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May 16, 2021

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Carole Gamble, Mullumbimby Creek

The article published in Echonetdaily ‘TOOT still fighting to save the rails’ about the ongoing efforts of a small dedicated band of people who are still working towards reinstating our railway, was fantastic.

Unfortunately their artistic banner showing a train at a new station at Tyagarah was only up at Santos for a day so I didn’t see it. Perhaps it can be hung again?

These folk have a vision for the future, a workable and affordable plan that has been accurately costed.

Of course a rail and a walking/bicycle track can co-exist, we all want the same thing – to be able to move around the area in a sustainable, enjoyable way without always having to drive.

I know that ongoing discussions have taken place; and that now would be a good time to hop on the infrastructure bandwagon.

Think of the employment possibilities for locals, and improved travel options for locals and tourists with a sustainable rail link between our wonderful small towns and the big festivals.

I can imagine a train between (initially) Mullumbimby, via a station at Tyagarah to Byron and onwards to Bangalow, and then in the future connecting Lismore to Murwillumbah.

How good would that be for us all?

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    • Yes Carol, exactly what the Northern Rivers needs, plus the rail connection to Coolangatta and on to Brisbane.
      No more stressful, tedious long drives in bumper to bumper traffic on the M1 to essential health services.

      • Never mind Louise that the Northern Rivers train line does not go near any of the hospitals or other health precincts in the area, let alone QLD. Reinstating rail would force people to make longer journeys waiting for and traveling on connecting buses to hospitals, campuses and schools away from the line. The ARCADIS report found the line only suitable for economic repair to carry very light rail, or Hirail, traveling at 40 to 50 kph. As Simon Richardson has said, its a proposal to take tourists out of Byron Bay, that might also be used by locals for local transport. It would be far to slow to be of any use for traveling beyond the Shire, and when it was presented to the NR Joint Organisation, none of the other other LGAs showed any interest in it. Why would they? The buses to QLD travel along the the M1 take just one hour form Byron Bay to Coolangatta, with very few delays; if you think that is tedious, it will take nearly as long on the proposed ARCADIS shuttle from the Bay to Mullumbimby!
        While there are funds available for infrastructure, the NSW Government is not interested in restoring the rails for public transprot that does not meet our transport needs. A lot of people like to do train trips though, and if they can find someone to fund a tourist service that locals could use it would be great. There is regional development funding readily available for infrastructure like rail trails that are likely to attract visitors and spending to regional NSW; the problem for Byron Shire is that it does not envisage its rail service to be about attracting more tourists. As neither Council nor the train lobby has come forward with any suggested likely private investor, it appears there is no one showing any immediate serious interest in restoring the rails and running a tourist/locals shuttle rail. Sadly it does appear to be a fantastic fantasy.
        ARCADIS has already found it would not be possible to have a multi use walking and community path north of Mullumbimby, and has proposed a path on the rails as a temporary arrangement. Byron Shire has not been able to fund a business case for its rail service but were it to undertake the much less expensive business case for a community path through Byron Shire – using engineers experienced in on and off formation rail trail construction – it could determine the costs, benifits and issues of an on formation and of an off formation path that, if affordable, would leave open the possibility of a future tourist rail. With very positive returns predicted for stages one and two of the rail trail, it’s difficult to imagine a path throguh the Shire would not be even more popular, bringing jobs and incomes to the Shire and the region, and it would do so without the traffic and “party” issues some other tourists bring.

      • Tedious bumper to bumper on the M1? Really?

        The only place this happens is at the Byron exit. This is due to the pathetic lack of planning by what must surely be one of the most incompetent local government councils in Australia.

    • Haha Liz, far be it for a fantasy to be dreamt into a reality … otherwise known as forward-thinking regional transport infrastructure planning in one of NSW’s most popular tourism regions.

      • Exactly Tim. The Northern Rivers region already has over six million tourists and must be the only major tourist area that is not connected by rail to an airport. With a train station in the center of so many towns, especially Byron, people don’t need cars to get around.

        The rubbish talked about a new MULTI BILLION rail line, even if a corridor was to be found at any price, is just a futile attempt to try and distract people from the plan to destroy the current line, which is the ONLY one we’ll ever have.

        Gold Coast people could have built many schools and hospitals with the BILLIONS it’s costing to replace their train line which was destroyed in the 1960s.

