Beth Shelley, Booerie Creek
I walk around Lismore and people smile at me. I’m delighted and give a big happy smile back. It makes my day. The world becomes a friendly, happy place and you share a feeling of connection with your community. Giving a smile seems like a small thing but when we’re all smiling at each other everyone feels happier.
Serving and helping others in your community is satisfying and that’s why I fight for trains because I know they could help the most vulnerable.
I remember what it was like to have no transport as a young person and no ability to drive when I’ve broken my wrist, or my arm or injured my leg. I’m getting older and breaking bones is happening regularly.
I believe trains are a way to make things fairer and kinder for those of us who are elderly, disabled, young or poor. And it matters. People suffer from isolation without transport and can’t visit family or medical appointments.
Having little or no public transport doesn’t help to make this world a better place for all.
People in government don’t understand what it’s like as they have easy access to transport. They live in their ivory towers of power where it matters more whether the companies donating to them are happy.
I wish they could know the satisfaction and joy of truly serving their community because they might find it gets them more votes in the end. The Greens don’t take donations from big companies so they can focus on serving the needs of their communities and I’ll bet they generally feel happier.
How can train be fairer when it would only be provided for a tiny minority of the regional population that happens to live near and want to travel to places near the old corridor? Particularly when the cost of just operating one train would fund many, many buses that can far better target the current needs of the population and adapt to the future needs rather than be stuck on the route designed for the very different needs of the region in 1890. Then there are the hundreds of millions of dollars to get the decrepit steam age railway functioning again.
The corridor doesn’t go anywhere near the parts of the region that are home to the greatest numbers of the elderly or households without cars. It doesn’t go anywhere near any hospitals or educational institutions. It doesn’t even go near the Lismore CBD, much less where Lismore’s businesses are moving to the higher ground to avoid the frequent uninsurable floods that afflict the CBD. It was a railway designed for moving farm produce.
It has repeatedly been proven going back as far as Larry Anthony, that campaigning for a railway in this region does not bring votes. People don’t believe that spending vast sums of money on a train for the few represents a responsible use of our taxes.
Campaigning to destroy the line for a biketrack has NOT won seats. The Nationals have now lost two of their three North Coast seats.
So they’ve outsourced that contentious vote loser to local councils who’ll wear the community backlash.
All of the members in our region except Tamara Smith voted to close the rail line in Tweed and Richmond Valley. Tamara did not claiming “we can have both”. The tenders for the rail tail in Tweed have been received and have shown she was wrong. Tenderers were briefed by staff and by the Mayor that they could provide a conforming tender for a trail and all four tenders are for a rail trail largely on the formation. One tender provided an alternative off formation bid and the report advises it it was not conforming, being substantially more expensive with unknown costs and likely large for extensive earth works. The engineers who will have to actually build it have shown Tamara, you and other rail supporters that it is just not feasible to build the trail off the formation .
As I have outlined to Beth the trains are not coming back. They were expensive and as such inequitable , and they did not and would not provide good services to all of our region. The current push by the rail lobby in Tweed is not about getting trains; it is just about stopping the public using the what is a disused and now closed, former rail corridor for a community walking and cycling path.
The Kearney Sinclair Knight review into rail here over 25 years ago pointed out that the train service had brought about inequalities in public transport spending within our region . Trains are expensive to run and that shifts limited funding from the higher transport priorities, particularly bus and community transport for the growing number of people,notable elderly females and indigenous people, the majority of whom do not live near the rail corridor. The incessant demos and other lobbying for a train has been at the expense of lobbying for improved bus services across our region. Why for example is there a petition for a train at the Lismore Transit Centre, but none to improve the bus services along our busiest transit corridor – the Bruxner Highway from Ballina to Lismore . That route is the busiest transport corridor i the region, it connects the greatest concentration of older people in our region in Ballina with the health, shopping and other facilities in Lismore and it also carries largest large number of indigenous and other low income commuters who work in the aged care , hospitality and other jobs in Ballina and elsewhere along that route. Similarly Lismore train lovers bemoan having to catch a30 minute bus to Casino , but have never cared a hoot about the three hour coach journey from Ballina to the XPT in Grafton .
The trains are not coming back because they do not meet the needs of people across our region. It’s time to start campaigning for real public transport improvement for all of our region, including better bus and coach services that take advantage of the great transport investment in our area, the upgraded Pacific Highway.