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Rail trail push for track removal

Hans Lovejoy

A rail trail group have been lobbying NSW MPs to amend the Transport Administration Act 1988 (Section 99A) to allow the transfer of sections of the 132 km Murwillimbah to Casino rail corridor from transport use to Crown Lands ‘for the sole purpose of constructing a rail trail’. 

And while Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) claim that the amendment ensures that the corridor ‘can’t be sold,’ rail supporters Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) aren’t so convinced, and are opposed to track removal. 

A stretch of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line. Photo Wayne Penn

It’s a position supported by local NSW MP Tamara Smith (Greens), who told The Echo that should a bill be presented to parliament, her party will push for amendments.

She told The Echo, ‘I will only support cycle paths along our rail corridors if the corridors remain in public hands through a public trust model and the tracks remain in place’.

NRRT’s Geoff Meers told The Echo that the NSW Tumbarumba rail trail amendment ‘ensures the only use that can be made of the land is for a rail trail. It can’t be sold.’

According to yourvoice.svc.nsw.gov.au, the 22km NSW Tumbarumba rail trail will open on April 2020, and includes track removal.

Meers said, ‘What we do not support is moving away from that simple change to constrain how or where in the corridor the trail should be built. That is an unnecessary level of detail that, in many places, makes the trail impossible. 

‘Our letter to MLCs encouraged them to support the amendment and not to support a requirement to build off-formation’. 

Meanwhile, TOOT are calling for an increased service of the existing solar train service from Sunrise to Byron’s CBD, and co-operation with rail trail advocates, so other parts of the rail line can coexist with a future train service. 

Jeremy Holmes from the Byron Bay Railroad Company told The Echo, ‘We are open to expanding the service, however there would need to be a financial partner – government or otherwise – to fund any expansion.

‘Byron Bay Railroad Company is a not-for-profit organisation, without government subsidy, and is working toward a cost-neutral operation’.

Last year in July, Byron Shire Council was ‘excited’ to table its own multi-use rail corridor report, which looked at the ‘feasibility of reactivating the rail corridor from Bangalow to Yelgun.’

Mayor Simon Richardson said at the time, ‘[Report author] Arcadis suggested that a light rail system could be used to take people to festivals and markets and that this alone had the potential to take some 700,000 vehicles off the roads, which has huge benefits for the environment.’

Tweed rail trail

Tweed Shire, meanwhile, is moving ahead with a 24-kilometre rail trail (shared-user path) along the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek rail corridor.

Tenders for the $13m state and federally funded project are being considered ‘for the design and construction of the rail trail on the current track formation, but also to allow contractors to put forward proposals to construct the rail trail beside the train tracks, preserving the tracks in place’.

Project director for Tweed Council’s rail trail, Iain Lonsdale, told The Echo that Council’s preference is for a public trust to manage the line, yet says a hybrid model of public may eventuate, which would comprise private, Council and state government involvement.

As for the removal of tracks to facilitate the proposal, Lonsdale said it is ‘still up in the air.’

‘The successful tender will be asked to design the best option for the budget’. 

Owing to the geographic constraints, he says creating a dual use of the rail line will be unlikely. 

‘We cannot do off-formation construction and it makes sense to recycle the track. 

When asked about her position on Lismore’s plans, NSW  MP Janelle Saffin said through her office that discussions between TOOT and NRRT ‘are ongoing,’ yet she maintains the corridor should remain in ‘the public hand.’


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43 responses to “Rail trail push for track removal”

  1. Tim Shanasy says:

    Absolutely no argument with MP Janelle Saffin, that the corridor should remain in ‘the public hand.’
    NRRT has always fought for this, and always will.

    Dual use of the rail line is impossible, due to simple geographic constraints. All proponents of multi-use, are fantasists.

    Tamara Smith needs to get real about reality, instead of voter pandering for political gain, and community loss due to ongoing corridor disuse.

    We use the corridor, or we lose it.

    The tracks are not the issue. The corridor IS.

  2. Greg Clitheroe says:

    Simon Richardson has misrepresented the Arcadis report by claiming they suggested a “Light Rail” System. In fact they suggested “Very Light Rail”. VLR requires rolling stock that is somehow half the weight of any existing rail technology.

    The Arcadis report includes images of such VLR vehicles and claimed that they were “currently being tested” in the UK. The truth is that all these images are computer renditions and none of the vehicles exist. The Dudley VLR Research Centre which would test such vehicles is no more than an artist impression and has not even been funded let alone built. They have not updated their website in several years and last time I looked the project timeline showed the project completion as mid 2019 despite it not even having reached the first milestone.

    The other technology Arcadis suggested is Hi-rail, vehicles equipped for both track and road. Aside from a few Toyota Land Cruisers used for maintenance these don’t exist either. The converted bus shown in the Arcadis report is from a German museum, being the only one remaining of eight that were constructed in the 1950s. They were only in use for a short time because they proved impractical.

    I can find no evidence for Hi-rail passenger services anywhere in the world. The highly customised vehicles would be incredibly expensive. Moreover they would be unlikely to meet modern vehicle design safety rules. Would you like to have a head on collision with a rail bogey mounted on the front of a bus?

    Bringing back trains to the Casino-Murwillumbah line is a pipe dream. Successive governments on both sides have rejected any possibility of providing the astronomical funds required to reconstruct the line let alone the many millions of dollars per year it would require to subsidise the fares.

    A railway on the corridor does not meet and cannot meet the current or future public transport requirements of the region.

  3. Greg Clitheroe says:

    “Byron Bay Railroad Company … is working toward a cost-neutral operation.”

    In their first year of operation they charged $3 for the three kilometre journey and the operation lost about $500,000. The train has a capacity of 100 passengers but carried an average of about fifteen passengers per service.

    They have raised the fare to $4 for the second year of operation but I have not seen their financial report published. At this rate, a return fare from Byron to Murwilumbah would be about $130 return with an accompanying operating loss of several million dollars. How many passengers and investors do you think it would attract?

    Byron railroad spent about $1,800,000 to refurbish the three kilometres of line and one bridge. The rest of the line to Murwillumbah is in far worse condition with dozens of bridges and culverts and would be like to cost at least several tens of, if not hundreds, of millions to reconstruct.

