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May 10, 2021

Northern Rivers’ Rally for Rail

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Last weekend’ Rally for Rail in Murwillumbah. Photo Supplied.

A Rally for Rail hosted by the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) will be held this Saturday as part of the group’s campaign to save the railway transport corridor between Casino to Murwillumbah.

NRRAG is inviting everyone to com along and find out why the Northern Rivers is neglected and how many benefits rail services would bring.

Chairperson of NRRAG Beth Shelley says the as NSW state election is due next March, now is the time to take action before the rail line is lost forever. ‘In all the years since our rail service was closed there has been no community consultation to find out what people want,’ says Ms Shelley.

‘I believe the people of this region want trains running but need the opportunity to join together to be heard. NRRAG has petitions with more than 5,500 signatures and recently we have been surveying local businesses and 90% of them want to see trains on our tracks.’

Ms Shelley says science is telling us we need to act urgently on climate change. ‘Having railways to get cars and trucks off the road would cut carbon emissions hugely as well as providing much needed transport for our community.’

Last Saturday there was a ‘Rally for Rail’ at Murwillumbah where speakers included Tweed Shire Mayor Katie Milne, Byron Shire Deputy Mayor Michael Lyons and Bill Fenelon, a new candidate for the Tweed Shire in the State election.

‘Michael Lyons was very confident that Byron would see a new public transport system as a result of Byron Council’s feasibility study and Katie Milne discussed the recent Tweed Shire Council’s tendering process for the options of on or off the railway formation for the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek bike path.

‘If you want to see trains on our tracks come and show your support at the rally on Saturday. We’ll be taking a photo of supporters at noon to show state political candidates how much this community wants rail services for the environmental, economic and social benefits they bring.

The rail will start at 10am at the Lismore Quad near the Art Gallery.

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  1. You have to admire NRRAG’s persistence, but that’s about all they have going for them.

    – they think restoring rail would cost between $200m and $1bn – plus ongoing operating costs! – but they have consistently failed to explain which public projects this money should be diverted from.

    – they have no explanation for how communities which are not located on the rail line (e.g. Ballina, Lennox) which account for the large majority of Northern Rivers residents would have their public transport options improved by rail.

    – they have failed to take into account that the fares would be prohibitive for those most in need of transport (cf Robina/Brisbane fares).

    – they refuse to accept that current bus patronage along the train route is a tiny fraction of that which would make a train viable, even though buses provide much better coverage.

    These people are wasting valuable public energy. If they want to support a long term vision for rail they should get behind the rail trail project and preserve the rail corridor for future generations.

    • Hear, hear! An extension of the rail trail would provide a first class walking and cycling track for locals and tourists alike

  2. People need to realise that no government is going to spend many hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars on rebuilding a rail service that passes through sparsely populated rural landscapes, with no major employment centres nearby, and then cough up roughly ten million dollars per year to run it.
    Hasn’t the last 14 years without a train, taught us that the train ain’t coming back..

  3. Beth Shelley continues her campaign of deliberate misinformation by calling the ‘Rail Trail” a ‘bike path’. About thirty percent of users walk their journey.at other rail trails.

    Many of he 5,500 petition signatures go back to 2004. My name is on there because, like most of the people who put their name to it, I had no idea of the issues involved. There is no way I would sign it now that I know. Moreover, it doesn’t query what the signatories would be willing to sacrifice in exchange for a rail service.

    All parties that have formed State governments have clearly stated that the Murwillumbah-Casino line does not meet current or future transport needs and its reinstatement will not be funded. The Byron Solar Train Company refurbished three kilometres of line and one bridge at a cost of nearly $2 million and stated they have no intention of going further. Extending to Bilinudgel as suggested by some Byron Councillors, involves another twenty kilometres of track, 27 bridges between 20 and 40 metres in length and three tunnels totalling 600 metres in length, countless culverts and level crossings that would need to be fitted with boom gates to meet modern safety standards.

    Who is going to invest the vast sum required, then operate the services at an inevitable loss? Gympie council spent nearly $18 million on 20 km of track with return fares at $55. It has only just come back in service after five years closure due to two serious derailments. It remains a financial black hole for the council. Do Byron ratepayers really want the same?

    Before people say they want trains they had better start considering how much they are willing to pay and who is going to fund it. Otherwise they are just wasting everyone’s time by getting in the way of the opportunity of a lifetime for this region to offer a world class rail trail through some incredibly beautiful and diverse countryside.

    • I forgot to mention the rusty 100 metre long bridge across the Brunswick River near Mullum is also between Bilinudgel and Byron.

      And Byron Council is also wanting to reinstate the rails southward to Bangalow.

