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Byron Shire
June 4, 2023

TOOT still fighting to save the rails

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This mural recently hung on the front of the Mullumbimby Santos building to promote the idea of establishing a railway station at Tyagarah. Photo supplied.

The issue of rail travel and resurrecting the lines on the far north coast has been the subject of debate, often very heated, ever since May 15, 2004, when the last XPT train left Murwillumbah station, putting an end to 110 years of rail transport in the region.

But, there are many people in the area who would like to see a rail service reinstated.

Local rail group Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) are asking – ‘Would you like a railway service to Tyagarah and on to Mullumbimby?’.

The group hoisted a 6m x 3m mural recently onto the front of the Mullumbimby Santos building to promote the idea of establishing a railway station at Tyagarah.

TOOT secretary Lydia Kindred says that a ‘park and ride’ system could potentially take many cars off the highway and reduce traffic jams into Byron Bay on Ewingsdale Rd.

‘Growing traffic congestion means more buses are not the answer, particularly with our climate change challenges where transport contributes over 20% of emissions,’ said Ms Kindred.

The mural at Santos Mullumbimby.

‘Destroying railway infrastructure and replacing it with a cycling/walking path may well be a good idea in areas of low or declining populations and little tourism, however our region is quite the opposite.’

‘[That strategy] doesn’t help the majority of people with their transport needs into the future, including over four million tourists every year, with over two million to Byron Bay alone, many of whom would love to travel safely by rail through our region.’

TOOT believe that the potential economic benefits to our hinterland towns and villages are huge if we disperse visitor dollars throughout our unique region.

The Byron Shire Multi-Use Rail Corridor study

‘The recent Byron Shire Multi-Use Rail Corridor Study by Arcadis shows that for every $1 spent on rail services with a bike trail beside the tracks $1.50 would be returned, whereas less than $1 would be returned for every $1 spent on just having a bike/walking track.

‘Their engineers were impressed at the good condition of the line and determined it would only cost $67 million to extend services between Bangalow and Yelgun – therefore to Splendour’s Falls Festivals.’

TOOT says a proposed legislation change soon to be presented to the NSW Parliament, that will remove the current protection for the Casino to Murwillumbah railway corridor, would mean the rail track infrastructure could be removed and replaced with a bicycle/walking path. ‘This would also leave the rail corridor open for sale and development, as it would be transferred over to Crown land, which is not protected.’

Bike and rail trails can co-exist

‘Bike trails can co-exist with rail and would not require any change in legislation’, she said.

Ms Kindred says that it is the policy of the current LNP NSW government that they support closing disused railway corridors and repurposing them as cycling/walking tracks provided that there is strong community support, which in our region is not the case.

‘Our local rail groups have extensively consulted with many local communities and businesses and we have found overwhelming support for the return of rail. In fact, over 90% of local businesses want regular passenger and possibly some freight services to return to our region.

‘The Department of Premier and Cabinet is meant to hold extensive community consultations regarding this issue wherever it occurs however there was none conducted in our region. We believe this is because the government knows the community here overwhelmingly want rail services on the existing corridor. The opportunity could then be open to extend the existing line approximately 20 km to the Gold Coast International Airport where QLD rail will eventually terminate.’

A retrograde measure for the far north coast

Ms Kindred says the proposal to remove the corridor protection that the current legislation offers is an extremely retrograde measure for the far north coast of NSW, where public transport is terrible, the population is growing and the level of tourist visitation is second only to Sydney.

‘The proposed vandalism of our railway infrastructure cannot be allowed to proceed and at the very least an enquiry should be held and any other hidden agendas concerning vested interests being able to access valuable real estate exposed.

‘We deserve regular passenger services along our Casino – Murwillumbah line, given that a report done by Price, Waterhouse, Coopers, following the cessation of services, recommended multiple daily rail motor services for our region.

‘If it was needed sixteen years ago then it is certainly needed more so now!’

Service profitable in the past

Ms Kindred says the services on this line were some of the most profitable in Australia, costing $11 million a year to operate but returning $22.5 million. She says that the Motorail was extremely popular, taking 14,600 cars off the road per year, and that was in the 1980s.

‘When we changed over to an XPT, only here late at night, few people used the service locally. The organisation Bicycles NSW also believes that trains and a bike path can be mutually beneficial in offering transport solutions. However the NSW Government says there is no future here for rail services and seem to prefer installing a bike path.’