    There will never be a rail service running on the corridor from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek which is the section about to be converted to a trail. There is no point retaining the rails or wasting money building an inferior trail beside them.

  4. dr greg says:

    mmm, i went to a meeting about this a while ago, and funnily enough, as usual, the loudest proponents of the rail trail didn’t actually live anywhere along it…..

  5. Geoff Bensley says:

    Damn the blinkered Greens , whatever NSW Government is in power they will close the line and sell off the corridor to adjoining farmers . Can’t the Greens see past their short noses and realise that the slow steam age alignment rail corridor is not viable for today’s population locations or the fact that workers require fast public transport instead of spending previous time on a slow train. I am sure these Greens live in La La Land .
    Wake up as you will lose the corridor, the rail trail and a future slow train route in one fowl swoop and it will be all because of your blinkered and stubborn stupidity.
    PS Sorry for not being not being polite anymore , but the Greens really stink these days .

  6. David Good says:

    The “use it or lose it” principle is actually a self serving myth and false emergency invited by the rail trail fraternity to justify the unjustifiable, namely ripping up existing railways for bike tracks!

    Railways in regional NSW cannot be sold off or disposed without removing the present legislative protection by amendment of the Transport Administration Act 1988. And this is the very amendment that rail trail advocates seek. Disturbing the current legislative protection is fraught with danger in terms of the public ownership tenure of these corridors.

    A rails-with-trails compromise would require no such legislative amendment because any bike track could be constructed alongside the existing railway track and leaving it intact. The refusal of rail trail advocates to compromise in this regard would appear to say much about their fanatical obsession to have railways torn up, rather than any real objection. Rail corridors in NSW are generally wide enough to easily accommodate both uses and so what if a bike track would have to make short deviations from tunnels or bridges!

  7. Andrew Woods says:

    Unlike NZ, we can’t seem to find an easy solution to issues like this. The bike rail trails over there are fantastic. I have driven from Banaglow to Lismore five days a week for 20 years. I would love to be able to safely ride to work. It’s not just one car off the road. It’s also good health and wellbeing. Bikes beat any form of transport for environmental, community and personal benefits.

  8. Greg Clitheroe says:

    Any government with a working majority (such as is presently in power) could pass legislation tomorrow to end the protection of the corridor and sell it off. Currently the government is offering money generated from asset sales to fund Regional Development such as the construction of rail trails. Future cash strapped governments might not give us this opportunity again and simply sell of this valuable asset to top up general revenue. Don’t let us miss out on the greatest opportunity that has come for our hinterland towns and villages in a very long time.

    The 500 metre long tunnel through the Burringbar Range passes one hundred vertical metres below the ridge line. There is no way in the world an alternative route for the trail can be built. This tunnel and its approaches will probably become the most significant feature on the entire Norther Rivers Rail Trail.

    Despite the width of the corridor, most of the cuttings are only just wide enough for the railway. Constructing a trail beside the rails would require moving mountains of earth and the destruction of thousands of trees that would otherwise be one of the trails best features. It would wreck much of the natural amenity of the trail.

    To succeed this trail needs to be world class, not a goat track scratched in the grunge down at the edge of the corridor where it would be subjected to washouts due to poor drainage and maintenance would be very expensive, Rail advocates would also expect the trail maintenance budget to be used to keep the rails clear as they corrode into two long piles of rust waiting for trains that will never come.

    There is no serious prospect of trains ever returning to these lines, especially between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek. Get a grip on reality and lets get on with building what will be the start of the best rail trail in Australia.

  9. Louise says:

    Scientists are telling us we’re past the tipping point and heading for two to three degrees of global warming if we don’t act NOW. The time for talking about getting the trains running in Byron and the North Coast is over. The Casino to Murwillumbah rail line is a wonderful opportunity to reduce the massive emissions from congested road transport clogging Byron and all our towns.

    Our MP needs to listen to her constituents, who have been fighting for over 16 years for a commuter train service on the C-M line, and loudly call for the state government to provide it, as promised for many years. They also need to start planning for the rail connection to Coolangatta as promised. The traffic coming over the border at Tweed has doubled in the last decade and will continue to increase, along with the CO2, unless we have an alternative, sustainable form of public transport.

    With over six million visitors, the Northern Rivers is the third most visited region in Australia, after Sydney and Melbourne, both have massive transport systems. We have a few inaccessible coaches spewing toxic diesel fumes through our towns.

    Changes to the legislation to protect the rail line is not good enough-locals have not spent 16 years, all their time, energy and money, fighting for legislation change. THEY”RE FIGHTING FOR THE TRAIN SERVICE WE DESPERATELY NEED NOW.

    How any real ‘green’ could ignore the community’s needs, do nothing but talk for 5 years while allowing the state government to destroy billions of dollars worth of publicly owned infrastructure, and risk the land being sold off to developers, while our towns are chocked with traffic and CO2, is beyond belief and truly scandalous.

  10. Greg Clitheroe says:

    Tamara Smith is playing silly politics. She knows she can save face with the rail lobby by voting against the release of the corridor while making no difference to the outcome.

    What she doesn’t seem to realise is how standing up for nonsense is destroying the credibility of the Greens in the eyes of ordinary people who would have otherwise voted for them. Sue Higginson narrowly lost the Lismore electorate in the State election by saying that the old railway was the best transport asset we had.

    Janelle Saffin played the commensurate politician by keeping her statements vague as she continues to do today.

  11. John Adam says:

    It is unbelievable that the opportunity to utilise the rail reserve from Murwillumbah to Lismore for a light rail service is languishing in the too hard box. Why are people against it!? Is it a funding issue? Please explain the issues as the service would be a no brainer for tourism.

  12. Greg Clitheroe says:

    I’ve noticed the loudest proponents for the railway do live along it. They allow their incredible sense of entitlement to override their sense of public good to greedily demand a fortune be spent providing luxury public transport for a tiny minority of the people in the region who happen to live and need to travel to places close to the the corridor.

    The vast majority eagerly anticipate being able to regularly while away their ample spare time for the price of a $2.50 concession pass and have no concern for what would be forgone by others to fund the hundreds of millions of dollars required for their extravagance.

