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June 9, 2023

Business case for Northern Rivers Rail Trail released

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Richmond Valley and Lismore City councils have released a business case for the much-debated Northern Rivers Rail Trail from Casino to Eltham, and asked for $33.3m in government funding to make the project a reality.

The business case, prepared by Bathurst-based consultancy BusinessSense, covers the 45km Casino-to-Eltham section of the 130kms Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail corridor.

Image of a bridge in South Murwillumbah. One of 18 historic bridges on the proposed Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek rail trail route. Photo supplied.

Richmond Valley Council Mayor Robert Mustow praised the community campaign for the rail trail, which has lobbied tirelessly for several years in a bid to make the trail a reality.

Cr Mustow said this group was instrumental in much of the ground work for the trail, such as historical and environmental reporting.

It had also helped to map much of the track, as well as produce designs and costings for the bridges and crossings.

He said the report highlighted that the land would remain a rail corridor, meaning it could be used for transport in the future if required.

Richmond Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said as part of Council’s community engagement process, discussions would be held with landholders adjacent to the rail corridor, as well as other stakeholders.

‘Adjacent landholders are traditionally – and understandably – apprehensive about trails close to their properties,’ Mr Macdonald said.

‘It is important these concerns are addressed before any trail conversion takes place.’

Mr Macdonald said the business case also included an allocation of $490,000 to upgrade the old Casino railway station.

Mr Macdonald said he was aware of a report going to Byron Shire Council’s meeting on Thursday, which looked at bringing some form of train back to the Byron Shire rail corridor.

He said this would not affect Richmond Valley Council’s plans as they were more about broadening recreation offerings.

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  1. What a waste of money. We need money for our hospitals and schools. Councils cannot even afford to maintain the space.

    • Ongoing maintenance will not be a Council expense. Again this information is readily available, people just choose not to listen.

      This will attract tourism, real tourism.

  2. A spectacular failure of forward thinking and acknowledgement of the inherent value of a working rail service over the immediate fadism of an idea born out of clique that will only benefit a few. The Northern rivers deserves a fully operational rail transport option instead of political weakness and blatant ignorance of the stated historical community need.

    • Why would you put rail along a line no where near populated areas or where there is any expected population growth. The reason the train stopped is because it was unused. Who is going to want to catch a train that can only travel at 40-50km/h?

      Trains on that disused corridor are not going to happen. Coalition and Labour have both stated that. Rail trails bring tourism, real tourism. Do some research!!!

  3. Great initiative. Rail trails are enormously popular in other Australian states & in other countries. They stimulate local economies & provide jobs. They also contribute to the broader economy though reduced health costs & reductions in CO2 emissions.

    I’ve ridden many of them in several countries, including Australia. I’m looking forward to spending some of my tourist dollars at this one as soon as it opens.

  4. The local community and tourists need light rail with a rail trail next to it. Rail trail on its own is naive, elitist and not in the broader community interest.

  5. A waste of money here, and our future monies for maintenance. We really need a railway back for transport and employment.
    These trails have proven to be failures and this one will be no different.
    Trains are a success story these days for practical tourist and our community.
    Put trails beside it by all means.

  6. The business case if very strong for the rail trail between Casino and Eltham with a $1.70 return for every $1 spent . The Byron Line with Hi Rail buses has a very weak business case with a return of only around $1 for every $1 spent .
    Bring on the electric buses for the Northern Rivers that will pick you up from almost your front door and drop you at almost your final destination.

  7. $33M to be spent on the local area. Employment for many locals while being built.
    Restoration of historical buildings.
    Local businesses to benefit from the workers and later the tourists.

    If there was ever to be another train it would run on a totally different alignment.

    So a great tourist attraction.

  8. Good on these councils for backing the rail trail! The money to build it is not coming from councils and one of the reasons it appears to cost so much, is that it needs to be done really well so maintenance costs will be less.

