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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Return of rail inevitable

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Dave Norris, Pottsville.

The reintroduction of trains into an integrated public transport network, as proposed by Greens state candidate for Tweed Bill Fenelon, will provide better public transport access across the whole region, not just the coast. Better access between the Tweed, the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers townships will deliver enormous economic and social benefits for Tweed.

There is no reason to cut coastal bus services, only to enhance them. The Greens are not suggesting that coastal commuters travel from Pottsville to Mooball to catch a train/bus via Murwillumbah to Tweed Heads. Greens policy includes buses, trains and cycleways and focuses on timely efficient affordable public transport.

Connecting with a train at Mooball to or from Murwillumbah, Byron or the Sydney/Casino rail service would be a great alternative. Currently the bus trip from Pottsville to Murwillumbah or Byron Bay goes through Tweed and takes about two and a half hours, and to Casino takes two hours.

Rail is one of the safest, most environmentally friendly, least carbon intensive form of transport. Just recently a bus accident west of Byron Bay resulted in a woman being critically injured and 12 others taken to hospital. Far more people die on our roads than on trains. Trains will help free up congestion on our roads.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that we must reach zero carbon emissions within thirty one years to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. This means that reliance on rail transport is inevitable.

If we rip up our train tracks, the government will sell off the rail corridor for peanuts and then buy it or an another corridor back for megabucks at taxpayers’ expense. Please read the book ‘Game of Mates’ by Cameron K Murray and Paul Frijters to get an insight into how favours bleed the nation.


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15 COMMENTS

  1. Here Here! You’re so right Dave. An integrated transport plan with rail as the centrepiece is a must for this region. We have so much to gain from it. Tourists and locals would love it. It just makes sense. Ripping up the tracks would be just plain silly.

  2. The better solution is to just stop relentless population growth. If the population stopped growing, there would be less destruction to the environment, and there would be no need to build more expensive infrastructure. The more infrastructure we build, the more people will use it and the more people will want to move to the area, creating the need for more and more infrastructure until the whole region becomes another metropolis.

  3. Contrary to what Mr Norris suggests is Greens policy, the Green candidate for the Tweed on his “Bill Fenelon – Greens Candidate for the Tweed” posted the suggestion that the Northern Rivers rail line act as a “spine” and that people in Pottsville could take a short bus trip to Mooball to catch the train there. It appears when I politely posted on his site that would mean waiting three times for connecting trains and buses to get to Tweed Heads instead of one seat travel on the current bus, Mr Fenelon deleted his post and mine.

    And there is every reason to be sure that existing bus services and any improved bus services would be cut to fund the high cost of restoring and particularly running even an occasional train service. The experience in the ACT shows that if the Greens were to grab the balance of power and force the costly re-introduction of rail in the Northern Rivers they would be unable to protect existing services. In the ACT, residents will not only face hundreds of dollars in higher rates to pay for a light rail that does nothing more than replace a more frequent bus service, the Labor Green government has faced a barrage of criticism from current bus users and from parents, because direct services similar to the popular Tweed Coast service , along with dedicated school services, have been removed (of course before the last ACT election, neither Labor nor the Greens told the ACT electorate they would cut bus services). And not only would the Tweed Coast service be a likely victim of using the rail as a “spine” as Mr Fenelon proposed, so to would be the local Parson’s services like that from Pottsville to Murwillumbah, which, for Mr Norris’ information, takes 34 minutes.

    How misleading to try use the injury of one unfortunate woman to discourage people from using buses. Australian Transport Safely Bureau per passenger/km data show air, trains, bus and coach travel in Australia are all very safe transport, with buses and coaches marginally safer than trains, and air travel the safest. I would note that notwithstanding Mr Norris’ expressions of concern over road safety, there is only one party – the Greens – that has not been fully supportive of the M1, the investment that has made the greatest impact on improving road safety in our area, and at the local level that same party has grossly neglected the maintenance, improvement and expansion of safer roads and cycling paths.

