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January 28, 2021

Works begins on Northern Rivers Rail Trail

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Some will be overjoyed and others will see red as Tweed Council announces today that vegetation clearing along the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek rail corridor is due to start next Monday (11 January 2021).

Council says the final funds needed to design and build the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail have been secured.

NSW Treasury signed a deed providing $7.8 million towards the Tweed section of the rail trail on 17 December 2020, returning it to Tweed Shire Council just before Christmas.

With the Australian Government executing a funding deed for $6.5 million in 2018 under its Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Package Fund, Council now has $14.3 million to complete the Tweed section of the rail trail. It also has secured a further $600,000 from the NSW Government to cover the cost of promoting, operating and embellishing the Tweed section for the first three years.

Execution of the NSW deed

Execution of the NSW deed paves the way for Council to complete the competitive tender process to award a design and construct contract for the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek section this year.

The vegetation clearing along and near the railway line, starting at Wooyung Road near Crabbes Creek and working north to the Murwillumbah Railway Station, will allow the four preferred construction companies to access and inspect the rail infrastructure to prepare their design and costings for the proposed rail trail.

A small six-tonne excavator with a mulcher / flail mowing head will be used to clear the weeds and vegetation, working from 7am to 5pm Monday to Saturday for about four weeks. Some weed-spraying work will follow across the same cleared area.

Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek formally closed in October 2020

The Northern NSW Branch Line from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek was formally closed on 15 October 2020 when legislation passed its second reading in the NSW Upper House.

‘With the line now formally closed and all the funds we need to get the rail trail designed and built secured, we can deliver this exciting new tourism infrastructure project for the benefit of the community,’ Council Rail Trail Project Manager Iain Lonsdale said.

‘The rail corridor has remained in the ownership of Transport for NSW, which was important to our elected Councillors who wanted to preserve public ownership of the corridor in case it was needed in the future for a public transport option.’

Mr Lonsdale said Council would hold its first design workshop with its four shortlisted construction companies on Thursday 21 January.

Community information sessions in February

It also is planning some information sessions for the community to be held around February.

‘By working closely with all prospective tenderers, we expect to achieve a selection of competitive designs that meet the expectations of the community and the needs of the adjoining landowners.’

‘We are also pleased that Richmond Valley Council has the grant funding it needs to build its section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail and Lismore City Council is actively seeking grant funding for its section.’

For more information on the rail trail, visit: www.yoursaytweed.com.au/RailTrail.


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55 COMMENTS

  1. Overjoyed – buying a pair of walking boots , tying up the laces on my running shoes and pumping up the tyres on my bike . What a joyous day waiting for this exciting infrastructure project to become a reality.

  2. I believe this is a great initiative for the local area and will be a big positive for local villages with more tourists stopping to visit or stay. It’s a great way to see the local natural sights.

  3. An absolute disgrace. The tracks will never be relaid and the trains needed will never come back. A short-sighted move that will be deeply regretted in a decade or so. I’m not against rail trails, but beside the track was the only way this project should have moved forward in this busy, tourist-filled Northern Rivers region. I hope the cyclists enjoy it, most people will use it once and forget about it. A deep shame rail infrastructure will be permanently removed!

  4. Great news of course, for rail trail walkers and cyclists.

    Sad news for train wishers, until they see that any future potential public transport use on our corridor, is secured by the rail trail, simply because the corridor will have been kept safely in public ownership until such a time.

    In the meantime, the rail trail will be of enormous benefit to our region.
    If you love this place, wait until you see it through our corridor’s meandering wonderland..

  5. Fantastic news that the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is starting! We live in Grafton and travelled to Tumbarumba to ride NSW first Rail Trail from Tumbarumba to Rosewood and haven ridden on many other Rail Trails in Qld and Victoria. We have a holiday house on the Tweed Coast and have had many rides between Pottsville and Fingal Head and look forward to riding the Murwillumbah section of the Rail Trail through beautiful countryside visiting coffee shops and galleries and supporting the little villages on the way. We can’t wait to ride our very own Northern Rivers Rail Trail!!! 👏

    • Would much prefer my rates going to bringing back the train like all countries worldwide have rail services….Loved travelling on the train to and from Sydney….I’m too old to ride a bike on a trail as are many ratepayers….very backward by Tweed Council

      • Repairing the track and operating rail services is far beyond the financial resources of our local council.

        I certainly would not want my rates paid to Tweed to be used like Gympie Council where ratepayers have already contributed $10 million dollars to a tourist railway and continue to subsidise every fare. The project still loses hundreds of thousands of dollars every year and is being underwritten by the ratepayers in an unconditional commitment by the council to keep supporting it for another two years.