  4. Sorry Greg but the current petition only goes back 3 years so I don’t believe you signed it in 2004. The current goverrnment has billions of dollars in surpus, $4 billion from the Snowy Hydro sale that is meant to go to regional areas. Instead they’re proposing a high speed rail from Sydney to Canberra, Goulburn, Newcastle and Wollongong.
    These already have rail services and we are the second largest tourist area outside of Sydney and have no rail. The government could easily afford it but seem to have little interest in providing services for regional areas. Concession fares in NSW are $2.50 per day for elderly and disabled pensioners and our pensioners deserve to have the same concessions as everywhere else. I think cycleways are great but not if they come at the cost of losing valuable rail infrastructure.

    • Just because the government has a surplus is not a reason to waste it. The commuter train which NRRAG/TOOTs Facebook site advised is what they lobby for would be an obscene waste of public money. Even with some regenerative capacity any train would be a diesel fueled for the foreseeable future, while buses that can run all day on 100% renewable power are in use in Australia now. The train does not go near most public transport dependent households, nor any of the hospitals, campuses and most other key destinations. With a two hourly headway and no money left for existing buses let alone more connecting buses, it would mean a return to the days of longer journeys with long waits for kids and the elderly for the train and then connecting buses (in the ACT they ahve cut existing school buses to help fund light rail). I note too Australian Bureau of Transport Safety data shows both trains and buses are very safe transport, with buses the safer.

      So why waste money year after year on a dirtier transport that is no safer, does not meet people’s needs, and will prevent any governemnt from putting in the transport services we will need for the ageing population across our region?

  5. Tell me again, all you who are so free and enthusiastic with your comments, why is it we need to rip up our train tracks when bike/walking paths could go along side the tracks?

    • Because a trail can’t go beside the tracks.

      Although the corridor is twenty metres wide much of the width is used for embankments and cuttings up to six metres high. Then there are tunnels where there is no alternative path at all. Any attempt to retain a continuous rail along the corridor would blow out the rail trail budget and result in an inferior facility. The Rail Trail needs to be “world class” to work.

      Alone, the need for the destruction of thousands of trees required to build a trail beside the rail would make it an incredibly foolish decision.

      Retaining the rail is pointless. It would make no difference to the future of train services because the existing rails and indeed, most of the corridor would never even be considered as part of a modern rail system.

      So let’s have a rail trail. It is achievable. Rail is a crazy unrealisable dream.

  6. The IPCC has released a report that states humanity has to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 if we are to contain rising global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees celcius. That’s within only 31 years away.



    Tim Flannery predicted the great barrier reef will ON ITS WAY TO DEATH with one degree temp rise. We have already reached one degree rise since 1950 and we are still sitting on our hands when it comes to transitioning to a zero emissions way of life. The reef is DYING and over 100 bushfires are raging in Qld delivering a positive feedback carbon emission loop that will climb upon itself to speed up the intensify of disasterous catastrophic climate events.

    If the rail corridor goes to pushbikes who is going to pay for maintenance of the trail. Tweed Council’s latest Open Space Strategy is proposing the selling off community park land because it can’t afford to maintain its existing open space.
    Its obvious business as usual government will use the cost of maintenance of the rail trail as an excuse to sell most of the existing corridor to their mates for a song and then buy other land a few years from other mates at our expense to run rail.


    • Trains will not “inevitably play a part” in the transport of a diffuse population.

      Trains are only efficient if they run frequently with large numbers of passengers. A nearly empty train is not a sustainable solution and costs vast amounts of money and carbon to build and run.

      We can think about trains when we see buses on the same route are unable to cope. Currently most of them are virtually empty. And when the trans come (maybe in 2080) they certainly won’t be on a corridor designed for the needs of people in 1890.

    • No Dave, The government would use the cost of maintenance of an unused corridor as a reason to sell it off.

      The trains are not coming back and you would be supporting the rail trail if you really wanted to keep the corridor in public ownership.


      Perhaps you should contemplate that yourself. Bicycles have much lower emission than big heavy trains and the millions of tonnes of infrastructure needed to support them.

      And I really do wish the ignorant would stop calling the Rail Trail a ‘bike track’.

    • The new supposedly state of the art light rail int he ACT can only run for a few kilometres on its batteries – it will have difficulty getting across the iconic parliamentary triangle where they will not allow the visual pollution of overhead wires. The electric buses they are using now run all day (the ACT busy renewable pwoer fro its electrified transport). No one has seriously suggested electrifying the Northern Rivers line, so does that not tell you why we should use road rather than rail here as a sustainable transport option?

      As there is other advantage in public transport provision, timetabling or safety that leaves the corridor unused. Would you prefer it to be gifted to adjoining farmers – as NSW Farmers lobbies for in the New England – and sold off in the Bay or be use for sustainable recreation – a rail trail, protecting the corridor for any future use?