    On a more positive note in the ACT, they now also runs electric buses that can run on the 100% renewable energy of 450kms; however the ACT’s light rail can only run a few kms on the flat without overhead wires. The only train that could run on our line would be a dirty diesel electric. People here now rely on heavy old vehicles, lumbering over roads neglected by Greens and like-minded “progressives”. And how will a train free up congestion on our roads and reduce car pollution? It does not follow the busiest commuter routes in our region – those immediately out of Ballina and Tweed Heads – and without billions to change the gauge and extend it to QLD it cannot provide the direct travel from our region to the major employment, study, shopping and transport hubs in SE QLD that buses could now. If we are serious about meeting those climate change goals, far from relying on dirty diesel rail, we need to restore our road system so people in our area can use lighter, safer and more economical cars now common in Australian cities, and move quickly to 100% renewable EV public and private road transport.

    This time around in 2019 anyone who:
    . wants an affordable, comprehensive 100% sustainable bus network;
    . who does not want current school and other bus services cut;
    . who does not want all of our roads left to rot like the Byron Shire’s; and
    . who does not want to spend rates on putting back an expensive, underused , dirty diesel train in our region;
    should preference the Green’s last.

  4. Contrary to what Mr Norris suggests is Greens policy, the Green candidate for the Tweed on his “Bill Fenelon – Greens Candidate for the Tweed” posted the suggestion that the Northern Rivers rail line act as a “spine” and that people in Pottsville could take a short bus trip to Mooball to catch the train there. It appears when I politely posted on his site that would mean waiting three times for connecting trains and buses to get to Tweed Heads instead of one seat travel on the current bus, Mr Fenelon deleted his post and mine.

    And there is every reason to be sure that existing bus services and any improved bus services would be cut to fund the high cost of restoring and particularly running even an occasional train service. The experience in the ACT shows that if the Greens were to grab the balance of power and force the costly re-introduction of rail in the Northern Rivers they would be unable to protect existing services. In the ACT, residents will not only face hundreds of dollars in higher rates to pay for a light rail that does nothing more than replace a more frequent bus service, the Labor Green government has faced a barrage of criticism from current bus users and from parents, because direct services similar to the popular Tweed Coast service , along with dedicated school services, have been removed (of course before the last ACT election, neither Labor nor the Greens told the ACT electorate they would cut bus services). And not only would the Tweed Coast service be a likely victim of using the rail as a “spine” as Mr Fenelon proposed, so to would be the local Parson’s services like that from Pottsville to Murwillumbah, which, for Mr Norris’ information, takes 34 minutes.

    How misleading to try use the injury of one unfortunate woman to discourage people from using buses. Australian Transport Safely Bureau per passenger/km data show air, trains, bus and coach travel in Australia are all very safe transport, with buses and coaches marginally safer than trains, and air travel the safest. I would note that notwithstanding Mr Norris’ expressions of concern over road safety, there is only one party – the Greens – that has not been fully supportive of the M1, the investment that has made the greatest impact on improving road safety in our area, and at the local level that same party has grossly neglected the maintenance, improvement and expansion of safer roads and cycling paths.

    On a more positive note in the ACT, they now also runs electric buses that can run on the 100% renewable energy of 450kms; however the ACT’s light rail can only run a few kms on the flat without overhead wires. The only train that could run on our line would be a dirty diesel electric. People here now rely on heavy old vehicles, lumbering over roads neglected by Greens and like-minded “progressives”. And how will a train free up congestion on our roads and reduce car pollution? It does not follow the busiest commuter routes in our region – those immediately out of Ballina and Tweed Heads – and without billions to change the gauge and extend it to QLD it cannot provide the direct travel from our region to the major employment, study, shopping and transport hubs in SE QLD that buses could now. If we are serious about meeting those climate change goals, far from relying on dirty diesel rail, we need to restore our road system so people in our area can use lighter, safer and more economical cars now common in Australian cities, and move quickly to 100% renewable EV public and private road transport.