TOOT is urging those who would like to see regular rail services in the Northern Rivers to please contact your local Members of Parliament, the Ministers responsible for regional transport and Labor Shadow Ministers. Some contacts you might use are:

Phone the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group Red Alert number 0439 743 240 and leave your number if you want to be alerted to any actions to save our tracks. For more information, email: [email protected]

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  1. Before even bothering to read the entirety of the lengthy article, I have a simple question baked-bean try-hard toot-team, and all others supporting this exclusive outdated irrelevant form of rural public transport: is it preferred that a single train be used to complete the 6-hour round-trip, or do they envision that every traveller should disembark and re-embark at every stop along the way, to accommodate for the fact that it’s a single rail only?

    Perhaps they envision every train wait at many of the hundreds of trestle-bridges or “waiting stations” via an expensive secondary “waiting-track” to overcome the fact that solid steel moving trains full of passengers are incapable of passing through one another, like the ghosts they have been for the previous decade and a half when we could have been using the ultimate corridor for biking, tourism, and leisure?

    • Ross Thatcher’s comments are incorrect. The proposed trains would be one or two carriages and the service would be hourly. At most stations there would be duplicate tracks allowing trains to pass in opposite directions.This is normal on single track railways. Trains services are being reestablished in many countries due to an increase in demand and to the lower carbon footprint of trains compared with cars and buses.
      People have voted says Maris Bruzgulis. Which people have voted. I have carried surveys which show this statement is totally incorrect.
      Ronald Priestley demeans himself and his argument by resorting to name calling. A cost estimates have been prepared and it is not Zillions as he says. In fact the cost is much less than the government has been advised. Prior to the introduction of the XPT, the frequent service using one or two carrige train was profitable.Only some of the sleepers and bridges requie replacing.
      I wish more people would get their facts straight before making a fool of themselves in print.

      • Chris Abraham
        There are no off-the-grid trains in Australia capable of matching the ability of lighter EV buses – already in service here – which can travel hundreds of kilometers on 100% renewable energy. Even before EV buses were available, the departmental advice to the Legislative Council inquiry was that it could not conclude that replacing trains with coaches was less energy efficient. Trains in rural NSW do not have a lower carbon footprint compared with buses.

        The people in three of the four state electorates in this region voted for the LNP or Labor candidates who voiced strong support for the rail trail, as have both federal members, and neither of those parties support the restoring the trains. Only in Byron Shire have they voted for the Greens which alone has a policy of putting trains on the tracks, and even in Byron Shire no one called for the 20 million to fix the roads to be diverted to fixing the rails.. The DPC consultations and the crowd funding of stage two, all show strong support for the rail trail, and again even in Byron Shire, following its consultations on its cycling plan, the path along the corridor was placed in the highest priority. People like the idea of a train, but the voters have shown it is not the priority in this region that road transport is.

        The term “zillion” is not a number but simply refers to any large number, There is no published estimate of the cost of restoring the Casino Murwillumbah line to carry trains other than that which the government was advised, and it is indeed a large number, particularly when a bus can do the same job, without any additional road costs, just as safely and swiftly, and with EV buses, more sustainably.

        The comment is oft made that the train prior to the XPT made a profit, but in spite of constantly asking, no one has ever provided me with an original reference that shows that is so. Since the eighties household car ownership and use in our region has increased , particularly among the younger population that predominates along the rail corridor, and that is reflected in their low use of public transport, including the XPT. In line with what Railcorp advised the Legislative Council Inquiry in respect of the PwC proposal for a two hourly service, an hourly rail service along the corridor would require multiple units and drivers and support staffing, would be very costly and there is nothing to show such a commuter train would get any better patronage than the hourly bus service along the Tweed Coast.

        As you said yourself “I wish more people would get their facts straight before making a fool of themselves in print”.

  2. The people have voted – by getting in their cars and driving away from the screeching advocates of public transport. (Their loss, btw.)

  3. Byron Council has removed rail track south from the Jonson Street roundabout, has allowed Mercato to create a mini bypass road on the rail track ( access from Butler st along the rail track to the rear of Mercato), wants to build another permanent pedestrian crossing over the rail track from the rear of the Jonson St shops to the Butler st bus station, and is progressing allowing commercial activity on the rail track area south of the Jonson st roundabout ( including with proposal to move the monthly market onto the rail track area). Byron Council is cutting the line so that trains never come back.

