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Byron Shire
December 1, 2021

Bikes not cars, Tamara

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Where do candidates stand on disused railways and pay parking? Are they to the left of Chairman Mao Zedong, or the right of Genghis Khan?

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores

In the Echonetdaily articles (Part 1, Prat 2), MP for Ballina, Tamara Smith, says she sees her job as primarily about helping people and working with the community to stop things that are harming the environment. Sentiments we hope all our MPs would adhere to.

After years of record temperatures, drought, followed by the most catastrophic bushfires in recorded history, the increasingly extreme weather events scientists have been warning about for decades, are upon us. There’s little time left to reduce our emissions and stop the destruction of climate change. We know that road transport is one of the biggest contributors to those emissions.

But one of the most contentious local issues, the long battle by so many locals to stop the state government’s plan to destroy the Casino to Murwillumbah (C-M) rail line, worth billions, which has the capacity to take thousands, if not millions of cars off the roads and reduce emissions, to replace it with an expensive bike track, doesn’t deserve a single, solitary mention from the Greens MP for Ballina.

In one of the busiest, over-promoted tourist areas in the country, it’s planned to spend $78m to upgrade the M1 exit into Byron to mitigate the dangerous traffic congestion banking up on the highway. That’s on top of the $5.7m for the roundabout on Ewingsdale Road and $24m for the bypass, which bypasses the train station in the centre of town. That’s a total of $107.7m just to try and keep the traffic moving on six kilometres of road. Add the $100m plus to destroy the train line and build the bike track, and another $100m for the cost of the mostly empty coaches that replaced the train makes a total of $307.7m for no trains. We know from the cost of restoring three kilometres of line in Byron for the solar train, that $307.7m would restore most of the 132kms of C-M line for an accessible to all, sustainable, cost effective train service.

Taking action on climate change, reducing emissions, public transport, protecting the environment, and social justice are supposed to be the Greens strongest policy areas. For the local Green MP to think the years of hard work by so many locals, spending their own money to save the C-M line and get trains running, reduce traffic and emissions, is not worth one word in so many thousands, leaves many stunned.

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  1. Can I ask how many passengers per hour can the old steam age alignment Northern Rivers railway train system carry ?

    Can I ask how many Rail motors are required for say 15 minute trains during peak times for the thousands of workers who would normally drive ?

    Can I ask how do passengers firstly get to the station and secondly transport at the other end ?

    Will the Community Transport funding be used for ferrying the mobility impaired or elderly to the train station and then require another Community Transport at the other end ?

    Now who would prefer solar powered electric shuttle buses running past your homes and delivering you at your work place or shopping destination?

    • Shuttle buses stuck in the congested traffic for hours on the M1 and Ewingsdale Road where we’ve already spent over $30m to try and keep the traffic moving, and another $78m about to be spent,-everyone’s really looking forward to them!!

      For those who are obviously unable to do the most basic research, the Sydney to Central Coast/Newcastle train line is one of the oldest in the country and still mostly follows the original alignment, which winds up around sandstone cliffs and Hawkesbury River. North Coast people would get to the station the same way people on the Central Coast (and pay about $60.00 a week to travel to Sydney and return daily) have always done. Try telling them they need to swap their affordable, accessible, regular, airconditioned train services for a bike track!!

      Before anyone says we don’t have the population for such a service-we have a fast growing population and one of the busiest tourist regions in the country.

      • A yes the slow and unreliable Sydney to Newcastle line that keeps most commuters in their cars – “ THE infamously slow and unreliable two-and-a-half hour train ride from Newcastle to Sydney has been getting worse since 2011, and transport authorities don’t know how to fix it.

        That’s according to a new report by Auditor-General Margaret Crawford on passenger rail punctuality in NSW that found the Newcastle and Central Coast inter-city train line is failing to meet targets set by the state government.”

        Louise our government spend billions on making roads faster but you keep fighting wanting a faster railway network? Why is this so , do you prefer romantic slow trains for non time dependant persons ?
        I question why keep pushing the old meandering steam age alignment Northern Rivers line when we have Tweed Shire Council transport strategy document dated 2011 preferring a heavy rail line following the M1 corridor with interchange stations at all the highway off ramps .
        16 years of fighting to keep a 140 year designed railway route , a bit silly if you ask me .

        • If people spent more time doing some simple research and less writing unsubstantiated rubbish, or had ever used the packed trains, they would know that even on the old rail alignment, and after all the billions spent upgrading highways, at the behest of Lindsay Fox et al so they can save millions on fuel, travel from Newcastle or Central Coast to Sydney is much faster by train than road. Just as it was on the slow XPT. Eleven minutes from Byron to Mullum-can’t get there in that time by road.

          Spending an hour in traffic to drive six kilometers into Byron-wow really, really love that. Talk about paradise lost, or more accurately, destroyed.

          All our children and grandchildren will pay a very high price for our inaction and government corruption

          • The billions spent on upgrading the highway were at the behest of a Coronial inquest into the 1989 fatal bus crashes near Grafton. The primary finding was that a four lane divided carriageway needed to be built all the way from Sydney to the Queensland border. This project has almost been completed, saving countless thousands of lives that would have otherwise been lost in tragic motor vehicle accidents.