    Rail trail advocates are looking forward to attracting even a small fraction of the incredible number of tourist in the region to visit the towns and villages in the hinterland. Experience at other rail trails has shown that the money spent by trail users on services along the trail has an extraordinary multiplying factor throughout the community and dramatically revitalises their economies.

  13. Geoff Bensley says:

    Totally ridiculous figure but here may be how they got to the 700,000 car movements removed from the roads.
    20,000 car movements on Ewingsdale Rd per day x 365 days x 10% (who may change transport mode) = 730,000.
    Now the 10% is only if there are multiple train sets running in both directions at 15 minute schedule during the peak workers start and finish times (which is impossible on a single line track).
    Now moving thousands of punters from the festival sites also require a minimum of 15 minute between trains running both north and south , another impossibility on a single track track line (and don’t bring up that pass looping crap , it is ridiculous).
    Middle aged boys with their iron horse toys telling everyone it will get cars off the road is just laughable and they wonder why they get called a foamer or gunzel.

    Whatever they are smoking I want some !!!

  14. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    David Can I first clarify. The plan for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is not to make a track – which would suit only off road mountain biking – but a formed mixed use path, able to be used by walkers, cycles and around towns where it would be sealed, skateboards, mobility devices and other small wheeled vehicles.

    There is nothing mythological about the “use it or loose it” principle. Many rail trails have been created around Australia. They have been popular and I am not aware that any that has been sold off. After it was closed the corridor for the Booyong Ballina rail corridor was returned to the farms the line passed through. NSW Farmers had been lobbying to have the New England rail corridor similarly passed to farmers, but progress with the New England Rail Trail will likely stop that push. The legislation is not sacrosanct and can be changed at anytime if a government decides to return the Casino Murwilllumbah land to farmers.
    What is a myth is the rail beside rail trails. ARCADIS is a consultancy firm whose relevant transport experience is in “urban and rail transport” with no apparent experience in recreational rail trails. Its report on the Byron line found the corridor wide enough to accommodate a path beside the rail but it did not address the geographic constraints that Iain Lonsdale refers to. The short deviations you refer to would entail expensive long lengths of path or on-road cycling and climbs that defeat the level off road experience that so many people travel to enjoy. ARCADIS could not propose any way of having a mixed use path from Billinudgel to Mullumbimby; visitors will not be attracted to ride up and over the busy Coolaman Way.
    The Government correctly advises that restoring the rail will not meet our transport needs. It is very poorly targeted at the elderly, indigenous and other public transport dependent population in the Northern Rivers who mainly live in the coastal and lower river areas of the Richmond Valley, Tweed and Ballina Shires, and does not go near key destinations like campuses and hospitals. Janelle Saffin knows full well that Labor – which closed the service in 2004 – is not interested in an expensive, inequitable drain on NSW’s transport budget, and she very publicly during the election declared her support for the rail trail. Neither party will set a precedent by subsiding private tourist services. Either we repurposed the corridor for a public use or the Government will allow to pass to private hands. The only truly public use currently proposed is the rail trail.

  15. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    Perhaps the reason Dr greg that many proponents of the rail trail are from places away from the rail corridor, is that it is very much a Northern Rivers Rail Trail, Visitor spending will most immediately benefit businesses and employees in the towns and villages along the line, but our region is an integrated economy and we do not take a parochial approach to spending and development in the region.
    I would also note that some of us are already considering how we might signpost and create a relatively quiet on-road cycling opportunity for more confident riders who come to use the rail trail. From Bangalow they would follow the Hinterland Way to Ballina, via the Burn Pt Ferry to Wardell and then post 2020 along the legacy former Pacific Highway to Woodburn.
    Our wonderful region with its wonderful cycling weather for most of the year can become the cycle touring capital of Australia.

  16. Beth Shelley says:

    As for the removal of tracks to facilitate the proposal, Lonsdale said it is ‘still up in the air.’
    However,
    ‘Owing to the geographic constraints, he says creating a dual use of the rail line will be unlikely.’
    In a meeting I attended with Lonsdale recently he said that they didn’t know much about an off-formation option for the rail trail because Tweed Council staff had spent all the time and money on the on-formation design. Even though the councillors made the decision to investigate both options the staff ignored that decision and only focused on the one option.
    People at least want the possibility of the return of rail because it’s fair, it’s safer and more affordable for all people. That won’t happen if the legislation change goes through.

  17. John Sheldon says:

    It’s very unfortunate and somewhat selfish that some rail trail proponents are wanting to destroy public owned railway infrastructure in pursuit of their hobby. Rail supporters have endured a never ending tirade of negativity regarding our very special , scenic railway corridor, one that should be reinvigorated for modern lighter railcar singles or sets to move both locals and tourists around the far north coast region.
    The economic and social benefits would far outweigh a railway destroying bike path as rail is very popular again right around the world as evidenced by numerous different rail travel shows on prime time ABC and SBS.
    How many rail trail shows do they air ? None I’m aware of as unlike rail travel which is inclusive to all and very popular, riding long rail trails is an exclusive activity not everyone can participate in, particularly in our long hot , humid and wet sub tropical climate.
    Except for a small number of local cyclists eager to rip up the rails , most of their support comes from elsewhere.
    Bike Trail proponents are quick to claim how many tourists their trail will attract , yet won’t acknowledge that tourists also like trains as they keep talking about how there isn’t enough locals to support train services.
    The inflated claims within their business case says that 1000 people per week will use the Casino to Eltham section rain , hail and shine as well as flood or heatwave , where do they dream up these figures.
    Claims the land will be protected are not true , it’s already protected with the current legislation however once becoming crown land , bits can be sold off at will such as station car parks and other parcels of land not required for a bicycle path however still required for public transport making it impossible to return to public transport use which of course suits the rail trail agenda. We are a region and fragmenting the rail corridor depending on shires is a short sighted, divisive and parochial move.

  18. Louise says:

    Australians, and the local community in particular, do not trust well paid ‘commensurate’ career politicians who ‘play silly games’ ‘to save face.’ We pay them well to ensure our communities get the services and infrastructure they need.