      • Oops – my last paragraph should read as there is no other advantage with rail for public transport provision, timetabling or safety that leaves the corridor unused.

  7. I love the trains in country Victoria, especially between the Albury to Melbourne line that have the patronage to run multiple services per day. From memory though there was only one arrival and one departure of passenger rail in Byron per day. Can this really be considered a public transport solution?
    I’ve also travelled, in the distant past, from Vic to Byron by this service and, faced with a choice of this journey or a similarly priced or cheaper airfare, the planes win hands down. Would love to see the trains back but if it ain’t gonna happen I think it’s criminal to stand in the way of a rail trail that holds so many benefits for green commuting and a low cost active, healthy life style in an area with otherwise kamikaze like roads for cycling.

  8. Here quoted are some comments Greens Tweed Candidate Bill Fenelon makes on his Facebook site about rail and the rail trail, and my comments on them:

    BF “buses are the ONLY idea the Liberal / Nationals have for our region.”

    Published documents like the Northern Rivers Regional Transport Plan and the North Coast Regional Plan outline a variety of approaches to transport, including active transport, a variety of road transport, rail, and air. The polices do not, as does your Lismore colleague, refer to “ the only existing (very valuable) public transport asset we have in the region, namely the rail corridor,”, but recognise our road network is far more extensive and able to service all the community.

    BF “We have an excellent rail corridor that runs into the heart of all the towns and villages in the region, walking distances from most homes, and within a very short bus ride, or easy bicycle ride, of all the coastal communities.”

    The rail corridor is not near Evans Head, Coraki, Goonellabah, Alstonville Wollongbar, Ballina. Lennox Head, Brunswick Heads or any of the most populous part of our area, Tweed Heads and the Tweed Coast. Australian transport academic and light rail advocate Ginn considers a population of 200,000 within 400 metres walking distance is needed for light rail; it is not within Ginn’s walking distance of most of Ocean Shores, Lismore or Murwillumbah and does not go into the heart those towns, nor is Suffolk Park near the Bay’s station. It can be reached by bus, but that means additional waiting and changing adding to the time and diminishing perceived safety and amenity of journeys. That is why parents lobbied successfully in the ’60s to replace the train/bus from the Bay to Mullum High with a direct school bus.

    It is not near over 75% of the non-car households in the region, and 90% of the indigenous households, nor the majority of older households.

    Here are some of the “short” cycle distances to the “rail corridor we have” : Pottsville 43 minutes; Kingscliffe 1 hour 24 minutes; Lennox Head 1 hr; Ballina 1 hr 30 mins ; Evans Head 2 hrs 20 minutes. Some of those are on roads difficult for many cyclists.

    BF “The Liberals want to rip up the track so a few can ride bikes on it. Seems more like they just want to eliminate any possibility of Trains every (sic) servicing our community again.”
    The government has no intention of restoring the rail; as it states it does not meet the current or foreseeable transport needs of the region. As long as the corridor is not needed for public transport it is more likely to be retained if used for another linear purpose. I have asked Mr Fenelon what wording are the Greens proposing be added to the enabling legislation to close the line to ensure it requires an act before it is sold off or gifted to adjoining farmers.

    I note to that ther reference to a “few” is not supported by the data presented in the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Study.

    BF “The bike riders can have their path alongside the railway. Whats wrong with this ? But they refuse to share, they want it all.. Some real problems with this ! Bikes & trains easily fit together within the corridor. Why wont (sic) they compromise ??? ”

    I would suggest NRRT has not proposed a trail beside the line because the advice in the Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Study 6.2.2 is: ‘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’ The tenders will show if anyone will be able provide a compliant bid to an build the rail trail economically beside the line. If so and as Tom Raynor suggests it is cheaper that would be a great and a saving of public monies, as long as it does not of course compromise the level, off-road experience that cyclists, walkers and other users expect and value in a rail trail.

    I would suggest voters on the Tweed should consider carefully the understanding of any candidate who is so active in transport issues but apparently has not read the published documentation on transport and the rail trail, thinks Ballina or Kingscliffe are not towns in our region, and that two hours is a short bicycle ride.

    • I note Bill Fenelon has deleted his comments from his Facebook site and my response. Is this the measure of his accountability for what he says, or is it possible he recognises just how off the mark the arguments for a train are?

  9. The posts say it all for and against. After this number of years the loss of infrastructure is inevitable, the track would have to be totally relayed. And where were the Greens when it was posited? Talking about the end is nigh and wanting to stop all infrastructure. Walkers and bikers can walk and bike just about anywhere they like, ask bus drivers about it.


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