            And yes it has saved millions in fuel costs for everyone using it, along with vast associated emissions. It improved the safety, pollution levels and livability of dozens of towns that no longer had to endure tens of thousand of vehicles running through them every day.

            Many more people choose to travel on the M1 by coach than use the train on the North Coast line because it is much faster and the terminal is located right in town rather than wherever the railway happened to be able to be built like Wauchope having a station rather than the much more important centre of Port Macquarie.

            Having a railway into Byron would make no difference to the vast majority of people and only trivially affect the number of cars on Ewingsdale Road. Byron’s traffic problems are due to not making timely investments in upgrading.the roads for the projected traffic levels.

            If you have evidence of government corruption being involved then do not hesitate to submit a complaint to the NSW ICAC. Otherwise stop making unsubstantiated allegations. The decision about not reconstructing the C-M line was made based on an extensive independent investigation that found rail services provided at hideous cost on the old corridor could not make a significant contribution to either the current or projected public transport needs of this region.

            Hardly surprising when you realise that it doesn’t go near the vast majorly of people in the region, especially those with the largest proportion of elderly and those who don’t own cars. It connects a handful of small towns to Lismore. It terminates at Murwillumbah, a town with a population of less then 10,000, most who travel to the north for work. A railway running south from Murwillumbah would be virtually useless.

            The buses already servicing the route along the corridor usually run with very few passengers, sometimes none at all. It is utterly ridiculous to claim that railway services are needed.

      • The “steam age alignment” line is such a myth. If you look at timetables from around closure you’ll see that travel times by train were very similar to if not faster than today’s road equivalent. Upgrades to bridges would mean the travel times are even faster. Alignment is a non-issue.

        • The C-M corridor is a steam age alignment. Even if the bridges were replaced, the speed would still be limited by the radius of the curves. Many have a radius of less than 400 metes limiting speeds to 60 kph. Some are as tight as 250 metres. A modern railway designed for speeds of at least 120 kph has curves with a radius exceeding a kilometre.

          People will only use trains if they take them from where they live to where they need to travel, when they need to travel, at speeds at least comparable to using a car. The C-M corridor is not capable of achieving this. It would only service a tiny fraction of the regional population who lived near and needed to travel to places near stations on the corridor.

      • Lismore is forty-ninth among the largest population centres in Australia. It has the second slowest growing population among the top fifty. Meanwhile, Ballina is growing at ten times the rate of Lismore and is set to overtake Lismore’s population very soon.

        The population growth is happening along the coast where far more people want to live. The C-M line was built 125 years ago for the needs of the era. It runs through some of the slowest growing areas in the region.

        The government is investing in railways in the region between Newcastle and Woolongong where eighty percent of the NSW population lives. They are not going to spend billions of dollars for a railway that would barely service one percent of the population even if it connected places they needed to travel on a daily basis, which it doesn’t.

  2. Excellent article Louise.
    And agree completely.
    Some far fetched scenario type questions by Geoff Bennsley miss the point imho.
    Sorry Geoff. But respect your concern.
    Back in the early 1990’s I’d watch the tourists and backpackers exiting the Byron Station.
    To a person they would have huge smiles, positive energy and tingling anticipation.
    Much of this came from the method of travel, and the topography.
    That was magnified hugely by anyone travelling on to Murwillumbah, where the scenery is/was superb and is now gone forever to a highly specialized, small by number, future use. Soooooo shortsighted !
    Sadly, very sadly, the climate-emissions factor seems to be invisible in Sydney, and indeed in Northern Rivers Local ‘governments’. And to make matters much worse, now we have Ballina Airport..soon to be growing in flight numbers exponentially, adding massive air quality problems and carbon pollution on all residents.
    Yeah…Buses and planes, vs energy efficient low pollutant train-rail transport. ?
    More than sad.
    And my grand children will be paying for such reckless expediency.
    Keep firing those factual salvos Louise.

    • Oh the anecdotes about happy smiles of people exiting the railway station and the completely unsubstantiated claim that it was due to “the method of travel and the topography”. Does anyone really think this is more valuable as a basis for decisions about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a railway than a professional study which found that resurrecting the old railway services would be a poor investment?

      More likely the smiles were about finally reaching their destination after spending fourteen hours stuck on a slow train. Like it or not, low cost air travel taking ninety minutes from Sydney or the comfort of modern cars travelling uninterrupted at 110 kph on the M1 has become the choice of the vast majority. Unless you want to instate a Soviet gulag style of government this situation will continue for the foreseeable future.

      Many more people will use the rail trail than were using the train when it was discontinued. I met the XPT several times in Murwillumbah in the 90s to see a handful of passengers disembark. A massive diesel engine dragging what is effectively a row of buildings is not an efficient technology with so few passengers.

      Trains are only a low emission technology when they carry very large numbers of passengers. This would not be the case with the C-M line. Buses travelling on roads they share with the rest of the traffic are at least as efficient as trains on average. Electric buses with a range of 450 km are already commercially available and the technology continues to rapidly improve. (Please spare telling us about the Byron train which is nothing more than a 1940s technology rail motor where one of the diesel engines has been replaced with a battery.)


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