    This time around in 2019 anyone who:
    . wants an affordable, comprehensive 100% sustainable bus network;
    . who does not want current school and other bus services cut;
    . who does not want all of our roads left to rot like the Byron Shire’s; and
    . who does not want to spend rates on putting back an expensive, underused , dirty diesel train in our region;
    should preference the Green’s last

  5. It’s been 14 years since the trains ran on this corridor. The ARUP study in 2014 found the demand (freight and passengers) is simply not there to justify the large investment to return and operate a modern railway service. Seriously how many people from Mooball would catch the train daily to Murwillumbah? Very few is the answer! Of course the ARUP study is discredited by all the nostalgic train supporters as it doesn’t give them the outcome they wanted! Seriously people the trains are not returning on the corridor even if Bill Fenton gets elected. Time to let go of this pipe dream so something positive can come out the corridor like a rail trail. Rail trails have been very successful interstate and overseas and will preserve the corridor.

    • Wow, some interesting responses here. Most from very fanatical rail trail supporters who sound like they hate the Greens! It’s disappointing to see them pushing their narrow-minded “buses, buses, buses” attitude, while desperately trying to vilify rail transport, which contrary to their very anti-rail attitudes is the most efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport available. The Greens don’t actually oppose the rail trail at all. They fully support it being placed beside the existing railway line – a win-win for all and something that doesn’t mean changes to rail land protections either. It’s a shame some fanatical rail trail supporters still oppose this plan so vehemently and aggressively, instead of working constructively and collaboratively with the community to deliver a win-win.

      A brand new railway line is never going to happen. Period. The costs for land acquisition, earthworks and construction would be astronomical to say the least, but I think we all know that. Truth is the current line is the only one we are going to get. The best option is to restore the existing line and have feeder shuttle buses connecting to the railway + cycleway corridor, with the current rail line being upgraded over time. A plan that incorporates the railway line, a rail trail and buses is the best option. A multi-modal transport solution for a growing area. With a little bit of vision anything is possible. Only by working together will it be achieved however. It’s disappointing to see how fanatical rail trail supporters have responded to their “Rip it all up!” mentality being challenged. Attacking anyone who seeks a win-win and trying to vilify rail transport is not the way forward. It’s desperate tactics from a group that want it all for their bikes without any compromise, with the community to pay the price.

      • Yes Wayne as you say train supporters have ALWAYS supported both a rail trail and trains on the C-M corridor. There’s plenty of room for both.

        It’s only fanatical, selfish, un-informed bikers who want to destroy the line and deprive the community and over 5 millions tourists to the region of a safe, sustainable, accessible and cost effective (airconditioned) train service through the majority of Northern Rivers population centers. With shuttle buses to and from train stations, which works very well in places like the Central Coast and, and, unlike our local taxpayer subsidised empty buses, their buses are always full.

        Bikers keep referring to the long discredited ‘study’ full of misinformation, and go on about a building a new line, (they used to say it should be built in the center of the highway-must have finally worked out that’s impossible) but don’t supply any costings or info on where this multi billion dollar line would be built as they know it will never happen.

        You’d think they’d be so busy riding their bikes they wouldn’t have time to write so much nonsense.

        Perhaps it’s way toooo hot for them to be out cycling. Hmmmm Not too hot to catch an airconditioned train!

        • Exactly Lousie. Any talk by rail trail advocates about a new railway line is and always has been designed to divert attention away from their plan to destroy the only railway line we are ever going to have. They know full well a brand new line will never be built. Crazy to think otherwise. It’s merely to divert attention and get people distracted. Nothing more, nothing less.

  6. Not once have I heard a Greens candidate push for a railway system or easement within the M1 Highway corridor during its construction over the last 20 years . If the Greens had been more proactive in this we could have had a fast railway system between Tweed Heads and Ballina within the M1 corridor. Park n Ride stations at the interchange exit/entry points with electric buses and shuttles taking commuters to their doors . How many people will walk more than 1 kilometre to a train station? Zero.
    Yes the Greens candidate Bill Fenelon will give us a slow meandering train that workers and commuters won’t use , all we will get is an expensive non subsidised tourist train .
    I catch a bus from Byron Bay to Gold Coast Airport in 1 hour but the train took 50 minutes only to Murwillumbah with only 1 stop at Mullumbimby.
    Keeping Byron Shire Residents Slow – The Greens Motto.