        Fortunately, with well over 20,000 names on petitions calling for trains so far, it’s obvious the Northern Rivers community is too smart to fall for that trick.

        The C-M line would have been gone and the land sold off long ago if the pollies thought they could get away with it.

        • The Bill to close the line to create a rail trail is now available and it gives clear lie to the suggestion that the land can be sold off. .
          The Transport Administration Amendment (Closures of Railway Lines in Northern Rivers) is a Bill :”…to amend the Transport Administration Act 1988 to authorise the closure of railway lines between Crabbes Creek and Condong and between Casino and Bentley and to retain the land in public ownership.”. In line with the concerns raised on your behalf by Tweed Mayor Katie Milne it contains provisions that the land can only be sold to a public body, including a council. A further sub clause prevents that body selling the land off or otherwise disposing of it.
          It is time to accept that no one is interested in funding a return of trains in either Richmond Valley or the Tweed, and to put the land to a public use. This Act would allow that to happen and and the eventual sell off that would occur if the land remains unused.

        • The Gold Coast Railway that closed in the 1960s was a tortuous steam age alignment like the Casino Murwillumbah line. A train driver from those days recently commented that it was a very difficult line to drive because the curves were so tight that there was a constant danger of derailment if the driver didn’t say completely focused on the task.

          The current Gold Coast railway was built on a brand new corridor with an alignment that allow trains to operate at up to 140 kph. At this speed these train are a real alternative to cars and is very well patronised. It doesn’t run between suburban houses, require dozen of level crossings the old line needed or cut off suburbs from each other.

          The Queensland government did the right thing all those years ago by closing the railway. It is just pity that they didn’t keep the corridors as trails. All that survived were a few bridges that were redeployed as pedestrian bridges. Just imagine how good it would have been to have a shared path through the middle of the Gold Coast where people could walk or cycle without fear of being knocked down by cars. That would have taken a lot of cars off the road.

  1. Sorry, Tim, I genuinely couldn’t decide whether you were being ironic or not. ‘Forward-thinking regional transport’ would look at where the population densities are and the most vital and travelled destinations. This is not the Casino to Murwillumbah route any longer. By all means fight for trains, but a rail system that actually does reflect some forward planning. I can’t see the point in pouring money into an old system for the sake of nostalgia, I can for an efficient new route that might connect Ballina, coastal Byron Shire, Tweed Heads and Coolangatta.

  2. For me, connecting through to Tweed Heads and the Coolangatta International Airport, linking the population density of the Gold Coast with the Byron / Lismore region would be a clear priority.

    • Any connection from Coolangatta starts with a seven kilometre tunnel under Tweed Heads because the social and resumption costs of putting a new railway through suburbia would be prohibitive. That tunnel has been costed at one billion dollars.

      Continuing south the same distance as Murwillumbah but along the M1 would come within eight kilometres of Yelgun where Tweed Valley Way, the corridor and the M1 converge. This route would save having to reconstruct 26 kilometres of the most decrepit section of the old corridor including the passage through the Burringbar Range.

      Trains will not ever be returning to the Murwillumah to Crabbes Creek section of the corridor under any circumstances. Lets get on with building the first stage of what will become one of the most popular rail trails in the world.

  3. Yes, Tim that is clearly the priority as is a Ballina Connection. Better to concentrate on this than plough money into restoring the service into the hinterland. Because this area is less in demand its roads don’t have the same issues with traffic congestion and are more practically serviced by buses – preferably electric.

    It’s not viable to demand the lot, suggesting that the ‘add-ons’ to Ballina, Tweed and Queensland (which give any semblance of credibility) are just minor peripheral funding issues.

    Leave the beautiful hinterland to be explored by a world class walk and cycle track. It would open up opportunities for travel around the area over several days of cycling, creating employment opportunities away from the congested coast to accommodate and feed the visitors and make healthy green local commuting achievable between smaller communities.

    • Coolangatta airport is already connected to Byron by a commercially operated bus service which charges $15 for adults and $2 for children. It takes less time than the train used to take from Byron to Murwillumbah.

      They have recently begun a similar service connecting to Ballina.

      There is no current need for a train on this route any more than there is need for a train to Lismore but it is the only chance even in the distant future. The M1 could have easily had a rail corridor included when it was constructed but the rail advocates were too busy chasing their futile dream to resurrect a steam age anachronism..


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