    At this time of climate emergency, the ‘greens’ credibility is being destroyed by the local MPs lack of action to get the trains running on the valuable publicly owned rail line, to reduce traffic congestion and the massive emissions from road transport, rather sitting back and allowing it to be destroyed. At the same time the ‘greens’ have been very critical of the Morrison government’s lack of action to reduce emissions and avoid more catastrophes as we’ve endured this summer.

    This lack of action is not only contrary to the ‘greens’ public transport policies, it’s particularly hypocritical and dangerous.

    Meanwhile the dodgy LNP are rubbing their hands together and counting the billions they’ll get from the sale of the valuable rail corridor land. What a wonderful outcome for this community who put their faith in the ‘greens’.

  19. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    Louise
    Your comments are premised on a rail service having a lesser carbon impact than equivalent road services. The Departmental advice to the Legislative Council inquiry back in 2004 was that it was not possible to conclude that replacing trains with buses increased emissions – it depended on the number of passengers for the vehicle. That was before the EV buses became available that offer 100% renewable travel for up to 450km – far further than any electric train can run off the grid in Australia and with far less less emissions than the heavy diesel trains running on NSW country lines. The coaches that Countersink uses are enabled for the elderly ; I have never seen one “spewing fumes”; if you do you should report it as it is not roadworthy. I would note that NSW has had to require rail providers to replace there high emission rail engines at a prohibitively high cost.Any train service would only move a very small percentage of vehicles from the road a, fewer than the well timetabled bus services like the Tweed Coast servcie. In respect of tourists it is difficult to see how a a train could match the existing popular shuttle bus services form Ballina and Gold Coast airports, and of course it would cost far more. The Gold Coast airport shuttle costs just $15 without any subsidy, about a fraction of what a seat on a train would cost to provide.
    There is no environmental benefit in country rail and certainly no community benefit in shifting transport funding to largely tourist services on an inflexible rail line away from bus services that can be much better targeted at those who need public transport.

  20. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    Councillors did not decide to investigate off formation options; they decided to allow pre-selected bidders to submit off-formation bids. Iain Lonsdale’s comments are quite clear: an off-formation dual use option is unlikely because of geographic constraints along out line, with cuttings, bridges and tunnels along much of its length.
    Rail is very expensive and as such is not a fair allocation of transport funding, as it shifts funding away from areas with a higher number of dependent individuals and households dependent on public transport to the younger population along the corridor, which has a very high rate of car owning households. The cost per passenger is markedly higher than road transport and so affordability is only result of heavy subsidies, not because rail is somehow cheaper.
    You again repeat the myth that rail is safer than road. You have never given any data to support that claim; the ATSB data I have read shows buses are marginally safer, that both buses and trains are very safe, with commercial air travel the safest. I’m sorry Beth it’s is quite unfair to the drivers and others in the bus industry to keep denigrating the great job they do, particularly getting our kids to school each day safely and getting millions of other Australians around in safely . .

  21. Greg Clitheroe says:

    People will only use trains if they get them from close to home to where they need to travel to at times they need to be there. For commuters that means fast trains with multiple service per hour at peak hours in the morning and evening.

    Where are these commuters going to travel? The line terminates in Murwillumbah, a town of a bit over 9000 residents where the vast majority need to travel north. A railway to the south would be next to useless for the vast majority. Nobody from Ballina could make use of the train.

    Lismore to Byron maybe? The corridor snakes its way across the landscape with many of the bends so tight that they would be limited to 60 kph even if the track were in good condition. It would be far too slow especially if it stopped at small towns on the way. People from Goonellebah are not going to go down into town to wait for a slow train when they could be halfway to the M1 in the same time.

    The cost to reinstate the track is around one billion dollars. If an implausible number like ten thousand people used the train it would still be an investment of $100,0000 dollars for each of them. The notion that trains are a good investment is ridiculous.

    Climate Change is a good reason NOT to waste vast quantities of concrete and steel to enable a dirty diesel train weighing many many tonnes to carry a few passengers who happen to live near and need to travel to locations near the corridor while buses already serving the routes are virtually empty most of the time.

  22. Louise says:

    The fail trail lobby need to stop deliberately spreading outrageous misinformation. The state government is responsible for providing public train services on the North Coast as they do in other regions, such as the Central Coast and Hunter Valley. Weekly tickets from Gosford to Central cost $50.00, for seven days, not $130.00 for a short trip as claimed by people who are obviously unable to do the most basic research, then wonder why they have no credibility. Then have the hide to say people who want trains, which are accessible to all, on the publicly owned tracks, have an overriding sense of selfishness.

    The fail trailers expect taxpayers to pay for their expensive bike track, so far $46 million of taxpayers’ money has been provided, for which there’ll be no return on investment, but they say private investors should pay for public transport for Northern Rivers locals and over six million visitors.

    Talk about a sense of outrageous entitlement and lack of credibility.

  23. Geoff Bensley says:

    A government subsidised train will provide fares with an 80% fare reduction price but a tourist train will not have the same luxury . A return fare from say Mullumbimby to Byron Bay will be a minimum of $34 and more like $44 (using Byron Bay Train fares for comparison) . The government will not provide subsidised fares on a non Disability Compliant train (aka BB Solar Train) and the Byron Shire very light rail carriages will also need to be Disability Compliant to receive subsidised fare relief .

  24. Liz L says:

    I recently acquired an electric bike and it’s fantastic – especially for getting around Byron’s traffic clogged roads. The only drawback is the painfully slow (on the last part of the ‘bike track’) or hazardous (on the road) route from Suffolk to Byron Bay. I note that some of Ben Franklin’s 25 mil will be spent completing the Suffolk Park to Byron Bay bike path but how satisfactory can this ever be given the constraints of our road widths etc and the need to take away scarce parking spaces. How good would it be to have the rail trail to use from Old Bangalow Rd to the centre of town. Much better use of expenditure. How good to be able to use electric bikes or other small mobility transport to connect to Bangalow and Mullumbimby without facing the narrow potholed roads or the Byron CBD nightmare – even on a Sunday when the buses obviously find custom too low to be viable.

