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Byron Shire
January 18, 2022

Byron, stop stalling on the rail trail

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Marie Lawton, Byron Bay 

Thank you to the wonderful history of our rail corridor debate by David Lisle. David summarised events over the past seven years perfectly.

The rail trail project has continued to gain momentum each year, but unfortunately the Byron Shire has refused to acknowledge the benefits of a stand-alone rail trail and persists in pursuing a fairy tale dream of having a tourist train and a rail trail. This, in spite of the fact that no funding is forthcoming. The Tweed Council has started clearing the line from Crabbes Creek to Murwillumbah, Richmond Valley Council has had its Master Plan approved and Lismore Council are meeting to discuss grant funding options.

Of course the rail trail will need Byron to come on board to make it a world class rail trail. Their standard line, ‘the community want a train’, just doesn’t stack up. Most people like trains, but in the event that no train is forthcoming, surely the rail trail is a better option than nothing! If perfection is not possible, a compromise must be considered. After speaking with hundreds of market goers in Bangalow over the last few months, we saw no evidence that people wanted a train or nothing. Ninety-nine per cent appeared to be frustrated by the fact that we still don’t have a rail trail! Most people also agreed that the train was not going to come back on the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor.

Come on Byron, stop stalling!

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  1. You realise the Byron Shire plan is not about a tourist train, right? It’s about a more innovative use of the potential presented in the rail corridor. The rail trail will still be built alongside it, you’ve got no reason to be opposed to it. BSC are interested in using the tracks for more useful means, such as hi-rail buses and smaller rail vehicles as part of an innovative, multi-modal solution which not only moves tourists but also becomes an attraction in its own right. The rail trail will still be built. Your touted benefits of a rail trail will still come about, and they will be enhanced in being complimented. Nobody is “stalling the rail trail project”.

    You misrepresent BSC’s plan while spruiking David Lisle’s article which was hopelessly biased and outright inaccurate in a number of areas. The fact “no government train is forthcoming” is the reason the multi-use plan exists in the first place. Multi-use is about preserving the tracks and using them to create a multi-modal solution that mutually compliments a rail trail. It’s really not that difficult to understand. You misrepresent and warp the situation to suit your own agenda, thus manufacturing issues that simply do not exist. I urge you to read over the proposal and familiarise yourself with it before spouting such misrepresentations. Maybe read the independent report that found BSC’s hi-rail multi-use plan to be more viable to a stand-alone rail trail…

    I can’t see why you and your other rail trail group leaders are so opposed to this. You completely misrepresent Byron’s plan in your letter and your blind aggression to this innovative and positive plan is very odd. I would think the rail trail group would be working with BSC to help achieve this in the fastest way possible given it complements your own project and would be wonderful for the community, yet clearly the rail trail group react with hostility to anything that doesn’t fit their own narrow-minded views!
    How counter-productive and immature.

    I would call on the rail trail group to stop stalling innovation and god forbid a better option than just a rail trail! BSC have investigated their multi-use plan, found it to be a positive project that enhances a rail trail plan, and are moving forward with it, yet now the rail trail group are kicking and screaming because apparently it’s their way or the highway!
    Multi-use could be wonderful and perfectly suits Byron Shire. The rail trail group’s incessant and misguided opposition to the community having a better option is incredibly disappointing.

    I’d speculate their immature opposition to multi-use and childish stalling tactics has only one reason – it threatens their exclusive claim to control of the rail corridor.

    Hate to play devils advocate, but I wonder what vested interests the rail trail group leaders have. Their constant misrepresentation of the debate and aggression to anything other than their own idea, paired with these ill-informed and misguided articles doesn’t look too flash.

