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Byron Shire
August 14, 2022

Byron’s rail reactivation saga continues

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Paul Bibby

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.


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15 COMMENTS

  1. The ALP ceased train services without ANY consultaion with the community about the critical transport needs of the region. So of course Paul Spooner is going to support the ALP’s shocking disregard for the transport needs of this community.

    They’d rather see eyewatering amounts of taxpayers’ money wasted on more roads increasing traffic gridlock and emissions, destroying the environment and locals’ quality of life. No wonder so many of them have been found corrupt and are languishing gaol!

      • It isn’t Paul Spooner’s fault that the NSW Government made the ridiculous decision to delay the local government elections for a year. Victoria, with many more problems with the pandemic, managed to get through their LG elections successfully.

    • Trains no longer ran because the services were only being used by very small numbers of passengers. I met the train several times in both Murwillumbah and Lismore during the 1990s and a handful of passengers would get off. There is no evidence of a “need” for trains, just an unjustified demand made by some people with an incredible sense of entitlement.

      Spending on roads is not “wasted” and certainly does not cause congestion. Failure to spend on roads on a timely schedule is what causes problems. Trains on the old Casino-Murwillumbah route would not significantly reduce the road traffic but instead divert money that could be used to improve roads or efficient public transport like buses.

      Quite frankly I’m tired of Louise’s endless innuendo and hysterical exaggeration of the extent of corruption in NSW government. She should either put up evidence of corruption being involved in the decision to close the railway of stop making unsubstantiated allegations that have no relevance to this debate.

    • No Louise, no where near enough of our corrupt politicians are” languishing”in gaol. When found out, they are merely shuffled of to the backbench or an ‘inquiry’ is mounted, of suitable length to ensure that the public have forgotten their crimes and are distracted by the footy or other moronic pursuit. A perfect example is the disgusting dummy-spit Barnaby pulled on Gladys over the threat of legislation to prevent the extermination of Koalas ,and anything else that might require environmental protection, but today has been considered long enough for the public to have forgotten and Rob Stokes ( minister for planning) announce the NSW Liberal and Nationals parties which will see rural land zoned for farming or forestry – labelled “core rural zones” – not be subject to the new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy ( this covers everything else not already destroyed by forestry and farming) So Barnaby and the rest of the knuckle-draggers have quietly stolen any future for native animals and plants ,as well as the birth-right of all Australians to experience what once was a truly magnificent biological treasure.
      This ,to my mind Louise, is the very worst example of genocide imaginable but which politicians, developers,industrialists, bankers or farmers will swing for their crimes ? ( -spoiler-alert- ) NONE ! because we accept that this is ‘just what they do’ and that’s why they have been able to destroy our rail network for the benefit of real-estate and transport crooks.
      Happy women’s day, what a corker of a mardi-gras and who won the footy ? G”)

      • Yes exactky Ken. Little has changed in NSW since the first fleet and the rum corp. People carry on about council spending a few thousand on studies to try and do something constructive about the shocking traffic gridlock and environmental damage, but choose to ignore the eyewatering millions these dodgy pollies are spending on more roads to increase gridlo and environmental degradation. But it wasn’t Barnaby doing the dummy spit and holding Gladys to ransome, it was the appropriately named PORK Barilaro.

        Using the cost of the Byron Pass as a guide-$8m per kilometre- adding another two lanes to Ewingsdale Rd-six kilometres x [email protected]$8m per kilometre=$96 MILLION. How good is that? Never mind that repairing three kilometres of train line for a train to reduce traffic only cost $1.8m and the whole 132 ks of line could be repaired for around the same cost as destroying it for a bike track.

        Ballina has a wonderfull bike track all along the coast to Bolder Beach, not one cyclist on it today!! Ballina also had a train line once-but they allowed it to be ripped up-now some are claiming people wouldn’t use trains as they wouldn’t go to Ballina. There’s no end to the nonsense a few uninformed people come up with.