    The technology of electric powered personal vehicles is advancing all the time. Rail trails are fantastic as the gradients necessary for rail suit these vehicles. Can we please have one and join the initiatives already in progress in our neighbouring shires?

  25. Greg Clitheroe says:

    John Sheldon: There are many televisions shows about rambling through Britain where they are fortunate enough to have thousands of publicly accessible trails. It is a huge international tourism industry.

    “Walks Around Britain”; “Tony Robinson’s Coast to Coast”; “Britain’s Favourite Walks” just to name three television shows off the top of my head.

    Besides, people sitting at home watching trains on television is not an endorsement for railway adventures when they don’t actually go there. Trail adventurers visit the trails and spend their money in the region because the journey and the destination are the same thing.

    An expensive train ride absorbs all the tourist dollars into running the railway and provides little benefit to the local economy.

  26. Greg Clitheroe says:

    Louise: The Hunter and Central Coast is home to a million people who live in relatively high density. Many of them commute to Sydney for work. The trains services are fast, regular, frequent and run on duplicated lines allowing trains to pass in both directions. They move tens of thousands of people every day. Without trains the whole region would be in a giant traffic jam.

    Comparing that situation to our sparse rural population as a justification for reinstating a tortuous low speed single track that connects a few towns with no more than a few thousand people to Lismore is ludicrous. The corridor wouldn’t even service most of the people living in the region and would not make a scrap of difference to the number of cars on the road.

    The fare I quoted is typical per kilometre for tourist railways, though they rarely have much more than twenty kilometres of track because of the astronomical cost of maintaining the line and rolling stock while meeting stringent safety requirements.

    Check out the funding black hole Gympie Council has landed in where they continue to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars per year with no end in sight on top of the ten million they already contributed to get their 22 kilometres of track working. They have a levy on the council rates there to pay for it. Do you really think the people of Lismore would stomach something like that on top of the controversial rate rise currently being debated?

    Gympie has one of the largest historical railway clubs in Australia with over 900 volunteers. They already had immaculately restored rolling stock before the Mary Valley Rattler project got underway. As one of Queensland’s oldest cities they have a wealth of historic building and artefacts and a huge museum. A historic railway is appropriate for them but it struggles financially.

    We have nothing like those resources in this region and it would be ridiculous to compete against them. Moreover our region is known for Alternative Lifestyle and Health. A Rail Trail is exactly in character for us.

  27. John Sheldon says:

    The same tired old misinformation being trotted out from the usual vocal few within the RT group.
    1 billion dollars to repair an existing 132 km of track when it cost approx 1.3 billion dollars to build a completely new railway from Alice Srings to Darwin over 1450 kms in often difficult terrain with many over bridges and culverts required. These people have been telling the porky pies for so long they actually believe their own mis truths
    With around 1 in 4 steel sleepers continuing to keep the lightly worn rails well tied every timber sleeper on the full corridor length could be replaced with Rocla concrete sleepers ex Grafton for around 30 million dollars. Once done they are there for a very long time with little or no maintenance required
    Many of the timber trestle bridges could be repaired as the trusses are designed so that any component can be changed out without dismantling the entire structure.
    Others in worse condition could be replaced with modern pre stressed , pre formed concrete components and unlike road construction which also uses these components though in much greater quantity than for rail with its much narrower form.
    Lower floodway over bridges could be replaced with common concrete box culverts as used on the rail line on the eastern side of the M1 at Tyagarah.
    The steel bridges remain in good condition.
    So instead of 1 billion dollars the real cost of refurbishing the entire line with long lasting modern components to heavy rail standard would be in the range of 100 – 150 million dollars with the Byron to Murwillumbah section requiring more work than the Casino to Lismore section which is in much better condition.. For lighter rail > 10 T axle load standard the cost would be considerably lower.
    In summing up and despite the propaganda coming from the RT group, who think they know what everyone else’s transport requirements should be, the vast majority of local people would prefer to have our railway operational again with modern lighter weight , faster accelerating , faster stopping rail motor sets configured from single to multi carriage depending on varying needs.
    They are fast enough for the majority of people unlike the continuing claim by the RT people that any rail service must be a fast service or people won’t use it. Quite the opposite actually as people like the relaxed, scenic travel that trains offer away from ever increasing road traffic.
    No doubt the regulars will be out attacking this comment as part of their program of denigrating our rail corridor in as many ways as possible.
    I just ask the general public to keep in mind that the RT group want to spend over 70 million dollars destroying what our forefathers built with hard manual labour and which would cost many billions of dollars to replace from scratch if it were to be built in this day and age.
    Keep in mind also that there will be no direct income from a bike trail and yet it’s maintenance long term will be courtesy of the ratepayers of each shire. How good is that !

  28. John Holstein says:

    A railway by definition must have a train, otherwise it is just a collection of steel and wood arranged on the ground. This notion that the corridor can be saved by leaving the rails there is idiocy. Passenger transport has progressed from the leisurely train trip to the Blue Mountains (which you van still visit by train) for a holiday to let’s fly to Bali and behave like idiots. Passenger rail is not financially viable any more, if it was private enterprise would be all over it.
    Regional NSW has 3100 km of disused rail corridors, about half of that is very suitable for conversion to linear recreation reserves for public use. In the meantime, there is at least 6000 km of good quality steel lying on the ground waiting to be recycled. That,s a lot of razor blades.

  29. Louise says:

    People continue to talk rubbish about the financial viability of train services. Like hospitals, schools and many other public institutions, public transport has never been ‘financially viable’. Are these people saying we shouldn’t spend taxpayers’ money on public schools, hospitals, fire brigades or any other public service?

    When the cost of the chaos that would occur without public transport are factored in, they are overwhelmingly financially viable, and cities and regions would not function without them. These people are saying it’s ok to spend many millions of taxpayers’ rip up a $4 billion train line for a bike track accessible to a few, but we shouldn’t spend anything on public transport accessible to all!

