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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

A public service lost

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Beth Shelley, Booerie Creek

The news about the Byron rail report is exciting but hearing how little the state government cares about our railway on the North Coast is always disappointing.

Rural areas deserve better support.

The engineering section of the Byron rail report states that many areas along the railway track are thoroughly covered in vegetation. The track is in good condition but vegetation was the biggest problem and the heavy overgrowth was degrading the formation.

This shows that our railway track is being neglected and allowed to rot. The railways are a public service that exist so that ordinary people can have efficient, safe public transport.

Getting rid of railways means private companies can make more money from roads.

This railway is part of our community and part of its heritage, it shouldn’t be left to moulder. It’s needed by the high percentage of elderly and disabled people in this area as well as university students who have no transport. If the state government repaired the track it could cut the massive amounts of damage to our local roads. Then the local council wouldn’t have to raise rates in order to fix them.

This really is a climate emergency and rail is one of the quickest and easiest solutions to cutting transport emissions. Trains could much easily carry the amount of water needed to places in extreme drought right now as stated by the Rail, Tram and Bus union.

How can we get the state government to care about this area?

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  1. I’m not sure if people are confusing what they remember of trains on the north coast with the train from ‘Back to the Future 3’ that could fly and travel through time? Or are they confusing it with the cheaper, already running and under-utilised bus services that actually do go everywhere in the shire and beyond, on a much more frequent timetable than any train has or ever could in this area?

  2. The Arup report on the Northern Rivers rail confirms what you state Beth, that the heavy growth on the corridor has undermined the ballast. That is why it suggested a high cost to restoring it to carry heavy rail, though as I know you are aware the Byron multi use report has suggested it could be used for lighter slower rail units at much less cost.
    It is though a bit unfair to blame just the NSW Government for the lack of action on public transport in our region. It has made it quite plane it will not fund rail services which it rightly advises would not meet our transport needs. The regional transport plan outlines the need for better bus services, and that has been endorsed by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council in its submission to the Government’s inquiry into access to transport for seniors and disadvantaged people in regional NSW. I would note that the census shows elderly in our region are much more likely to live away from the rail line, and that it does not go near any of the campuses (or hospitals).
    In the 2017 budget our Gladys funded 3,300 new bus services across NSW and followed up with more later in the financial year. We missed out on all but a few, because environmental and transport activists here keep asking for what the Government will not deliver. I must note again that there are EV buses running now in the ACT on 100% renewable power, and they can travel across our region and back on one charge. There is no longer any environmental reason to be arguing for rail in rural NSW.
    If funding can be found for a tourist service in the Byron Shire that will be a useful addition to our public transport network. But can I ask you to consider again the importance of lobbying for improved road based public transport, particularly for the elderly and other transport dependent people who are found throughout our region, and to consider the possibilities of offering fully sustainable road transport to more than the few wealthy people who can afford to buy EV cars.


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