  6. Fantastic news. The project has taken many years to get to this point and will be an incredibly important piece of infrastructure for both locals and tourists. Murwillumbah has a fabulous opportunity to become synonymous with the trail.

    It also represents an opportunity missed for the people of the northern villages in Byron Shire. Four years ago Tweed Council offered to include the section between Crabbes Creek and Billinudgel in the Tweed project. This would have connected with the existing cycle ways in New Brighton, and South Golden Beach right through to Brunswick Heads. A cycle way that passes under the M1 actually crosses the railway corridor in Billinudgel and goes right to the beach. Tweed recognised how much this connection would have enhanced the trail experience compared to ending in the middle of nowhere at Crabbes Creek.

    Byron Council declined to even discuss the proposal with Tweed. Instead they have spent nearly $300,000 on a “dual use” study that has proven to be a fairy tale and committed another $200,000 to the same company to assess the condition of “a sample” of seven of the twenty-something decaying wooden bridges buried under thick vegetation on the track to Mullumbimby. Sadly even this wildly optimistic study did not consider it practical using the line beyond Billinudgel so they might as well have joined in Tweed’s proposal.

    Byron Council plans to relieve congestion on Ewingsdale Road by running miniature trams between Mullumbimby and Byron after replacing one in every twenty of the old sleepers. Seriously. And they hove no idea where the money to do this is to come from. This folly could easily cost Byron ratepayers several million dollars before the reality bites.

    With a fraction of what they have already spent on this pipe dream, they could have built the business case for the Byron section of the trail. Next week they too could have been starting on their section of what would have become the Murwillumbah – Bangalow Rail Trail by the end of next year.

    The people of Byron have just one chance in September to change the council. Otherwise, in 2025 they will be asking why there is still no railway, no trail and no money for anything else. I would be very worried if I were a Byron ratepayer.

  7. Yay! Let’s start clearing from Billy to Crabbes Ck. Cyclists can then use the back roads and existing cycle tracks into Brunz. Then it’s a great ride along the beach into Byron.

    • A norther alternative would be to ride north along the beach from South Golden Beach to Black Rocks (south of Pottsville) then along the cycle lane on Overall Drive on the western side of Mooball Creek through to Pottsville. From there the Tweed Coast Path leads can take you all the way to Fingal.

      We just need a path north from Murwillumbah to Chinderah to complete the loop.

  8. Really good news! It’s a pity the people against it can’t see the benefits. Public transport will be different in the future and won’t need the old railway line, so it’s the best use for the corridor.

  9. Wonderful news. Elsewhere rail trails have been extremely beneficial, this one will prove to be also. As e bikes become more in use, the appeal crosses many demographics. Well done to the movers and shakers!

  10. That’s fabulous news. Congratulations to all those who have toiled long & hard to make this a reality. Rail trails have proved successful in other areas in Australia, New Zealand & around the world. This will provide an enormous boost for the beautiful Northern Rivers area. I can’t wait. 🙂

  11. This is a welcome development. Rail trails have been an important contributor to local economies in other parts of Australia and the world. Not just for retail (coffee shops etc.) but also for many other businesses that are used in the construction phase and then in maintenance. It is a good move to keep the corridor in public hands as who knows what public transport options might arise in the future. I do feel for those who yearned for the return of trains. There are strong arguments in favour but the economic imperatives have had the upper hand.

  12. Bill is right. The tracks will never be relaid and the trains will never come back. As much as people like to see trains they vote with their feet and drive everywhere. The same thing has happened in so many in so many places around the world. I live next to a rail trail laid beside the rail line (Toronto to Fassifern) and it hasn’t worked. Walkers and cyclist have to climb the hills while trees grow between the tracks in the cuttings. The train will not come back!
    Looking forward to the day when I can ride on this t rail rail.

  13. Excellent news. I look forward to bringing family and friends to experience the completed trail and enjoy coffees, meals and hospitality along the way.

  14. Fantastic news, so much better to have an attractive public facility bringing people and jobs to the area than a neglected, abandoned railway rotting away.

  15. At long last, hooray! Hopefully the enthusiasm being displayed by three out of the four of regional councils, combined with the momentum of this excellent project moving into action on the ground will result in some positive noises emanating from the hallowed chambers of Byron Shire Council as well.
    We enjoy the BVRT, but the drive to get there and back from the GC is a bit of a drag. Very much looking forwards to making the short trip south and the NRRT ride a regular thing.

  16. Great news! I live on the Gold Coast and can’t wait to have access to a regular ride along the rail trail. In one ride you wouldn’t see it all!