  2. Byron Shire has only ever taken a very superficial investigation of the MURC . ARCADIS’ lead consultant told me that a more detailed assessment of the feasibility of either of the rail and path components was necessary, and you would of course expect Byron Council was told the same thing. The assessment of infrastructure was so limited ARCADIS did not even know how many bridges there were between Mullum and the Bay. Contrary to what you suggest, the ARCADIS report proposed the rail component would be funded by the NSW Government, but Transport for NSW told Byron Shire’s transport strategy consultants the Government will not fund its train The advice of those consultants was that the transport needs of the Shire were better served with better buses, and they did envisage in the strategy a transport role for the train over the ten year period it covers. The wish to reactivate the corridor was noted but no “strategic partner’ was identified , nor has Council come forward with any since then. The path along the corridor was found to be a Priority A in the Shire Bike Plan, in part because it was likely to attract regional development funding and would not be at the expense of other cycle infrastructure. Meanwhile , and in Tweed and Richmond Valley shires they are clearing the corridor and have funding for their paths along the now closed rail corridor.
    In spite of all that, Byron Council has ignored the component much more likely to attract funding – a walking and cycling path – and has pushed on with investigating the possibility of a what we now know would only be a privately operated tourist focused train, that to be fair some locals might use.
    In respect of your last comment, in which you claim to “…wonder what vested interests the rail trail group leaders have”. You did not insert any question mark and as such it is a rhetorical statement alleging people are putting personal interest over public interest. Such allegations are too frequently made by rail supporters, including most recently Basil Cameron. It is very poor conduct in this matter to make allegations of vested interests by the rail trail group, when you have no evidence to support your allegations. The truth is always a defence against libel, so to put it bluntly , if you know something say what it is – put up or shut up.

  3. Absolutely right Wayne.

    But this is not a debate about rail trails, it’s about the necessity of train services on the C-M line; its about the need to use the valuable C-M line for the maximum benefit to all. It’s not cyclists who are wasting untold millions of taxpayers’ money destroying the line and any chance of the North Coast having the train services needed for decades. They’re just being used by dishonest politicians to distract attention from their criminal destruction of public infrastructure.

    As then Ballina MP Don Page (NAT) said about the closure of rail services in 2004 ” It is short sighted because the far north coast is a rapidly growing area. In future we will need more, not fewer trains. We will need more commuter services and tourists trains; we will need to connect into the Queensland system. The removal of the services by the (ALP) government will mean that the line will fall into disrepair. That in turn, will mean those opportunities will be lost to us”. That was correct then and commuter train services are needed now more than ever.

    The LNP promised for many years to provide the commuter service on the C-M line and a rail connection to the Gold Coast, then backtracked when they knew they’d get away with it.

    Most Byron Shire councillors can see the need for socially, environmentally and cost effective train services to reduce traffic gridlock and emissions, reduce spending on building and maintaining roads, and reducing deaths and serious injuries on the roads. Thank goodness the Byron section of line is safe and the community is determined to keep it safe.

    The focus needs to be on dodgy politicians who must be held accountable for this criminal destruction of valuable public infrastructure which they know is ” central to our future”.

    The community has managed to see off dishonest National Party politicians in Lismore and Ballina who campaigned to spend untold millions of taxpayers’ money to destroy the line for a bike track. Tweed MP Geoff Provest must also be held accountable for his part in this betrayal of the community.

    • Lousie

      There is no C-M line. The rail corridor belongs to the people of NSW and the NSW Government closed to parts of the former C -M line with the support of the overwhelming majority of MPs, including all the MLAs representing the relevant electorates. Politicians are accountable and their judgement was that the electorate did not want nearly a billion dollars diverted form major road projects like the Pacific Motorway to restore rail. The 15% result of Northern Rivers Railway Action Group spokesperson Bill Fenelon in Tweed Electorate suggests the Government’s judgement on people’s transport priorities – roads not rail – was correct.

      Reading your comments and references to “dishonest” and “dodgy” politicians it is not hard to see why NRRAG and TOOTs have not been successful lobbying for rail . Even the Greens found some of NRRAG’s public comments when the closure of the line was imminent to be “unacceptable” and “disgusting”. But beyond that the arguments lack substance. As the Legislative Inquiry was told back in 2004, there is no evidence that a rail service would be viable or lead to a reduction in pollution or traffic.

      There remains a Bentley to Crabbes Creek rail line. There is no proposal to put a rail service through Lismore, but there is a costed proposal and design for a for a rail trial which has a sound business case . Byron Shire would like a shuttle rail but its independent consultants for the Integrated Transport Strategy has told it improving buses would be a better strategy – the same advice the Legislative Council Inquiry was given but ignored, and the same advice Arup gave. Transport for NSW has told it , the Government will not fund a shuttle rail, and it has no other source of funding.

      There is not going to be a rail service. Rail supporters need to decide if they want the corridor to be sold off or gifted to private hands or remain in public ownership, by opening to the public to enjoy.


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