        But most locals are outraged about this stupidity and wicked waste of their taxes and will be holding some very dodgy people to account.

  2. Byron Council wastes so much money on losing court cases and trying to revive the dinosaur train that one wonders what they’re snorting/smoking!

    Meanwhile, critical infrastrcuture is left to deteriorate. We need a competent council that gets things done.

    What a yawn you and your pipe dreams are, BSC!

  3. In my 66 years I have seen several track lines pulled up. Years later they put tracks back in or bemoan the lack of.

    • Rail advocates like Mark often make unsubstantiated claims. The most common regarding “putting tracks back” refer to the Gold Coast line which was closed in the 1960s. Like the Casino-Murwillumbah line, the Gold Coast line was on a tortuous steam age alignment.

      The new line is duplicated, simultaneously allowing trains in both directions, supporting speeds of 140 kph with dozens of services per day. It connects two of the six largest metropolitan centres in Australia, home to about three million people. It is considerably faster than the journey by road which is why it is well utilised.

      The old line could never have met the needs of modern commuters. Nor could the single Casino-Murwillumbah line. which connects a handful of small towns to Lismore and has many tight curves designed to support the speeds of steam trains.

      Imagine for a moment how different the Gold Coast would have been today if, instead of selling the old corridor, they had converted it to a trail. It would have become the backbone of public transport and be a world renown tourist icon. We have the opportunity they never had. Let’s just get on with it.

  4. There is no way a train will pay the massive cost of line rectification and maintenance and this grossly cost inefficient train is never going to happen. Please could all the innumerate Toot Tooters and Puff Puffers accept the ridiculous cost of the project and realise this cost is not going to go away and you are never going to get a train. Please get out of the way and let us have a wonderful bike track that can connect to Crabbes Creek and the now under construction bike trail to Murwillumbah. ( and maybe one day to Casino)The rail route will then stay in public hands. I totally resent Council spending one more cent on trains.

  5. .. Utter madness ..
    Does this shire want to lose even more of its vital cash down the toilet for even more studies that don’t quite bring the reality home to these dreamers, that reinstating ANY train infrastructure, is prohibitively expensive. A No No..
    Because there simply are NOT the many thousands of patrons required to even break-even such a huge project.
    And all the while, this is only a SINGLE rail track corridor.!!
    Not anywhere near enough room for anything else, for most of the distances.
    How far will ratepayers give to this useless “enterprise” ??
    This shire is crying out for funds in all directions.
    Are we to just watch our money get thrown away, at study after study after study.??

  6. Perhaps the vision splendid could begin with Billinudgel station and a bike link to the rail trail at Crabbes creek. This would be a no brainer whether rail or a rail trail goes ahead. It provides an immediate benefit to people living in the north of the shire and could be a positive contribution towards common ground. Let’s work together and at least get a some benefit from our rail corridor.

    • Hi David. I like your thinking.
      This idea was put to Byron Shire a couple of years ago, but the Byron Line (or whatever they call themselves now), refused.
      Such a dreadful shame, as it would have been a real boon for Ocean Shores.

    • Tweed Shire Council approached Byron Council in 2016 proposing that the section between Crabbes Creek and Billinudgel be included in the Tweed Rail Trail Project. Councillors Duncan Dey, Simon Richardson and Basil Cameron consistently voted against the move. Richardson even used his casting vote to stop anything happening.

      Byron’s dual use study of the rail corridor in 2019 considered there was no prospect at all of the trains going beyond Billinudgel. What an opportunity missed for the villages of North Byron as well as the Tweed Valley Trail project. The cycling tracks in Billinudgel connect to South Golden Beach, New Brighton and Brunswick Heads passing under the M1 and reaching right up to the rail corridor.

      Simon Richardson is not running for election in September and Basil Cameron has become the heir apparent for the railway folly. Duncan Dey say he is running again. Don’t vote for either of them if you want to avoid millions being squandered on railway reports.

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