  17. So happy it is starting at last. Can’t wait to be involved with this great project. Am also so looking forward to walking &/or cycling this trail. I have so many friends down South that can’t wait to come & spend some time on our trail & enjoy our valley.

    • Save the money from ripping up the tracks, and simply fill the space between the rails to form a cycle track. Keep the rails a little clear, and you can also send rail bikes (google it!) and rail carts (e.g. the Forgotten World railway and Rotorua Rail Cruising in NZ). Extra use, less expense = win, win!

      • The tracks are 142 cm apart. A trail needs to be two and a half to three metres wide and not have a dangerous drop off onto sleepers and gravel at the edge.

        Rail riders use short sections of track of just a few kilometres and cost about $60 per person for an hour because of the specialised equipment required. On a single track they cannot pass nor overtake so can only run with a schedule for each direction and a lot of waiting. Unlike on a bicycle where the surrounding roads can be easily explored, a rail rider is limited to just the tracks.

        I have long acknowledged that rail rider could be operated at Burringbar where the trail runs along the side of the main street for about three kilometres and there is plenty of width to build the trail next to the line, or even put in a second track to allow simultaneous bidirectional operation. I have actually discussed the idea at some length with the owner of Rail Explorers but he seemed to lose interest.

    • Rail advocates always claim to have the backing of “the community” and portray anyone who supports the trail as a lesser being. I have been called “a pure evil excuse for a human” not to mention far more offensive names”.

      Fact is that those in the community who are aware of trail project are overwhelmingly enthusiastic as can be seen in the responses to this article. It is still below the horizon for most people but support is growing rapidly as people become aware and especially now the construction phase has begun..

  18. Something sub-standard is going to be built when funding is only $14.3 million.
    To take a squad of about 20 cyclists racing at about 30 kilometres per hour it will need something solid that will carry a train.
    About $50 million needs to be spent for it to be safe.
    Oh, that’s right they will expect cyclists to ride at walking speed at 4 kilpometres per hour.
    When you build a dedicated piece of infrastructire for cyclists all young cyclists want to do is RACE on it.

    • Pedestrians and cyclists have managed to coexist quite happily at rail trails all around the world.

      Unlike Jake’s $50 million figure plucked out of the air, the cost of building the trail has been arrived at by the professional road building engineers at Tweed Shire Council.

  19. Best news I’ve heard all year:) Congratulations NRRT and Council! We’re all looking forward to heading your way when she opens…wallets and wheels included.

  20. Politicians never listen do they? They just do what they want to do.
    A train was going to be put back at $7 million per kilometre.
    Now we have a bike track of 24 kilometres for $14.3 million.
    Let us say only $3 million per kilometre for a bike track.
    Over 24 kilometres that is $72 million.
    The funding of $14.3 mill;ion is a bit short isn’t it?

    • Unlike the $3 million per kilometre figure Emily simply plucked out of the air, the trail construction costs have been carefully calculated by Tweed Shire Council engineers. I have no doubt whatsoever about their competence to do this. Just compare the state of the roads in Tweed Shire with those in the surrounding NSW local government areas. Tweed will build a very well engineered trail at the cost they projected.

      Rail advocates always inflate the trail costs while grossly underestimating the huge expenditures involved in resurrecting the decrepit railway and its ongoing operation.

  21. Fantastic that the disused rail corridor will be reopened to a public use, helping retain the corridor in public ownership. This will be good for jobs and business in the Tweed.

    Building a path along the rail corridor was identified by the Lismore community as a priority in the recreational plan for Lismore City, and it has been included the path as a priority for grant funding, which we are hopeful might be forthcoming. The Byron Shire community consultations too identified a path on the corridor as a Priority A in the its Bike Plan. As Tweed Shire shows, Byron Shire would be likely to attract government funding to clear the corridor, and develop a business plan and design for a path along the corridor.

    Even Ballina Council are enthusiastic about a Northern Rivers Rail Trail, as it fits with other walking and cycling aspects of its Destination Management Plan. Ballina has considered possible linkages to the rail trail on road corridors, it has identified businesses likely to support rail trail users, and recently considered seeking funding with Richmond Valley to promote the former Pacific Highway from Woodburn to a rail trail Bangalow as a cycle touring destination (the Byron Shire part is also included in its Bike Plan).

    Our region is well placed to become a heartland of walking and cycle touring. Let’s encourage our councilors to make that happen, by prioritising the implementation of their PAMP and Bike Plans, including a walking and cycling path along the rail corridor.

  22. I’m so glad to be living in Murwillumbah so I’ll have one end to ride and that cuts out the burringbar range. Still wondering when Byron will be on side? If ever….

