The issue of railways in the Northern Rivers is an ongoing battle between those who do and those who don’t want the return of trains in the area.
One of the groups who do are the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group who say that they are excited about the results of the Byron Rail feasibility study discussed recently by Byron Shire Council.
Beth Shelley Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NNRAG) chairperson, says they are very happy with the report. ‘We have said for a long time that the track is in good condition and the repairs affordable. There’s going to be rail running throughout the Byron Shire in the future which will be fantastic for locals and tourists.’
Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson has reportedly said that the report shows that the tracks themselves, the ballast and most of the bridges are in very good condition. He told BayFM that the costs range from $31 million to mid-$60 million and this includes everything, the track and the trail, the bridges being restored, the vehicles and the stations being upgraded and basically ready to go.
The report summary says that rail with an adjacent walking/cycle track is of benefit in reducing carbon in the atmosphere and improving environmental health of the area. The authors* say ‘Failure to act will only result in seeing similar congestion on our roads as other major cities in the country.’
‘The most sensible option which will provide the best transport while also making a return on investment is Option 1; Very Light Rail – Axle load below 10 tonnes combined with active transport modes (cycling etc). This will retain the existing rail infrastructure.’
Ms Shelley says that it’s great to have independent studies that not only show that rail can pay for itself but is also socially and environmentally beneficial. ‘We don’t need to see the tracks ripped up for a bike path when we can have both rail and trail providing benefits to everyone. However so far this is only for Byron Shire.’
‘We call on our local councils to consider this new plan for Byron Shire and the huge benefit it could bring if it was extended to the whole region. Lismore CBD is dying and this could make all the difference.’
Ms Shelley says this is a gamechanger for the future of the Northern Rivers where the economic, environmental and social benefits of reinstating rail services are now shown to be possible, affordable and essential. ‘We thank the Byron Shire mayor and councillors for their practical and visionary support for the great potential of our rail corridor for tourism and public transport.
*Authors – Amy Kirkpatrick, Chris Moore, Elvira Lanham, Caroline Evans, DeltaPearl Partners, Amanda McGuane and Andrew Kim.