  9. You should ask this question of the people who live along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail – in places like Toogoolawah. I am certain I know what their answer would be – a resounding YES!!! I was talking to a local there last weekend while we were watching the start of a running footrace on the trail – I mentioned to her that there was local opposition to the creation of the Tweed Valley Rail Trail. She said that there was the same thing for the Brisbane Valley trail – but opposition has now all gone.

    • A friend went to Toogoolwa and spoke to the shop owner there. It would do a lot better with railway for both locals and tourists.

      Brisbane Valley is entirely different than the Northern Rivers though, the population is much more here.

      We know that many people enjoyed the train trip to the coast or to Brisbane from Kyogle, Casino, Grafton and Lismore. It is ridiculous to think that a city such as Lismore should not be connected to the rest of the world.

      Bairnsdale in Victoria has half Lismore’s population and is further to Melbourne than Lismore is to Brisbane, but now has five return services per day since rail services were pot back on in 2004.

      The Lismore to Casino line section is generally in fine condition. The total $75million ‘offered’ for rail trails is more than enough to reconnect Lismore and have two new 3-car services.

      This would bring far more tourism to the western part of the region, as well as get people to Brisbane for free medical and dentist services that are not provided promptly or at all in the Lismore area.

      The only reason that people did not use the train – was because there were no daytime services to use since 1990. Before the XPTs, hundreds used the services that stopped at many towns and villages then.

      Combined properly with buses, a rail system would be far quicker than the ill-connected bus services we have today.

      We used to be able to get around, but now only those who drive can get about across the region or into Queensland.

      Transport is the issue, and there are only viable bus services for local areas such as in Ballina. The railway goes to all the places I need to go with some small bus connections such as to Ocean Shores. It’s also great for accessing Brisbane.

      People will used daytime services. Our services were deliberately sabotaged in ‘favour’ of road transport.

      • When did this line ever help with access to Brisbane? Buses have always been the only way to get to Brisbane. Unless you went to Casino. The train ran once a day in either direction and certainly not at times that would be of benefit to anyone wishing to go to Lismore for appointments The problem is Byron shire has too many newcomers from the city who see a rail line and think that they could have a train service like the city If we get a new train it needs to connect with the Queensland service and follow the freeway like it does in Queensland then it could be accessed by all local coastal towns as well as the hinterland The sooner Byron Shire gets on board with the Rail Trail the better. Well done to the adjoins shires

      • Distressed Pensioner, You are expressing the needs & wants that so many people have been saying and the ‘powers that be’, they do know too but instead of really listening to their residents, except for the favoured group and how come they just totally ignore the Legislation that has protected our rail C-M’BAH and do not care at all that they illegally gone against this Legislation. This actually shows the arrogance and their deliberate tossing aside of this protective Legislation. Did we (other than Northern Rivers Rail Trail NRRT always in photos and $$$ announcements with the politicians), ever know these actions were to happen – did we receive an invitation to hear/talk with them? These politicians and councillors know about that protective legislation yet they can deliberately plan against that because I have sent this and much detail a number of times and others have stated the same.
        Cr Mustow said this group was instrumental in much of the ground work for the trail, such as historical and environmental reporting. I ask how come the historical etc, not accepted from all the people crying out for trains? The Lismore to Casino train connection was a no-brainer and Lismore a Regional City
        .Cr Mustow said the report highlighted that the land would remain a rail corridor, meaning it could be used for transport in the future if require. Wrong, I QUOTE: ARUP RT REPORT: 8.2 – Planning Implications: By conversion to a trail the ability to reinstate an operating train service is removed P56

  10. Money well invested. The old line was built for back in the steam age when trains were slow. Its is too slow for modern commuters and would not achieve viable patronage. A rail trail is environmentaly friendly, can be enjoyed by anyone and its users would be a great boost for small towns along the line.

  11. Can’t wait to ride it!!!
    This will spread clean green tourist dollars out into the community creating jobs.
    Well done to all those involved.

  12. Looking forward to riding the trail. It will be great to be able to have a cycling holiday in NSW rather than VIC or QLD or NZ. Hope it happens while my kids are still at home as the 5 of us love riding the rail trails.

