Byron Council will consider funding further investigations into getting trains back on the tracks in the Shire, despite strong criticisms of the reports on the matter that have been prepared to date.
In another passionate debate on the issue at last week’s full Council meeting, a majority of councillors voted to consider additional spending on the project, when the budget is reviewed later this month.
So far, Council has spent around $250,000 on the ‘rail with trail’ project, which would see a single deck, light rail service shuttle back and forth within the Shire.
The proposal also involves the construction of a walking trail on the corridor running next to the tracks.
Advocates, such as Greens Mayor, Simon Richardson, and Independent councillor Basil Cameron, are adamant that the train would help to address the severe shortage of public transport in the Shire, and the significant traffic issues it experiences on a daily basis.
But opponents argue that, without any clear expressions of support from government, or the private sector, Council is wasting time and money that could be better utilised elsewhere.
They say that a number of the reports that Council has commissioned so far have been of little use, because they relied on flawed modelling and inaccurate information on matters such as the number of bridges on the line and its level of disrepair.
Labor Cr against
At last week’s meeting, Labor councillor, Paul Spooner, moved that Council suspend all work on the Byron Shire Rail with Trail project until a number of questions were answered regarding the latest consultants’ report.
These questions included whether the brief given to the consultants included a cost/benefit analysis and what type of commuter behaviour incentives were used.
‘The process here has put the cart before the horse,’ he said. ‘This is not a transport project, this is a political project. It always has been.’
But Mayor Richardson disagreed, declaring that proponents of the plan were simply seeking answers.
‘At some point down the path, truly developed business feasibility studies will be done.’
In the end, Cr Spooner’s motion was voted down and a majority of councillors voted for the investigations to continue in the form of a possible further budget allocation.
Pro train meetings
Meanwhile, the newly registered not-for-profit public company, Northern Rivers Rail Ltd, will be holding public meetings (in favour of returning trains) at the Bangalow Bowlo on Wednesday March 10 from 6pm, and at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club on Wednesday March 17, from 6pm. For more info, visit Northern Rivers Rail.