    The North Coast XPT well and truly paid for itself-it returned twice what it cost to run, but was sacrificed for financial and political expediency by people who weren’t fit to run a chook raffle. Now they want to do the same to the valuable train line, most of which, the community clearly understand, is in good condition and could have trains running on it very quickly,

    Despite all the lies and misinformation from the fail trail lot, the community understands the value of the line and the need for a train service on the North Coast and the connection to Coolangatta to be built. They know how popular and convenient the Gold Coast to Brisbane train service is, and they know how many billions it’s costing to replace the line that politicians ripped up in the 1960s. They will never stand by and allow a publicly owned $4 billion train line be destroyed and replaced with a very expensive bike track, paid for by taxpayers.

  30. Greg Clitheroe says:

    Financial viability is about value for money. Resurrecting the Casino-Murwillumbah line does not provide value for money. It wouldn’t provide any service for the vast majority of the people in the region because it doesn’t go anywhere near them or the places they need to travel. Buses can be much better targeted and provide faster services at a tiny fraction of the cost of trains.

    A connection to Coolangatta is another matter altogether. Due to the prohibitive social and resumption costs of putting a railway through the residential areas, that line would start with a billion dollar, seven kilometre tunnel under Tweed Heads.

    Any line south from Tweed would not come through Murwillumbah. The same distance as Murwillumbah beside the M1 would reach within eight kilometres of Yelgun where the M1, Tweed Valley Way and rail corridor converge. Extending a newly constructed line from Tweed by eight kilometres is a much more sensible proposition than reconstructing 26 kilometres of decrepit track winding through the Burringbar Range between Murwilumbah and Yelgun.

    Moreover, a line beside the M1 would pass much closer to the growing Tweed Coastal townships providing service to far more people than Murwillumbah which has virtually nowhere to grow. It would also avoid massive costs and environmental nightmare of building a track across the acid sulphate soils of the Tweed River flood plain which would probably require an incredibly expensive twenty kilometre viaduct.

    Either way we are now talking about a project cost far exceeding three billion dollars. If the entire population of the Northern Rivers that live within cooee of the line used it, it would still be an enormous investment per person. It may come one day but it won’t be in our lifetimes. It would be built for 22nd century needs and the existing corridor would still be completely irrelevant.

    Like the Murwillumbah-Casino line, the old Coolangatta line took a tortuous path and could never have fulfilled modern transport needs. Queensland built a new railway with an alignment that supports travel speeds that do get cars off the road. Their decision to remove the old railway was correct.

    The bottom line is that the tracks between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek (just north of Yelgun) will never ever have trains on it again. Let’s just get on and build the best trail we can on that section. You can continue to argue about the rest of the corridor if you want.

  31. Greg Clitheroe says:

    One of the biggest myths promulgated by rail advocates is the notion that old rail services made a profit. They would still be here if they did, but privatised. The world has moved on and cheap airfares (all without government subsides) have killed massively subsidised passenger rail.

    The rail corridor is certainly a highly valuable public asset but most of the value is in the real estate and formation. The rusting rails and decaying sleepers are a liability. Sitting unused, their potential is being squandered. The investment to convert them into trails is tiny compared to their real value and will reinvigorate the whole region.

    How much clearer does it need to be made that nobody is going to invest the hundreds of millions to restore the track and the tens of millions per year to operate train services? The return of the rail services is a sad fantasy by a greedy minority who have no regard for responsible use of public funds.

    Rail advocates need to stop pretending the choice is between rail and trail. We can have the trail that the government is will to contribute to at the moment or lose it forever because an unused asset is a perfect target for disposal. Wake up to reality and start contributing your energy to a real future.

  32. John Lazarus says:

    The latest cost figures for the presently ongoing construction of an expanded Sydney metro train network is 16.8 BILLION dollars. And after completion every individual commuter will continue to be subsidised by the state gov (as are every existing commuter trip). Its a public service thing, to facilitate ALL members of our communities to access transport. The Federal government is also progressing constructing of a new 10 Billion dollar inland railway, largely focused on freight. Our local ‘freight’ of over 2 million tourists would also be similarly serviced (and with major freight transport users such as Byron Bay Woolies accessing train deliveries to their back door, and off Ewingsdale Rd). Qld is continuing to expand rail lines, including down to the NSW border. And parcels of ‘excess’ NSW State rail land have already been excised and sold off, and they are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the Rail Trail removal of legislation, for the spoils of selling off ‘excess’ land in, especially, Byron Bay. Due to increasing road traffic (and subsequent construction of private toll roads) there has been a major increase in commuters opting for train travel in Sydney and Brisbane, and it would seem likely that the commuters of this region would perform similarly. There is plenty of quiet rural roads that could be upgraded to incorporate a bike trail network, that would be used by the minority of residents and tourists who just want to enjoy a bike ride. We need mass public train transport for ALL, and the successful electric Byron Bay Train identifies the way forward for our rail lines

  33. John Sheldon says:

    The same misinformation being trotted out from the usual vocal few within the RT group.
    1 billion dollars to repair an existing 132 km of track when it cost approx 1.3 billion dollars to build a completely new railway from Alice Srings to Darwin over 1450 kms in often difficult terrain with many over bridges and culverts required.
    We have an existing local railway that isn’t a torturous steam age alignment as claimed. With around 1 in 4 steel sleepers continuing to keep the lightly worn rails well tied every timber sleeper on the full corridor length could be replaced with Rocla concrete sleepers ex Grafton for around 30 million dollars. Once done they are there for a very long time with little or no maintenance required
    Many of the timber trestle bridges could be repaired as the trusses are designed so that any component can be changed out without dismantling the entire structure.
    Others in worse condition could be replaced with modern pre stressed , pre formed concrete components and unlike road construction which also uses these components though in much greater quantity than for rail with its much narrower form.
    Lower floodway over bridges could be replaced with common concrete box culverts as used on the rail line on the eastern side of the M1 at Tyagarah.
    The steel bridges remain in good condition.
    So instead of 1 billion dollars the real cost of refurbishing the entire line with long lasting modern components to heavy rail standard would be in the range of 100 – 150 million dollars with the Byron to Murwillumbah section requiring more work than the Casino to Lismore section which is in much better condition.. For lighter rail > 10 T axle load standard the cost would be considerably lower.
    In summing up and despite the propaganda coming from the RT group, who think they know what everyone else’s transport requirements should be, the vast majority of local people would prefer to have our railway operational again with modern lighter weight , faster accelerating , faster stopping rail motor sets configured from single to multi carriage depending on varying needs.
    They are fast enough for the majority of people unlike the continuing claim by the RT people that any rail service must be a fast service or people won’t use it. Quite the opposite actually as people like the relaxed, scenic travel that trains offer away from ever increasing road traffic.
    I just ask the general public to keep in mind that the RT group want to spend over 70 million dollars destroying what our forefathers built with hard manual labour and which would cost many billions of dollars to replace from scratch if it were to be built in this day and age.
    Keep in mind also that there will be no direct income from a bike trail and yet it’s maintenance long term will be courtesy of the ratepayers of each shire. How good is that !