  13. This is a very well researched and argued case for the Casilno Eltham stage of the R/T. It puts the case in the context of the overal NR Rail Trail and with relevant community planning guides . It notes the greater benifits of connecting through the Byron Shire, depending on the otcome of its Byron Line and PAMP deliberations. It uses the success in attracting vistations by other rail trails as a basis for its conservatve forecast of users. This is an entirely appropriate methdology, and contrasts with the flawed use of transport modal share by the Byron line study for its proposed cycle walking path (and also for any rail service).

    The capital costs are considerable but a positve economic rate of return is there and justified. It notes a number of benifits normally associated with R/Ts but also suggests the benifts of maintianing a wildlife corridor along the disused rail corridor.. Interestingly the maintenace costs are similar to what has been spent annuslly by the NSW government on the unused corridor for no good purpose.

    The mayor of Casino and members for Clarence and Lismore have both told us of the support in the community for this project. I do think the report could have noted there is some dissent from rail supporters but the study provides the background as to why the corridor will not be used for from Casino to Eltham .

    I have read a lot of feasibilty studies for Commonwealth fundong. I would rate this asa good one and commend the business case to readers, councils and governments.

  14. Byron Shire International Tourist hotspot with no trains on its tracks WTF!
    And for those people who think a rail trail is the environmentally friendly option You must be thinking that 1000’s of B’double trucks transporting goods from Sydney to Brisbane on the highways are pumping pure oxygen out of their exhaust pipes!

    • Jedda What is the connection between B-doubles and the Casino Murwillumbah line? We have an interstate rail that could carry the interstate freight B-doubles are carrying. The recent Southern Cross Uni study on freight recommended frieght hubs in Casino , Grafton and Kyogle for trucks from our region to transfer freight to the North Coast line; it did not suggest using the Casino Murbah corridor for frieght.

      There are many popular international destinations that do not have rail servcies – Bali for example. But ours can be the one that offers visitors the opportunity to cycle or to walk for days through the rainbow region, through summerland, the land that winter forgot.

  15. I think it is a total waste of time and the money could be used for lite rail.
    You talk of getting vehicles off the road, what a better way with lite rail.
    Look at Byron Bay and it’s continual issues with traffic. Do you think that the by pass is going to change things. I dont think so. Why do people go to the Bay, to go through town and look at the town centre, just think of what you do yourself. What, pull up 2 k’s away and walk, get serious.
    A lite rail from Casino to Murwillumbah then to join to the gold coast what would be better.
    When the line was closed it was because of lack of support. Look at Sydney. They removed the trams, now paying billions to get them back. Clean, cars off the roads. Ease of joining. Get with the 21st century. The funds could be allocated from state and federal governments.
    Could be done in sections.
    Just think if you had a lite rail from independent towns that could run say from Mullum to Lismore or have change places along the way to join other lite rail.
    Now the growth of the areas along that line has exploded. Look to the future and not to push bikes with rail wheels on them.
    Can you imagine the issues with people in front of or behind being impatient and creating issues. Well look at life.
    The council’s along that line take in billions of dollars each year from rates etc. They just need to look at running a tight ship and stop wasting ratepayers money on useless projects like the stupid what ever it is at the round about in the Bay. $55,000 wasn’t the price. What, 4 beds at the local hospital.

    • The Byron line study has confirmed what the Arup report told us. That putting anything other than very light and slow rail vehicles on the line – not so called ” light rail ” which are much heavier – would be too expensive and, like Arup the report, it did not recommend doing so. A slow service might be attractive to tourists and for locals with time on their hands, but it cannot be expected to make more than a marginal impact on traffiic.

      On the Casino Eltham section no one is proposing any rail service there nor is there any proposed in the Tweed. The only council considering rail is Byron, and it is unclear that even there ratepayers would want to follow the ACT and increase rates by hundreds to fund rail.
      The Casino Eltham corrdior is unused and no government can justify continuing to waste money maintaining it for no purpose. It will either be sold off, given to farmers or- if we want to keep it as a publically owned community asset – repurposed as a rail trail..


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