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Byron Shire
December 3, 2021

Not enough passengers?

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Jillian Spring, Billinudgel

Byron Shire’s Councillor Alan Hunter’s assertion that ‘our Casino to Murwillumbah rail service’ did not have enough passengers or freight to justify it 16 years ago and that is not likely to have changed’ is totally wrong.

Just a small check on historical information/statements from MPs/ mayors/councillors, business Chambers of Commerce, business owners, and multitudes of citizens show the need for a rail service, and then consider the increased population of locals and the growing tourism industry.

With increased vehicles on the roads, this need [for rail services] is even greater, especially for connection across our massive Northern Rivers region. The disgusting assertion that subsidy fares were the main users is abhorrent – when actually country passengers cost less per person than city folk.

Our rail service was stopped only because of a very political action to ‘save’ the Labor Mini-Budget of 2004–2005; when transport minister Michael Costa stopped our train six months ahead of the promised 12 months.

The only reason our Heritage Rail (including yards) were disused was the result of allocated monies being spent elsewhere. For example, 8,000 steel sleepers along sections of our rail line were moved to the Walgett rail line, costing $315,000. And while the XPT did not carry as many passengers as the Motor Rail, it was because the timetable was changed – and the result was fewer passengers, and this was what was behind one of the so-called ‘reasons’ quoted to give credence to stopping the train service.

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  1. Like most rail advocates, Jillian is big on claims and small on evidence. I met the train several times in Murwillumbah and Lismore in the 1990s. A handful of passengers would get off. Most looked like pensioners. There is no way it lost less money than metropolitan trains that carry over a million passengers per day.

    Basing claims about usage on decades old numbers is pointless. Affordable air travel, modern comfortable cars and the M1 completely changed what trains were competing with. Less people than ever would use the train now.

    The change to the XPT was a response to changing circumstances. The timetable on a daily cycle from Sydney and back had a lot more to consider than the small number of passengers on a distant branch line. Claiming that it was changed specifically to make it less attractive for passengers up here is ridiculous paranoia.


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