  4. Please could all the Toot -tooters and Puff-puffers go to the Blanches bus stops in Mullum Tyagarah Byron & Bangalow ( where the railway used to run) and count the number of bus passengers. Then please could they publish their findings. Then please can they explain how a few hundred passengers ( mostly low fare schoolkids) are going to finance the multi-million restoration cost of new sleepers, bridges , drains, locomotives, carriages, renovated stations etc etc.
    When it finally dawns on the Toot -tooters and Puff-puffers that no-one is going to pay the zillions involved please could they get out of the way so we can both build a bike track for now and retain the rail corridor for future public use.

    • No matter how much uniformed rubbish bike track supporters continue to sprout, North Coast people know the value of the Casino to Murwillumbah (CM) rail line and the necessity for rail services on the North Coast, and aren’t about to allow a few dodgy politicians to destroy the line, any more than they allowed CSG mining.

      So it’s ok to spend multi-billions on more roads and highways to increase traffic congestion and carbon emissions, but not ok to spend a few million to restore a multi-billion $ train line for a cost effective, sustainable, accessible train service for all? Do these people know how many billions are being spent building new rail lines and tunnels in Sydney? Do they have any idea how much these services will cost taxpayers, and how much these train services will return to state government coffers? SFA. Do they know how many billions the state government is spending destroying and rebuilding perfectly adequate sports stadiums in Sydney?

      Over six million visitors to the North Coast (Tourism Research Australia) and two million to Byron alone, more than justifies regular commuter train services (not the return of the clapped out XPT) on the C-M line and building the rail connection to Coolangatta, as promised for many years by the National Party and Geoff Provest, MP for Tweed. Pity we no longer put people in stocks and throw rotten fruit at them.

      If people think the traffic congestion in our towns is bad now, just wait till it doubles again in the next decade as it has in the last decade. Sitting in traffic for hours on the parking lot that is also known as the Pacific Motorway, in summer heat, is something we can all to look forward to.

      Meanwhile, a short drive up the congested highway, Gold Coast residents and visitors will have a regular, comfortable, air-conditioned train ride to Brisbane.

    • PS: Most local buses only have one or two people on them as they are too slow and don’t connect most North Coast towns, as the train line does. Have checked the new coach service from Byron to Lismore via Ballina (the trip takes almost two hours,and carries around 12-15 people per trip. The cost of running this service? They won’t tell us so obviously it’s too much.

      The old, slow XPT took 50 minutes from Lismore to Byron.

      As 85% of the North Coast population live five minutes from the train line they would have a short walk, cycle or bus ride to catch a train. Some may drive, as they do at Robina on the Gold Coast and the Central Coast of NSW, where trains are always packed.

      • Louise

        Buses actually do go to towns along the train line. They also go to all the other towns in our region: Tweed Heads, the Tweed Coast, Uki, Brunswick Heads, Suffolk Park, Nimbin, Wollongbar, Alstonville, Lennox Head, Wardell, Broadwater Woodburn, Coraki , Evans Head, Ballina. None of those centres is five minutes from the rail line; only 40% live anywhere near it and even fewer five minutes from it, only 10% of the indigenous population, and the corridor population is only growing slowly compared with the coastal centres away from the line. It’s interesting that the buses with the least patronage are those that serve the corridor towns, which the census shows has younger households which more likely to have at least one car. Buses on the faster growing routes in and out of Ballina and Tweed Heads have much better patronage. And if you compare the same route – Casino to Lismore for example – the coaches that replaced the XPT take the same time.
        I think most people here have the sense to know that building the M1 has reduced travel times in our region, and they realise too it will take more than a few million to restore the line. The only traffic congestion I have encountered on the M1 in our area has been caused by the failure of Byron Shire to to accommodate peak traffic going into the Bay. The busiest transport corridor in our area is that going into t Ballina and it does not generate congestion back onto the M1. Spending billions on a train to Brisbane is not the way to solve Byron Shire’s road problems.
        Most people here are relieved that the M1 is nearing completion and it’s interesting when you consider it will link the serves the two oldest populations of older people in NSW – Ballina and Tweed – that the so called public transport advocates in TOOTs and NRRAG have given no thought to how it might be used for better coach connections to the XPT to Sydney. The private sector is not so blind and has provided express buses form the Bay to Coolangatta airport for about a tenth of the cost of providing a train service ($15 or $12 for seniors), and the trip takes no longer than the XPT took to Murwillumbah.
        People have shown at the ballot box they want the government to focus on fixing the roads not the rail, and I note that when the $20 million was provided to fix Byron’s roads recently, I did not read one comment suggesting it would be better spent on fixing some of the Byron line. This area deserves better public transport, but it is only roads that can economicaly provide it to all of our region, not your narrow definition of it.

