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Byron Shire
April 18, 2021

NRRAG excited about Byron Rail feasibility study

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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.

Click here to read the Byron Shire Rail Corridor Final Summary Report. 

*Authors – Amy Kirkpatrick, Chris Moore, Elvira Lanham, Caroline Evans, DeltaPearl Partners, Amanda McGuane and Andrew Kim.

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  1. Great news for Byron Shire, let’s hope that funding for the train and trail will be found somewhere inside the next 15 years

  2. We have been living in Lismore for six years now and just can’t believe that one of the most beautiful areas in Australia which has an existing rail corridor and potential tourism opportunities for the region is still fighting to have to have this reinstated.
    A labor government closed the line and successive government have done nothing and the population is on the upward trend.
    Try getting to Byron Bay and back for a night out on public transport. The rest of the world has unbraced public transport and we have just pandered to big oil and car companies ripping us off.
    I think most people have just given up.

  3. Thank you Byron Council for seeing the future and helping to reestablish the rail for the Northern Rivers. Hopefully this will eventually include the Murwillumbah link. Olympics Gold Coast in 2024 . Seems an ideal connection . A rail bridge attached to the vehicle bridge over the Tweed is possible.

  4. Very light rail isn’t a train. It is a “Hi-rail” which is a very heavy minibus fitted with train wheels and having a maximum speed of 50-60 kph. Who is really going to use that?

    The report did not say the track was in very good condition. It said it was not economically viable to restore it to a condition suitable for trains and ruled out using conventional trains.

    • Thanks for picking up those misquotes Greg Clitheroe. Perhaps the Byron Shire Mayor hasn’t read the whole report. Under 10 tonne – very minimal vehicle size somewhere of the size of a light weight trolley tram? Not likely to address worker commutes or large numbers of tourists. And of course we are reminded that this is a single rail line, not suited to multiple vehicles on the line at one time is it?
      I am of course looking forward to the funding of this proposal. Terrific outcome if Byron can get someone to tender for it. Best of both camps train and trail.

  5. Yep, that’s what we want – a frequent light rail people mover that shifts workers into Byron and Tourists out, as well as school children either way. The Bangalow road (sorry – ‘Hinterland way’) is overloaded with daily run traffic going to and from work at either end.

    • How many hi-rails running on the corridor would be required to make a difference to the road traffic?

      Remembering that it is a single line and the hi-rail is limited to 50-60 kph, how many services could be run in an hour? How many workers would be in a position to use the service and choose to leave their car at home? What would they be willing to pay?

      There are many questions to be answered in great detail before anyone is going to shell out $30-60 million (plus the inevitable cost overruns) to get this project up.

  6. None of Very Light Rail vehicles are under the 10 tonne axle load limit that the report stipulates the Byron line can carry. The examples used in the report are: 1. A prototype (not in service) and 2. These are a minimum of 12 tonnes and hence unsuitable for the Byron rail line.

  7. There are needs and wants. The people may not want rail but they do need a railway.

    “Northern Rivers rail is a bit of a sleeper but we have a rousing group of people who have a need to live and put some iron and steel into the issue as they are steamed up to get those wheels turning.”

    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.

  8. “Timber bridges were in varying condition and will need additional engineering inspection and
    analysis to ascertain load capacities and reparation requirements.”
    • How can there be an accurate estimate without this analysis?

    “Level crossings where found to be in poor condition overall with signage and signaling systems removed. Safety management equipment will be required to be reinstalled as appropriate if the corridor is reactivated”
    • Were these costed? NSW now require automatic gates costing roughly $750,000 each
    • What would be the impact in the middle of Byron to have a crossing opening and closing at regular intervals. This would also impact the yet to be built bypass.

    How can you trust a report that estimates the maintenance and operating costs for light rail or Hi-rail to be only 1 million dollars a year more than a rail trail when the solar train is costing $750,000 a year for 3km of track largely using volunteers?

    The report also made no mention of the Solar Train. Is the expectation that there will be the Solar Train, Hi-rail and active will all coexist?

    This report has again delayed anything happening in the Byron shire whilst the rail trail will be built either side of it.

  9. Run a regular free mini bus service with the $60 million, Then once established and people used to it, start charging. Then sell off or reuse the winding rail corridor to repair the roads for cars and cycles as well as buy
    Self driving electric mini buses, which will soon be affordable, paint them all like the happy bus to attract the tourists.
    The rail line is too complex and expensive, and is only a nice romantic thought.