  7. Wow, some interesting responses here. Most from very fanatical rail trail supporters who sound like they hate the Greens! It’s disappointing to see them pushing their narrow-minded “buses, buses, buses” attitude, while desperately trying to vilify rail transport, which contrary to their very anti-rail attitudes is the most efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport available. The Greens don’t actually oppose the rail trail at all. They fully support it being placed beside the existing railway line – a win-win for all and something that doesn’t mean changes to rail land protections either. It’s a shame some fanatical rail trail supporters still oppose this plan so vehemently and aggressively, instead of working constructively and collaboratively with the community to deliver a win-win.

    A brand new railway line is never going to happen. Period. The costs for land acquisition, earthworks and construction would be astronomical to say the least, but I think we all know that. Truth is the current line is the only one we are going to get. The best option is to restore the existing line and have feeder shuttle buses connecting to the railway + cycleway corridor, with the current rail line being upgraded over time. A plan that incorporates the railway line, a rail trail and buses is the best option. A multi-modal transport solution for a growing area. With a little bit of vision anything is possible. Only by working together will it be achieved however. It’s disappointing to see how fanatical rail trail supporters have responded to their “Rip it all up!” mentality being challenged. Attacking anyone who seeks a win-win and trying to vilify rail transport is not the way forward. It’s desperate tactics from a group that want it all for their bikes without any compromise, with the community to pay the price.

    I apologise to Damon for writing a direct reply to him, when this reply was supposed to be a general comment for the main column.

  8. Wayne’s third letter again suggests the opposition to rail has something to do with an ideological preference for a rail trial built on formation, and not the costs and poor value of rail services. .
    Contrary to what Louise suggests the Arup report has never been discredited by any published or other peer reviewable critique; it remains as the only published estimate we have of restoring the line. But even a hundred million would be a high cost for one transport service to a corridor which has little population growth and few transport dependent households. On top of that you have the much higher labour costs and so recurrent costs of running rail a rail service. There are only two ways of paying those costs, rates or cuts. The reality is neither the Greens nor any NSW government would want to shift funds from other transport services, cutting two to three bus services for each equivalent train service (and there certainly would be no money for new connector services). As ratepayers here would not pay the hundreds a year increases faced in the ACT to subsidise a rail service it is unlikely to happen, and that leaves the corridor unused. As plainly governments want to draw a line under the ten million dollars already wasted maintaining an unused line for no purpose the corridor is likely to be sold off unless it is used for an alternative purpose – a rail trial.
    The Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Study advised: “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.” Again there is no published expert critique of the Rail Trail Study and its on-formation approach. The design documentation for the Tweed section reflects that advice, and. Council engineers believe the advice in those documents is sound and the Request for Tender includes the on-formation design. I for one am certainly not qualified to question the feasibility and design engineers’ advice nor engineer Tom Raynor’s advice to the contrary to Tweed Council, but it is difficult to see how you could run rail and a trail through a tight space like a tunnel and to imagine any alternative that would not remove much of the attraction of a level off road rail trial. Council has invited alternative proposals for a trial beside the rail and if such a conforming and winning bid is forthcoming, that should resolve the matter one way or the other.
    However the rail trail is built I will continue to advocate for what is better value and more equitably targeted than rail and what the NSW government has funded in other parts of NSW: more frequent regular road-based public transport, together with the proper maintenance and development of the roads and active transport paths needed to deliver all transport within our area.