  5. I support light rail for this area. It makes sense to have the rail line protected. Both cycle and walking tracks could be created safely along side . I believe , from other reports , that the rail corridor may be sold off at a later date for private use. This area does not have a decent public bus system . Community transport for the elderly is expensive. Makes sense to establish the Mullumbimby/Murwillumbah/Byron link,

  6. The rail corridor will not be protected for the future if the rails are removed. The land becomes Crown Land and not Transport.. The public could easily afford light rail : consider how much money the roads cost us and then think about a future where transport is inclusive of the needy and doesn’t burn a lot of fossil fuel.
    Closing the rail corridor would only be good for a few real estate developers.

  7. Non-metropolitan passenger rail in NSW overall never paid its way, let alone make a profit. It was only sustainable through subsidies from freight rail, and once that diminished, non-urban passenger rail became a financial burden.

    And tell me this, Tooters: How many cars would your proposal really take off the roads, when one considers that a car is still needed to get to and from the stations in the first place, then often to the final destination too far from the station for walking? Huh?

    Talk about tunnel vision!

  8. “‘Their engineers were impressed at the good condition of the line”, So how did the seeing eye dogs the engineers needed coped with the rotting sleepers, and crumbling railbed. Or did they just look at the restored section in Byron operated by the solar train?

    I am not a railway engineer but have walked a lot of now closed rail lines.I’ve watched the remaining rail bed disintegrate. It would need rebuilding from the foundations up. Way more than replacing a few sleepers. Bridges would need to be replaced – many have been removed and the engineers have clearly ignored that the track was built to steam train standards, not modern diesel or electrics. Basically, steam trains can’t cope with hills so they go around bends. Bends slow down modern locas, but they will happily tackle a grade with speed (if you have been on the Gold Coast train line, think of the section that goes through Worongary, south of Nerang. Not uncommon to clock a train at 120km/hr+. Anyway, unless they completely reroute the line, which will involve land resumptions and $$$$. Its going to be a slow journey with the existing alignment,

  9. If the selfish bike riders cant build their bike track alongside the train track DON,T BUILD IT AT ALL
    The train is needed by so many more people of all ages rather then a few bike riders It would be wonderful to see the solar train the only one in the world from Byron Bay come through to Murwillumbah with thousands of Byron Bay tourists

    • Trail advocates are not selfish but realistic. Retaining the rails as they slowly transform into two long piles of rust will not result in rail services coming back. Nobody, government nor private enterprise, is going to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars required to resurrect the tracks then waste tens of millions of dollars each year running services at a loss. Trains are not coming back to the corridor.

      Building a third rate goat track trail in the grunge down the side of the formation will not result in the world class facility that is required to bring the tens of thousands of visitors seen at other rail trails that are built on the formations of disused railways. The narrow cuttings and embankments, let alone the tunnels, do not provide the space for a trail beside the tracks. Building a second formation for the trail would require massive, prohibitively expensive earthworks involving the removal of tens of thousands of trees, destroying much of the amenity of the trail. The tracks swing from one side of the corridor to the other to ease curves so any trail beside rail design would involve the clearly impractical and dangerous need to repeatedly cross the line.

      “Trail beside rail” is just another of the multitude of myths promulgated by increasingly desperate rail advocates. Don’t be fooled by their lies.

  10. You’d think the pushbike only rail trail brigade couldn’t read wouldn’t you? They obviously haven’t looked at the contents of this article which make it clear we should be pushing for both a train line and a bike trail for our communities. The words hillbilly lice come to mind when I think of their incapacity.

  11. So I get a bus from Suffolk Park to Byron Bay Train Station and then a train to North Byron Parklands Train Station and then walk the 1.9km into the music site? Who thinks up these crazy ideas .
    No I will the catch from Suffolk Park bus straight to the Splendour Festival music site .
    Does TOOT and NRRAG live in La La Land with the tooth fairies.
    Now how many rail motors are required to move the thousands of festival patrons in short time periods and how will they do it on a single slow meandering line ?
    Going by the previous comments it appears many are fed up with their ridiculous ideas .

    • Geoff Bensley clearly doesn’t understand how a railway from Byron to the North Byron festival site would work.

