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Byron Shire
April 23, 2024

Right on rails

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Lydia Kindred, Lismore.

The welcome announcement today by Ben Franklin of a service of ‘on demand’ mini buses to Goonellabah and Alstonville is in line with the integrated public transport plan that Northern Rivers Railway Action Group has been promoting.

Minibuses would be a complementary addition to the introduction of rail services again onto the Casino – Murwillumbah line, picking up from trains and dropping passengers off to outlying areas.

They have been trialling this on demand service in Sydney recently, to great success.

Rail services are wanted and needed by so many in the northern rivers for everyday commuting, travelling for education, shopping, health and recreation.

The traffic on our roads is growing at such a rate that in a few years’ time we won’t be able to move beyond a snail’s pace, which is already being experienced in some areas.

The only logical option, for social, environmental and economic reasons, is to reintroduce rail transport on our line, which is actually in better condition than many believe.

The structure of the rails are still in very good condition and we will have a survey completed soon by an accredited rail maintenance manager who has walked the whole length of the line and who attests to its overall good condition apart from some much needed bridge work.

The costs of refurbishment are nowhere near what have been promoted by the questionable ‘study’ by Arup, who have since been discredited and fined for their dodgy numbers on another project.

We firmly believe a regular commuter rail service with a once a day freight component would bring enormous benefits to our whole region.

It would increase employment greatly, spawn new enterprises and promote social equity for all members of our community and visitors, including the elderly, disabled, the youth and everyone else.

In the coming elections please vote for those candidates who support the return of rail to our very special but disadvantaged region.


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  1. Lydia The suggestion that on demand buses can act as a complement to a rail service would return us to the days when people had to use multiple transport to get around the Northern Rivers. Kids like me who went to school at Mullum or Lismore High faced longer days waiting for the train and connecting buses – that is why parents lobbied to replace the train with direct buses. As rail is far more expensive than road transport and the train corridor does not pass near the majority of households without a car, it would strip away funding to provide connecting services and better road transport to those who need it. And as the train does not go near any campuses or hospitals or most other key destinations, most passengers would face longer journeys and long waits for connections.

    There is no reason the train would bring any environmental benefit. As I told you in Lismore recently Rail units can only travel a few kilometers on sustainable power on flat sections; electric buses are in use today that can travel up hill and down all day on renewable power. Restoring the rail corridor would be a major commitment to using diesel powered transport for the foreseeable future, and a major step away from the opportunity to open the use of sustainable electric vehicles available to all of us .

    The Greens candidate Sue Higginson commendably is supportive of electric buses and wants a comprehensive transport plan for our area. But she also writes that the rail corridor is: “the only existing (very valuable) public transport asset we have in the region.” Unless they are willing to show more commitment and now to our far larger public and private transport asset – our roads – voters who do not want those roads to deteriorate around our area and NSW as they have under the Greens in the Byron Shire , and voters who want true sustainable transport that goes on those roads, should consider preferencing Green candidates last.

  2. Peter Hatfield acts as the Devil’s Advocate to say something negative. The steel rails would be in good condition as the more rust the more protection that gives the steel. There would be nothing wrong with the steel rails. The sleepers under the rails are another thing. Many would be rotted by now as they have not had regular maintenance. They would all need checking.
    Meanwhile don’t believe anything a politician says at election time. It is not in a politician’s interest to get the transport up and going. All they want are votes in announcements so saying words is their way to get the votes. We want action. So are the mini-buses to be installed before Christmas for the Christmas tourists?
    Many people don’t understand train travel as the terminuses, each end of the rail line are what the train was built for in transport, and that means the two towns Casino and Murwillumbah. On the economics side when a lot of money and passengers gets on at Casino and also at the Murwillumbah end then anything in-between is paid for, so the train acts as the same as it did when it was built, it must cater for the people who want to get from Casino to Murwillumbah and for the people from Murwullumbah to get to Casino.
    No one from the National Party has woken up to the fact that the new super-fast inland train from Brisbane to Melbourne will act the same way. The economics has not been calculated. The main places are Brisbane and Melbourne. It is to go fast so there has to be very few stops as possible. Any more than six stops between Brisbane and Melbourne adds to the cost of the journey between the terminuses of Brisbane and Melbourne. If the ticket price is too dear and the train is too slow because the train stops at too many places in between the main cities then there won’t be patronage on the train and people will take a plane. Then it will go broke. Six stops at 10 minutes each stop is another hour in time and in cost.

    • Yes I am the Devil’s Advocate Len, particularly the devil in the detail that shows that restoring rail here will commit us for the foreseeable future to poorly targeted and polluting transport, while only road based electric vehicles can allow us to enjoy 100% sustainable transport for the price of a bus ticket.


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