  10. This article reminds us of the significant local community support for rail as the superior transport option for the Northern rivers. This whole scenario, born out of stupidity and contempt for the demonstrated wishes of local transport consumers and then more recently, the hijack of the narrative by an albeit well organised niche interest group (rail trail lobby), is an ongoing testament to tribal political interests threatening the obvious commonsense of returning a valuable service to communities who deserve it. It’s become an exercise in just being mean, facetious and deliberately ignorant. However, the truth is out there and it’s there for those (like Byron Council) who care to find it.

    • Those who want train services need to provide evidence that they would represent value for money. Public policy should not be formulated on hearsay and the ill-conceived “wants” of a few who suffer the delusion that they represent the majority of the population.

      The rail corridor cannot provide a practical public transport facility to more than a tiny minority of people in the Northern Rivers Region. It doesn’t even go near the vast majority of us. Expecting luxury public transport to be provided at huge public cost for the very few is ridiculous.

      Buses already provide more services to far more locations at a fraction of the cost of rail. Yet they are barely used.

    • Milton

      Local transport consumers in the Byron Shire show overwhelmingly their preferance for private cars and show, if not contempt, a lack of interest in public transport (they are happy to have paid parking for cars as long as their cars are exempted). That is unsurpriisng as the demographic is among the youngest in regional Australia; buses are much better patronised in other shires like Ballina and Tweed with a high proportion of older people who need public transport.

      This proposal here is a not a return to anything that ever ran on the line, but for very light slow rail units that would be of more interest to tourists than commuters. The study did not ahow rail trial proponents were ignorant at all; the “truth” it revealed confirmed the advice we have accepted from government: that the line is not suitable for a return to trains, which would have precluded a rail trail through the lenght of the Byron corridor. I am unclear what you mean by “mean” – it is not the role of rail trail supporters to fund anything but the planning of a rail trial, and the crowd funded the most recent feasibility study for the Casino -Eltham rail trial. Again I do not know what you mean by facetious.

      I am further unclear what you mean by tribal political interests. The rail trail lobby has promoted a community path as a way of bringing economic and recreational benifits to our region – there is no other agenda involved. Although it does not calculate well the extent of those benifits – as I note above the lead consultant has explained it is not intended to – this report endorses such a path ,and Byron Shire Council will look foolsih indeed if it alone of councils has not accessed funding that other councils have accessed to have a path built

  11. This report advises that only very light rail services are viable. As such the report does not support the work of thei NRRAG/TOOT’r engineer who suggested the railway could be restored at low cost, and lends weight to the advice of Railcorp and Arup finding that their long touted commuter rail service – such as that proposed by PwC – is not viable, and could not be done without major investments in the line.

    It is also important to note that this study is not intended to show a rail service rail can pay for itself. Clair Tether, the lead consultant on the report, told me the estiamtes of usage based on transport mode share were chosen to ensure different options were comparable. She expalined it was done to show that rail beside trial could provide greater benifit than a path alone and not to provide an accurate cost benifit analysis for either one of them. That analysis would be based on user numbers more approrporiate to each investment; for exaple th(numbers of vistations based on other rail trails would be more approrpiate for a recreational path designed to attract visitors and their spending.

    A very light rail would be slow and of most interest to tourists too, but with the right ticketing and approrpiate timetabling could be a supplement to other road public transport. While it could be possible to make a bid for the tourist or regional development funding, their is no case here for shifting public transport funding away from higher priority services, to provide rail services along the Byron corridor where the demographics and existing use of buses suggest there is little demand for commuting by public transport.

    It is to be hoped that Byron Shire does not misrepresent the finidings of this report todelay the work of other councils who have got on with the job of designing and attracting funding for the proven concept of a rail trail.

  12. Some of the sites “were completely inaccessible.” St Helena Rd, Bangalow Rd North, Tyagarah Rd, Yelgun Rd (bridge), Synotts Rd (bridge) and others. One would imagine if they are inaccessible that the condition of the corridor in those places may not be all that good, due to being continually wet. A “standard was determined” as inspection results indicated no significant difference within sections of the corridor.
    There seemed to be quite a number of alternative routes required for active transport and no allowance made for buying up necessary land.
    If Byron Council can pull it off that would be great, but I can’t see any private company willing to take it on.


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