      Festival patrons from all over Queensland (having driven right past the festival site) and NSW would be be able to drive to their cars into Byron Bay and park in the streets (having found a spot without a parking meter) then drag all their gear to the railway station and catch a train to the festival station where they can then drag it to a camping site.

      Who wouldn’t chose that option Geoff?

  12. We need trains now more than ever.
    Billions spent on the hwy, great!
    Trains are perfect for this region, not to compete with cars or bicycles, but to supplement the huge demand for the future.
    Protect the corridor and don’t listen to the negative pro rail trail talk.
    Trains will move people in the future to and from festivals, across our growing region, they will move people who are too young to drive as well as too old, they will move tourists and workers, students and bike riders. They will make a profit and reduce greenhouse gases, there will be free wifi and a bar.
    Trains will unite us not divide us.

  13. As usual rail advocates are loose with the truth by claiming it is just 20 kilometres from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta Airport.

    The distance is 30 kilometres and would require a seven kilometre tunnel under Tweed Heads because the resumption and social costs of a putting railway through suburban Tweed Heads would be prohibitive. That tunnel has already been costed at over one billion dollars. Not going to happen.

    Besides, any new railway would not be via Murwillumbah, because the same distance as Murwillumbah but instead beside the M1 would reach just eight kilometres from Yelgun, bypassing 24 kilometres of some of the most decrepit sections of the old line where it passes through the Burringbar range. This route would also take the line close to the Tweed’s coastal villages where most of the growth is happening in the shire.

    Trains will never return between Murwillumbah and Yelgun. Let’s just get on with building what will undoubtedly become one of the most iconic rail trails in the world.

  14. The Arcadis Report described the condition of the rails as “reasonable”, but never once defined what “reasonable” meant. Contray to the rail advocate’s claims, they never said they were in “good” condition. In fact many sections of the track were not assessed at all because they were completely inaccessible due to being covered by vegetation. While some sections were assessed from a drone, one substantial section was assessed as “reasonable” literally on the basis of the “one metre of track that was visible”. (Read the report if you don’t believe it.)

    Any “reasonable” assessment would conclude that being covered with vegetation for more than a decade would render the condition of the track as “decrepit”. Rotting vegetation is quite acidic, accelerating corrosion of steel and the decay of wood.

    The Arcadis report concluded that even Light Rail was not viable on the corridor and proposed Very Light Rail, a technology that is somehow half the weight of any existing rail technology. There are no VLR vehicles available anywhere in the world. Despite this, last year, Arcadis claimed that VLR vehicles were “currently being tested in the UK”. In fact all the images of VLR vehicles included in their report were nothing more than computer generated renderings. The Dudley VLR Research Centre is still just an artist’s impression despite their website timeline still showing “Project Completion” in July 2019. They still don’t even have the funding to build it. Their website has not been updated in at least six years.

    These VLR vehicles are to be run on a track where, by Arcadis assessment, “between five and ten percent” and “ultimately 25 percent” of the sleepers would need to be replaced. All the costings are done on the five percent figure. That is just one new sleeper every twelve metres. It doesn’t mention the delayed costs of sleepers that will ultimately need to be replaced.

    Arcadis’s assessment of the bike and walking trail was based on urban cycle way usage and did not consider that it would be a central part of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail which, by any sensible assessment, would quickly become one of the most popular trails, not only in Australia, but across the world.

    The $300,000 squandered by Byron Council on the report bought them a fairy tale. If you want to pursue notions of hidden motives I suggest you ask Byron Council for a copy of the Terms of Reference document given to Arcadis. The council has refused to release it. Ask yourself why, when it was paid for by Byron ratepayers. I suggest Arcadis was given the conclusions and asked to justify them as best they could, which they did by making completely unrealistic assumptions.

  15. That’s right Ross don’t bother to be informed ,it’s only an impediment to rational debate .
    The mere fact that rail transport is the most cost effective use of resources ,after water transport, is of no consequence, as is the ability of tested and standardised use odf timetabling of rail-services ( it’s complicated Ross but it certainly works, and has done for a hundred years of practical experience.
    Ronald ,oh dear Ronald you would be well advised to understand that ‘ public transport ‘ is a public good and is like the billions provided to airlines, banks and farmers that doesn’t necessarily make a profit unless supported by the taxpayers , the difference ,of course is that the ability to travel is a catalyst that enhances all facets of society,business,social, industrial and the arts.
    It is obvious that a rail connection to Queensland via this existing route would be a game changer, especially for the international travellers that are now dissuaded from venturing southward, after arriving to see the Great Barrier Reef in its death throes .
    But hey, let’s just destroy this advantage , gifted by our far thinking predecessors and convert it into a horsey, bike track for the indolent, wankers who can quote the price of everything and know the value of nothing.
    Cheers, G”)