  34. Greg Clitheroe says:

    John Sheldon: Saying ” people like the relaxed, scenic travel that trains offer away from ever increasing road traffic” indicates you are talking about a tourist train. Commuters already spend enough time away from their families and will not use that slow train.

    Tourist trains have no subsidies and private enterprise has to come up with the funds to reconstruct the line and operate the services. Fares on tourist trains exceed a dollar per kilometre and journeys typically cost about $60 because this is a price point where passenger numbers fall if exceeded. Mary Valley Rattler, Puffing Billy and even the special trip coming up from Brisbane to Grafton are all around that same price.

    Those numbers don’t support the viability of a service on a 50 km line between Byron and Lismore, let alone trying to rebuild the entire Casino – Murwillumbah line. Tourist services on dedicated tracks rarely exceed 20 kilometres and still struggle financially because maintenance and running costs are so high. Tourist trains really need to be on working lines to be financially viable. We don’t want a multi million dollar black hole like Gympie has to endure.

    Getting the C-M line up to a standard where it could operate as a commuter service would cost a billion dollars just as was revealed in the ARUP report. This would connect to Murwillumbah. There is no point connecting to Murwillumbah because that is not where people’s jobs are. It doesn’t connect the places where most people live or where they need to travel. The government rightly will not spend such sums of money to provide a luxury public transport service for a tiny minority of the regional population.

    The trains are not coming back. Let’s take the money on offer now so that we can use the corridor before the government changes its mind and decides to sell it instead. We may never get this chance again.

  35. Greg Clitheroe says:

    John Lazarus: Perhaps you can specify these “quiet rural roads” that permit travel from Murwillumbah to any other town without risking my life or the lives of my young grandchildren who would like to be able to ride somewhere without having projectiles weighing thousands of kilograms pass them at 100 kph.

    Upgrading roads with cycle lanes is a very expensive exercise and still leave riders vulnerable.

    Aside from safety, the big attraction of rail trails is that they have minimal gradients allowing people of ordinary fitness to travel great distances on them.

    Countless billions of dollars of public money have been spent providing an enormous network of roads connecting everywhere for people who want to travel in motorised boxes. Government subsidies provide access to buses are very affordable costs.

    Walking and cycling facilities are rare and the rail trail opportunity is unique. We need to embrace the rail trail now or risk losing the corridor forever.

  36. Geoff Bensley says:

    Not forgetting that the Casino to Murwillumbah branch line is or was slower than the Main Line Sydney to Brisbane. Steam age alignment- by Dr Philip Laird , Associate Professor Wollongong University.
    “ There are severe constraints on the Sydney to Broadmeadow line. In addition, the Maitland to Kyogle rail track is basically a string of branch lines built to steam age alignment and joined together in the early twentieth century. Concrete resleepering, and curve easing in lieu of deviations, has not really addressed the substandard alignment. Here, a train moving between Sydney and Brisbane negotiates a total of about 177 circles [17]. This reflects the original ‘Branch Line’ status of this ‘long and winding’ track. No less than 47 per cent of the Maitland – Grafton track has curvature of radius less than 800 metres.
    As a case study, the Neville Committee [10] noted the benefits of construction of a new 67 line from Hexham to Stroud Road. This would get rid of 97 km of ‘steam age’ alignment (with 18 circles), cut train transit times from 82 to 42 minutes, and, reduce fuel use in the track section by 40 per cent.
    Other work underway to improve rail on the Sydney to Brisbane corridor has included: RailCorp Clearways Projects with platforms to allow freight and inter-city trains to by-pass terminating passenger trains at Berowra and Hornsby and Acacia Ridge level crossing grade separation at Beaudesert Road.
    Further benefits will result from increased capacity between Strathfield and Hornsby ($834m committed during the 2007 federal election campaign and now $1.1 bn) and from increased intermodal terminal capacity within Sydney. Limitations on intermodal freight terminals were noted in 2007 [10].
    Despite the work done to date, observations made c2006 in an AusLink Sydney – Brisbane strategy [27, page 14] are still relevant. “The rail network is heavily capacity constrained for freight services, particularly between Sydney and Newcastle… Freight trains are timetabled outside of the morning and evening peaks due to the priority given to passenger trains. … In addition, performance issues also arise from track curvature, alignment and gradients which limit capacity and wheel loads of trains, and there are several bridges with structural deficiencies. …. Steep hills to the north of Sydney at Cowan Bank also make it difficult for freight trains as their heavier loads mean they travel more slowly than commuter trains and their greater length adds to line congestion.”
    In looking to 2030, this draft strategy [27, page 14] noted that “Train paths on the rail corridor, presuming it continues to serve Melbourne to Brisbane, will be limited because of the single track north of Maitland, conflicts with passenger trains in Sydney and Newcastle and, in northern Sydney, track congestion, gradients and environmental limitations like National Parks and waterways. Insufficient intermodal capacity in Sydney and Brisbane also needs to be addressed in the early part of the strategy period.”
    http://railknowledgebank.com/Presto/content/GetDoc.axd?ctID=MTk4MTRjNDUtNWQ0My00OTBmLTllYWUtZWFjM2U2OTE0ZDY3&rID=MjM0NQ==&pID=Nzkx&attchmnt=True&uSesDM=False&rIdx=MTI1Mg==&rCFU=

  37. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    Louise The apparently low cost of travel on NSW trains is entirely because of subsidies. They are mucuh more expensive for the Government to provide, which plainly means cutting two to three equivalent existing or planned bus services that would be better targeted at those that need public transport.