  23. The excavator works six days a week for four weeks just to clear vegetation. That is 24 days.
    Half the funds have gone already.
    Read this:
    “A small six-tonne excavator with a mulcher / flail mowing head will be used to clear the weeds and vegetation, working from 7am to 5pm Monday to Saturday for about four weeks. Some weed-spraying work will follow across the same cleared area.”

    • You know if the six tonne excavator/mukcher/flail head trundled along the track towing a trailer, its a tenth the weight of a train, because vegetation clearing will be ongoing, its infrastructure for maintenance, backfill between the tracks at the same time so walkers and off road bikes can follow, and link into the surrounding network of lanes, there is still time to design a multiuser reuse of what is still there

      • Reading the comments sounds like every ever supporter of the bike track has done their bit to congratulate such a short-sighted outcome. Although work is needed owing to neglect, railway infrastructure is already in place. The Northern Rivers has a massive tourist presence who would use a rail system as a novel and exciting means of exploring our townships. Locals from Mullum at least, could leave their cars behind and actually enjoy a trip without crawling along in interminable traffic jams to Byron. We urgently need a viable means to reduce the traffic chaos that is already choking the area. The apparent success of the solar-powered trains from Elements at Byron into the township speaks volumes and has won ninternational acclaim. Restore the trains and watch them and the people thrive.

    • Maths is not Johnny’s forte. Half the funds would be $7.15 million which he says would be spent on 240 hours with a small excavator. That would be nearly $30,000 per hour.

      No wonder rail advocates have such a hard time working out what is economically plausible.

  24. Here is something no one knew:
    “The Northern NSW Branch Line from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek was formally closed on 15 October 2020 when legislation passed its second reading in the NSW Upper House.”

    The trains will now stop travelling on the railway line from Casino to Murwillumbah.
    All those people who have been catching the train since 2004 will now have to find alternate travel arrangements.

    • The service was suspended in 2004. The rail line cannot be removed to enable the rail trail to be built without being closed by an act of parliament. That’s now done so er can start building the rail trail.

      Woo hoo!

  25. Marvelous news, come on BSC, swallow your pride and do something for the north of the shire by facilitating a Billi to Crabbes rail trail section.

  26. So happy to see this finally getting started the town of Murwillumbah will benefit with the redevelopment of the south of the town . In the the years to come it will become the arts and adventure destination for people to visit.

  27. Terrific to see this project finally happening. Great team work between the Tweed Shire Council and Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc in bringing the dream to fruition!
    Casino to Bentley is ready to go as well and funding will hopefully be achieved for the Bentley to Eltham/Booyong section. Lismore Council has identified its section of this rail trail as a priority for funding applications. Let’s make it happen this year!

  28. ..pity to see our area & others lose freight transport potential as the roads through our area & some others can’t handle the increased freight usage & this will cause long term geological sub strata environmental damage when it could have been avoided by uutilising the line for freight.our area has volcanic layer problems & above average geological shifts.
    still, i’d rather die than let that much land wealth fall into private ownership after what australia suffered with privatisation generally since the 90s so i supported this idea as it still leaves some potential for future rail freight development as it leaves the rail lands intact..in our area, lismore, the arterials are already overburdened with freight & the workload on road repair & upgrade to cope with it has been substantial..poor working class bear the weight of another minorly practical dickhead trend biho idea..pedestrian usage of the line will amount to a ten thousandth or less usage than essential freight after THEY LET THE LINE JUST SIT THERE FOR OVER A DECADE & CAUSED MAJOR RESTRUCTURING OF ALL OUR AREAS’ ARTERIALS AT THE COST OF WORKING CLASS LABOUR.

  29. Great news, bringing families and people who want to enjoy the outdoors to our beautiful backyard is such a positive step forward. This will be a game changer for the better. Come on Byron Shire get on board with this amazing project!

  30. This is a great news story, and it be a wonderful asset for all the communities involved. However it has taken a lot of hard word and persistence over many years from a very dedicated and intelligent group of people living in the Northern Rivers region. I would like to thank and congratulate them for their fantastic efforts. When it is built, the local communities will finally see how great it is, and will reap the many benefits that will follow.

  31. Alright I begrudge you’re not commies.
    You’re just a bunch of normal people, lacking in explorative sense and personal joy in adventure.

    I’m young and i think that it is a shame that the place is turning into a retirement village.
    So away i go

    • A rail advocate at Thursday night’s Northern Rivers Rail meeting at Murwillumbah RSL commented that 98 percent of the attendees were over the age of 55.

      The people who want the train back are mostly old age pensioners who expect to pay $2.50 towards the hundreds of dollars their journey would actually cost. It is people like that who believe everything should be about them that give boomers a bad reputation among the young.

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