  16. Is there a way to connect it to Newrybar / other small towns… and also have cycle paths? Im so sick feeling like we are living in LA. Walk able, ride able micro cities with lush natural spaces. We could always exchange the train for a sort of hybrid solution… a train looking autonomous solar bus thing that has the ability to share the corridor and pass each other for efficiency but still have that classic train/tram charm. just an idea 🙂

  17. Fantastic article, thanks so much to our dear, independent ECHO !
    What I can’t ever understand is how something that would benefit residents and visitors, those without vehicles or the young and older residents who don’t drive, can inflame such passionate antagonism every time the railway is mentioned…………..
    Reading some of the near hysterical responses (above) I just don’t understand the anger.
    Think of the positives, hope like mad that the legislation IS NOT altered so the rail reserve is protected and hope too that this infrastructure proposal and accompanying bike and cycle track is built.
    Nobody loses, everybody wins, please support the vision instead of damning it.

    • Carole needs to understand the difference between a vision and an hallucination.

      The government has already dedicated funding to the vision of the rail trail. There is absolutely no chance of anyone funding the railway hallucination.

  18. It’ll cost many billions to re-establish rail in our region. So few would use it that it would run at a huge loss. No government with any kind of sense would squander so much money. Sad but true. Let’s be real.

  19. The legislation to change the use of the corridor will be based on the same legislation as the recently completed Tumbarumba-Rosewood Rail Trail. The same protection as the railway is afforded by declaring that the only use permitted is as a public rail trail. The claim that the corridor is at risk of being sold is just another of the many lies promulgated by rail advocates.

  20. TOOT appear to have stopped progressing their grand plans for our region.
    If they continued to think about it, they’d be demanding to put rail tracks over ALL roads, to force polluting cars off the roads.
    They would have designed a railway station on every intersection, so everyone could get off and wait for the train that’s going to take them to the next station/intersection.
    This is logical.
    Cars are such an inefficient way to get anywhere, aren’t they ?? !!
    Come on TOOT, isn’t it time to put your thinking caps on ??

  21. 16 years have elapsed since the closure of the train service between Casino and Murwillumbah. I admire members of Toot who have campaigned to get the train back during this time. However, there has been no progress. The infrastructure continues to deteriorate and the corridor is becoming more and more inaccessible and weed infested. It is possible to get funding for a rail trail (already achieved for the Tweed Section and Casino to Bentley). If we don’t take this opportunity we will be throwing away millions of dollars for our community and left with an unsightly, unusable corridor. The rail trail can be used by most people. Public transport in the Northern Rivers should consist of small, electric buses going to where the people are and dropping them at their destination. Light rail is for cities with suburbs every few kms and thousands of people using it frequently. It is false news that most people want the train back. There are thousands of people waiting for the rail trail to begin!

    • Rail services are NOT just for cities. Anyone who has used rail on the Central Coast NSW, the Hunter Valley and the Gold Coast know very well those service are always well patronised.

      Very few people use the buses we currently have as they’re too slow, do not connect up local population centers, and are stuck in traffic with all the other vehicles. They’re great for short trips to the shops or train stations.

      People are either ignorant, or are deliberately trying to mislead the community about the condition of the C-M line to justify destroying it. Even if the line was completely rotted away, which it certainly isn’t, the largest cost of rail is acquiring the land close to major population centers. Bike track advocates keep sprouting the myth that changing the legislation that currently protects the line so the bike track can be built, will save the corridor for future train services.

      No it won’t. Removing the legislative protection of the line will allow the valuable rail corridor land to be sold off, just as it was on the Gold Coast.

      The North Coast community will NEVER allow that to occur.