    You and other opponents of rail trails use the derogatory term “fail trial” but when challenged opponents cannot show that rail trials have failed elsewhere in Australia, or that the rail corridors have been sold. It’s a myth that does not become true by repeating the lie. Local supporters of the Kingaroy Kilkivan rail trial knew from group events and also the number of grey nomads in van parks coming to use the rail trail that the numbers from Council counters were far to low. Council acknowledges the counters had been masked over apparently to reduce the apparent number of users. Now if you really believed the “fail trail” myth you would want the most accurate data to show that, but plainly at least one opponent realised the popular Kingaroy trail would be one more example of a successful rail trail. It does show the lengths some people will go to try and maintain the unsupported “fail trail” lie, and it’s time others stop spreading it. .

  38. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    There is no published study that shows the line could be economically restored to support other than a slow very light rail largely suited to tourist trips. Even connections for tourists form Gold Coast airport are better provided by the private buses that charge just without any subsidy $15 and less for seniors, and are faster than the XPT took from Murbah to the Bay. Aside from the Byron Shire no council has expressed any interest in seeking funding for a tourist rail. If they can attract funding well and good but whether it would be compatible with a rail trail from Mullum to Bangalow remains to be seen.
    The Government has shown it is willing to fund the capital costs for the rail trail and the initial maintenance for stage one. Victorian councils often do maintain the rail trials, typically while seeking funding for extensions ot initial stages. Plainly they consider the economic benifts are well worth the modest maintenance cost.
    The plan is for a 130km Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which would have most users staying in the towns and villages along the line for two, three or more nights , with spending of over $200 a day each. It would be ironic if the Greens try and stop or stall sustainable healthy traffic free tourism through our region in the hope that someone sometime might put a tourist train on the corridor, and end up leaving the corridor as now, an overgrown unsightly tangle of weeds, ripe to be passed to adjoining farmers.

  39. Louise says:

    The North Coast community has been calling for, and is entitled to, a taxpayer funded commuter service on the C-M line, just as they have in other regional areas, and the rail connection built to Coolangatta. This is what the LNP promised for years and claimed it would cost no more than the expensive, inaccessible, diesel spewing coach service which replaced the train.

    Despite the fact that we all subsidise train services around the state, our train services are no better than those in third world countries and our politicians should hang their heads in shame. Too many billions are spent on roads and highways at the behest of the road transport lobby and fossil fuels moguls When done well, rail is a much more cost effective, sustainable option than the billions we currently spend upgrading roads to accommodate massively increasing traffic.

    Despite all the spin and misinformation from the fail trailers, politicians know very well that North Coast people will not allow so many millions of our taxes to be wasted destroying a $4 billion rail line, most of which is in surprisingly good condition, for a tourist gimmick which will not provide accessible public transport for anyone, and certainly won’t reduce traffic congestion or carbon emissions in our towns.

  40. Greg Clitheroe says:

    Louise says, “The North Coast community has been calling for, and is entitled to, a taxpayer funded commuter service on the C-M line, just as they have in other regional areas, and the rail connection built to Coolangatta.”

    In doing so she ignores the facts extensive facts presented and confirms what I said earlier about rail advocates having “an extraordinary sense of entitlement”. She even used the word.

    The State government does have a mandate to make public transport affordable but it certainly doesn’t require that incredibly expensive luxury public transport be provided for a greedy minority who happen to live near a derelict railway.

  41. Greg Clitheroe says:

    Louise seems to have forgotten that the C-M rail was powered entirely by diesel spewing locomotives dragging carriages and weighing hundreds of tonnes while often carrying less than a coachload of passengers. Coaches are far more accessible than trains. Trains can only pick up and put down passengers at railway stations. They are useless to the vast majority of people in the region..

    The government invest in roads because they are used by everyone and provide efficient connections to everywhere. Rails cannot hope to duplicate this versatility. Rail freight is slow and expensive because of the double and triple handling, and does not fulfill the virtually overnight door to door requirements of modern JIT inventory systems.

    The LNP promised to pay for an independent study on the viability of returning services to the line which is exactly what they did. The study showed it was prohibitively expensive and would not meet the current or future public transport needs of the region.

    We don’t “all subsidise rail services around the state”. Our region receives far more funding from the government than is collected here in taxes. About eighty percent of NSW’s population live in and around Sydney, Newcastle and Woolongong.They are paying for their own services and subsidising ours. Expecting them to pay billions of dollars to provide rail services for a sparse rural population is patently ridiculous.

    I’m growing rather tired of the nonsense and unsubstantiated accusations from rail advocates claiming trail supporters are lying and posting misinformation. Particularly when they post mindless platitudes, insults and blatant lies such as the claim the C-M line is “not a tortuous steam age alignment”.

  42. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    Louise
    Yet again you use the term “fail trailers” . Like Goebbels you attempt to make a lie the truth by repeating it over and over. It’s time to stop the propaganda. Rail trials are not failing and they are not being sold off.

    The incoming LNP Government studied the case for a train and found it did not meet the transport needs of this region. You have never explained why shifting the balance of our region’s transport funding away from the elderly, indigenous and other public transport dependent people who overwhelmingly live away from the rail corridor is a worthwhile thing to do.

    That you think the billions being spent on the Pacific Highway or fixing our region’s local roads is a waste is a measure of how out of touch you are with the views of the people of this region and NSW on transport priorities. The rest of us welcome the safety and cost that better roads are delivering. That’s why people in this region overwhelmingly voted for the parties that promised funding to fix the roads not rail, and it’s why there is no complaint that the Government is spending $20m fixing the Byron Shire’s roads.

    The Government is not going to spend the hundred of millions it will take of the transport vote to appease the minority that think rail is a higher priority than better roads and who do not care to take a people focused, needs based approach to public transport. It’s up to you to justify continuing to waste millions maintaining weed covered rails on the corridor, rather than re-purposing it as a publicly owned community path.

  43. Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

    My comment to Louise was that the rest of us welcome the safety and cost savings to motorists and other vehicle operators that better roads are delivering.

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