    • It’s a complete waste of anyone’s time engaging in any discussion with un-informed fanatics, but the ARUP ‘study’ has been completely discredited by the cost of repairs to the Byron section of line at $600,000.00 per kilometer. Even if that amount is doubled the cost of repairing the C-M line is nothing like the ‘study’ claims. Building whole new lines such as the 1200 ks of brand new line in very difficult terrain from Alice Springs to Darwin-cost $1.1 billion.

      But a couple of selfish cycling fanatics, who don’t live in Byron or anywhere near the line, refuse to co-operate on any win win solution and so belligerently demand the valuable line be ripped up, which will cost almost as much as repairing it for a train service, have no interest in reality. They’ll probably keep arguing for more buses on our dangerous, congested roads long after the trains are running.

      Apart from these fanatics, everyone else knows we’ll never get another train line.

      • I have read yours and similar comme nts many times Lousie. You might be qualified to extrapolate the costs of building rail lines in one place to the cost of doing so in another, but I am not a railway engineer . I have asked Bill Fenelon to tell me when we can expect publication the report of the engineer who has walked the line, but he has not bothered to respond. I have yet to see a published peer reviewable critique of the Arup report’s costings nor any other proposal made by it. As such I have little choice but to accept Arup’s advice. More to the point the NSW government – and any NSW government elected this year – has no reason not to accept the Arup advice: that it would be expensive to restore the line, the bridges and deal with uncontrolled level crossings.

        Mr Norris’ original letter was written in response to a letter of mine to the Tweed Weekly on comments made by Bill Fenelon as the Greens’ candidate for the Tweed on transport issues there, but which had an impact on transport funding across our region. As a resident of Ballina Shire which has the greatest single concentration of public transport dependent people in the Northern Rivers I have every reason to be concerned at proposals that might well shift public transport funding to the Byron Shire and other areas on the line with fewer transport defendant souls.

        I have no problem with accepting any win-win solution that retains the rail lines, and I am not in a position to demand anything of Tweed or any other council along the line. The professional advice of the Rail Trail Study and the design for the Tweed stage one is that it is better done on-formation, and that has been accepted by Council staff and included in the RFT. I am not qualified to contest that view, nor the contrary view that was put by engineer Tom Raynor to Tweed Council. It is up ot Mr Raynor or someone else to put in a conforming and competitive bid for trail beside rail and it is up to Tweed Council whether it is accepted or not. My only interest is that the bid indeed conforms and delivers the level off-road cycle experience that people expect of a rail trail.

        In respect of your comment and James’ on people’s residence, have been riding in the Byron Shire since 1957, and I regularly ride there now (and most recently Louise in weather as hot as this week’s when I rode on Monday, Wednesday and today). The rail corridor is the property of the people of NSW not the Byron Shire. If you wish the residents of Byron Shire to have an exclusive say on its future use, you might care to suggest your council purchase it at the current market rate for the relevant land (the recent sale of adjoin land behind the Wollumbin Motel will give a guide to its value). Until then, as a resident of the adjoining shire and of NSW, I reserve my right to comment on what ought to happen to it.

        In answer to James’ question. Buses remove almost as many cars from the roads as the carry passengers. If a Byron Line tourist train ran at appropriate times and offered much cheaper fares to locals you might get some small but useful reduction on a commute that is entirely on the line route like Mullum to Bay but I suggest it is unrealistic to expect any large take up of public transport in an area like the Byron Shire which has a young population, diverse journeys, high car ownership and usage, and a markedly lower patronage on existing public transport than places served by buses like Ballina and the Tweed coast. I will though be open to what the Byron Line Feasibility Study suggests.

  9. So do the rail trail proponents, the ones intent on destroying our existing local infrastructure, all live outside of the shire? Do they have any idea what it is like to live and work within the Byron Shire? We are swamped with vehicles on our roads, a majority of which are not residents. Please explain how more local buses will solve this issue?

    • How will a train solve the problem? The traffic will bank up even more waiting for the train to cross the level crossing. What will happen with the Elements Train? If you live and work in Byron it may be easier to ride your bike. Small electric buses zipping around the shire picking people up where they live and taking them to where they want to go sounds like a good option too.

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