      • The key factors in patronage is not the mode of transport, but timetabling and routeing, factors easier to optimise with buses. The regular, clockfaced, seven day bus service down the Tweed Coast has over 200,000 passengers per year. I have no idea why you think the buses do not connect our population centres; as I noted above they do so much better than the train ever could . The train does not even go to the largest centre, Tweed Heads nor to Ballina which is projected to be our second largest.
        Marie is quite correct rail is best suited to cities, and the central coast of NSW, much of the Hunter and certainly the Gold Coast are all cities. Notwithstanding your endless references to traffic jams, traffic flows very freely through our region, and cars and other road transport does not impose the externalities that justify shifting large numbers of people by rail in our cities
        The corridor legislation can be changed in the future by the parliament to sell off or gift the land. That is what happened to the the Casino Bonalbo corridor, the legacy Booyong Ballina corridor, and as you note the older Gold Coast corridor, if you do not re-purpose them for a public use (interestingly though the railway bridges over Currumbin and Tallebudgera creeks were converted to footbridges and so were protected, as are short sections of the route that have been reused as a pedestrian/bicycle paths). By contrast while we have had rail trails for decades in Australia, none has been closed and sold off. The protection afforded by re-purposing public land for a public use is fact Louise, not myth.
        I am not sure what you mean by “The North Coast community will NEVER allow that to occur”. The DPC consultations undertaken so far showed there was strong community support for the rail trail, and stage two of the rail trail was funded by the community. We know there is support in Byron Shire for a rail service and we respect that the Byron Shire has been investigating that, but note too the proposal of a path along the corridor was found after consultations by Council to be of the highest priority in its cycling plan. The rail trail is supported in the Tweed and Richmond Valley by the respective councils, and by the local state and federal members. Are you suggesting that there are those who would do whatever it takes to try and block the will of communities in Tweed and Richmond Valley Shires? This country, Louise, is a democracy. The rail corridor belongs to the people of NSW, and if communities support a rail trail it is their democratic right to get what governments have promised, what they have spoken for in formal consultations and what they have voted for.

  22. Price Waterhouse Coopers is an accounting firm. They are not transport consultants and their report is completely out of date and unrealistic. The more recent two million dollar investigation by ARUP infrastructure consultants concluded that trains on the corridor would not meet the current or projected transport needs of the region. The corridor doesn’t go anywhere near where the vast majority of people in the region live nor where they need to travel. It terminates at Murwillumbah, a town with a population of about 10,000, most who travel north. A railway to the south from Murwillumbah would be virtually useless.

    “Cars off the road” is a tired platitude. There is nothing at Tyagarah. Motorists are not going to park there and wait around for an expensive train to travel the last few kilometres into Byron, dragging their possessions with them, and be stuck there without a car while ensuring they don’t miss the last train back. Tourists want to go many more places than along the corridor and prefer to use a car, either their own or one they hired where they can safely stow their belongings while they enjoy a beach or other attractions and travel anywhere at any time.

    The 14,600 cars per year that were carried by the motor rail services in the 1980s amounts to 40 cars per day which is insignificant. With the Pacific Highway almost fully upgraded, the comfort of modern cars and the low cost of air fares, even less people would be interested in having their car carried by train than ever before.

  23. What planet do these Foamers live on?
    We have good public transport. Its called a bus and its here now. Far cheaper and more flexible than this fantasy of an 19th century technology that would cost a minimum billion dollars to re-introduce to an area of low density living. Let alone the exorbitant subsidy rail needs for each trip which is funded by the taxpayers of NSW.
    The sooner we get a rail trail and can ride bikes safely between communities the better.

  24. The Arcadis – which is a Dutch urban transport consultancy — based the calculation of cost and benefits that TOOTs refers to on city transport mode share for public transport and for cycling and walking. That’s an inaccurate methodology when you realise Byron Shire has very few households without a car, very low public transport use and much higher rates of cycle and walking. But it’s also a quite inappropriate methodology when you realise that any cycling walking path will be part of a Northern Rivers Rail Trail, and that it will bring attract visitors and spending not just to the Byron Shire but to the greater region. As the business cases for stages one and two of the rail trail found positive visitor benifits from a path alone, it would be most surprising to find a path through Byron Shire would not provide even greater benifits. To be fair Arcadis lead consultant told me they recognised any further business case would need to have a more appropriate methodology for any walking and cycling path and it would likely show greater benefits.

    Byron Shire has not been able to fund its more detailed business case for a rail service, for which a source of funding would then need to be found. For only a third of the outlay it could do a business case for building the cycling and walking path, and we know the Commonwealth and NSW government is willing to fund such infrastructure. That would provide a better idea of the benifits a cycling and walking path through Byron Shire could bring to the our area and would clarify if indeed Arcadis’ suggestion that it could be built beside the rails from Mullumbimby to Bangalow is indeed correct (Arcadis was unable to suggest any way to build a path beside the rails between Billinudgel and Mullumbimby), The engineers working on the business cases of stages one and two of the rail trail found it was not economic to do so for much of the length through the other LGAs. The state government has no interest in funding rail and nor does Labor. So with serious doubts over the possibility of rail beside trail, unless TOOTs, NRRAG and Byron Shire can tell us who will fund their rail ideas, it remains an unused corridor. If no funding is forthcoming I believe most in the community would prefer to see the corridor re-purposed as a rail trail rather than sold off.

