingsdale Road into a walking track – makes as much sense. Most afternoons leaving town it would be quicker to walk.

  5. I don’t agree with Peter Finch that Paul Bibby’s article Walking the disused railway line was “just another glossy promotional piece from the rail trail movement.” I thought Paul’s article was interesting, informative and even-handed.

    By comparison, I find Peter Finch’s contributions on the subject to be shrill, petty and divisive. I think Peter Finch needs to get out into the real world, he needs to walk the disused line like Paul did, in order to see what he is talking about.

  6. I am always surprised by the commentary on the cost of maintaining the rail trail by those who never complained about spending some $10m maintaining the unused rail corridor since it was closed. It appears any amount of waste related to rail is ok as long as Sydney is paying. I expect the NSW Government takes a different view it now has the methodology in place to assess unused assets that cost it money and if they are unused rail corridors to justify legislating to sell them off.

    On Anne’s comments, to support a commuter rail service that people the population along the line would need to grow to Gold Coast levels, and while increased employment in businesses serving a rail trial will be welcome in small communities along the corridor, the reaction in the Bay to West Byron gives a good indication of the appetite for large scale development along the corridor. Aside from the lack of population those of us who had to use the rail line to commute know how slow and irksome it is having to catch connecting buses to most school or work destinations. Unless expensive paid parking was extended through the region to all residents few residents of the corridor – which has a high rate of car ownership – would choose a train service.

    It is quite natural that rail trail supporters refer to the success of other trails in Victoria and New Zealand. They show that the concept is popular in places of widely varying climate and scenic interest, and point to the likely benefits here. Doubtless some parts of a rail trail will be more popular than others but a lot of the success of longer trials in Victoria is the challenge of riding the length of them, generating the economic benefits that flow from spending several days on food, accommodation and transport in small centres along the corridor over. To deliver that experience and its benefits it is important to include a rail trail through the Byron Shire. Done properly the feasibility for the Byron Line needs to assess if a tourist and transport rail service is feasible in itself, but also if it is feasible to create a multi use corridor with a rail trial through narrow parts like tunnels and up St Helena, and whether the additional cost it would impose on the proven concept of a longer rail trail still makes the rail idea worthwhile.

  7. It will be of interest to the Human Rights Commision if the Byron Line and Byron Tramlimk try running public transport trains on the Northern Rivers line if it doesn’t comply with the Disability Act . The new QLD trains don’t comply but have been given until 2020 to rectify the problem. Heritage tourist trains have been given an exemption until 2020 but it will interesting to see if the exemption is extended . The Byron Bay Train must come under this exemption as it does not comply with the Disability Act and only allows manual wheelchairs access thru its entry doors . The Byron Bay Train does not state on its website (at time of writing this letter) that wheelchair access is limited and has left some wheelchair users disappointed in the process. We must ensure that our Byron Line and Byron Shire Council ensures that any trains/trams installed on the line comply and will allow access for all. We can only hope that TOOTs and NRRAG enforce this rule for any future transport needs on the line . The following is a summary from the QLD Train decision ————- Summary of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s decision on the ‘New Generation Rollingstock’ train exemption application made by the State of Queensland and Queensland Rail.
    The Australian Human Rights Commission (‘Commission’) has today given notice of its decision on the joint application by the State of Queensland (acting through the Department of Transport and Main Roads) and Queensland Rail for temporary exemptions to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (‘DDA’) and the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Cth) (‘Transport Standards’).
    Consistent with its preliminary view, the Commission has decided that it will not grant the majority of the temporary exemptions sought by the applicants in this matter. The DDA has made it unlawful for public transport providers to discriminate on the ground of disability since 1993. Since 2002, when the Transport Standards came into operation, all new conveyances — including trains — must comply with the Transport Standards. Despite being procured in 2013, the New Generation Rollingstock trains do not comply with sections of the Transport Standards.
    In passing the DDA and making the Transport Standards, the government sought to reverse a history of exclusion from areas of public life for people with disability. It created a comprehensive regime intended to ensure the accessibility of public transport for people with disability. The Commission considers that exemptions to this law and national standards should not be granted lightly. Given the significant legal consequences for potential complainants, the Commission must be satisfied that a temporary exemption is appropriate and reasonable, and evidence is needed to justify an exemption.
    While the Commission acknowledges that the Queensland Government has agreed to allocate funds to bring the trains into substantial compliance with the Transport Standards within three years, the Commission is not convinced that this commitment is sufficiently persuasive to suspend the rights of people who might experience discrimination on the NGR trains during this time to make a complaint under the DDA.
    In forming its decision, the Commission considered the views contained in 20 submissions received from individuals, government agencies and disability advocacy organisations. The majority of these submissions opposed the Commission granting the exemptions to the applicants, either outright or on the conditions requested by the applicants. The Commission also considered the response of the applicants and other interested parties to the Commission’s preliminary view.
    The Commission recognises that the procurement of the NGR trains is a large and complicated infrastructure project that has spanned successive Queensland governments. It also notes that the applicants have recognised that their consultation and procurement processes could have been better and have taken steps to improve the situation. The new Accessible Transport Networks team within TMR is a commendable development in this regard for the future.
    The Commission has decided that it will grant one exemption to the Department of Transport and Main Roads to s 8.2 of the Transport Standards until 1 October 2020 to align it with an existing temporary exemption already enjoyed by Queensland Rail.

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