  25. Louise aptly demonstrates the delusion and muddled thinking of rail advocates who care nothing for facts, with her ridiculous claim that 85% of North Coast residents live within five minutes of the corridor. The largest population in the region is in and around Tweed Heads. The corridor goes nowhere near there nor the coastal towns in Tweed Shire. Nowhere near Ballina (much the same size as Lismore), Lennox Head or Alstonville.

    The 640X bus route from Lismore to Byron via Ballina takes eighty minutes, well short of the “nearly two hours” Louise falsely claimed. Moreover the 641X route through Bexhill, Clunes and Bangalow takes 55 minutes which is comparable to the 50 minutes taken by the XPT. The speed of the XPT was limited by the tortuous steam age alignment of the tracks, not by the train itself so a new train would be no faster unless the line was completely rerouted.

    These bus services have stops Lismore Base Hospital, Byron Hospital and Southern Cross University, the very places where the young and the elderly are more likely to need to travel. The rail corridor goes nowhere near any of these locations.

    Whatever the bus costs to run it will be a tiny fraction of the running costs of trains without even considering the hundreds of millions of dollars required to resurrect the tracks.

    The trains between the Gold Coast and Brisbane are always packed because they connect a population of three million people distributed across two of the six largest urban centres in Australia. They run at speeds up to 160 kph along a whole new line on a relatively straight modern route, not at snail’s pace on a decrepit eighteenth century anachronism running through a sparse population between small towns.

  26. Let’s put aside this nonsense about the corridor being sold off. The legislation will be based on the Tumbarumba-Rosewood legislation which unambiguously states that the corridor cannot be sold.

    ” The authorisation of the rail infrastructure owner under subclause (1) in
    relation to the disposal of the land concerned is limited to the land being
    dedicated under the Crown lands legislation as a rail trail for
    recreational use.”

    Read it for yourself here:

    In the light of this unambiguous information, any further claims by the rail advocates about the potential sale of the corridor must be considered a bare faced lie which I assert aught be subject to moderation by the editor and withheld from publication.

  27. All these claims and counter claims are dredged up every time there is any mention of the rail corridor. Nothing is going to convince TOOT that we should grasp the opportunity to have an amazing facility for the greenest and lowest impact recreational and transport activity one might imagine. Yes, with technological developments increasing battery efficiency, electric bikes or other mobility vehicles represent a very viable travel alternative between various villages in our shire, with safe passage along the rail corridor. These possibilities were distant hypotheticals when TOOT started its campaign back in 2004.

    As someone who sees this as the best use now available to us for the rail corridor, I am far from being anti public transport or anti rail. Rail is an extremely pleasant and civilised mode of transport that I use frequently in areas where it is available. And it is largely available along populated, high use routes.

    Stepping back from the situation though I’d ask everyone with a stake in this debate to consider the following question: If we were now, looking at present and projected demographics, planning a public transport rail route, would we be likely to build it between Casino and Murwillumbah? My best guess would be no – it would take into account the distribution of population and link the major population areas in the region, namely Ballina (with an airport), perhaps Byron Bay (not so much for its population but its visitation rate) Tweed Heads and ideally through to Coolangatta airport connecting with the rail network to Brisbane.

    This is how Governments must create an integrated and holistic public transport plan. If TOOT think rail is so superior to any other modes of public transport it seems a more logical move, to me, to be pushing for the construction of a whole new rail route and advocating diverting all funding of this rather than rehabilitating a route that services far less populous destinations and travel movements.

  28. There is btw an available, publicly owned strip of land running between the north and southbound lanes of the Pacific highway that would be an ideal route for a new train track. It gives ready access to the major population centres. Rather than destroy the existing rail infrastructure we should perhaps investigate the feasibility of recycling it for use for the new route.

    The old corridor could stay in public hands and be utilised for first class cycle/personal mobility vehicle infrastructure for commuting and recreation between the smaller villages. Now that’s the best of both worlds! Who was to join me for the inaugural meeting of TOONT, (Trains on a new track)?


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