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Byron Shire
August 5, 2021

Pro rail groups join to rally on Thursday

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Four local groups have banded together and will host a rally calling for urgent consultation on the removal of the train tracks on the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek rail corridor.

TOOT, Northern Rivers Rail Ltd and NR Railway Action Group have joined with a new group, We Can Ride Together to hold a rally and march starting at the Murwillumbah Railway Station and heading to the Tweed Shire Council in Murwillumbah.

Their message is ‘We Demand Community Consultation. Do Not Rip Up the Tracks.’

Tweed Shire Council (TSC) are holding their meeting in the Tweed so after rallying at Murwillumbah as many people as possible will travel there to the Tweed to attend the TSC meeting at 5.30pm. Tom Rayner from We Can Ride Together will speak to the council.

Representing the groups, Beth Shelley says it is clear from TSC meeting minutes that community consultation about the railway was discussed and staff were asked to come back with more information but it didn’t happen.

‘The tenders for the rail trail will be presented to TSC at that meeting and if accepted this will mean ripping up the railway tracks to put the bike path on top of the rail formation. However, at no point have the people of this area been asked if they want to keep the railway for rail services in the future or lose it for a bike path. Legally there’s meant to be extensive consultation and this has not happened.

‘Two new railway companies have been registered to bring rail services back, Northern Rivers Rail Ltd and the Northern Regional Rail Company. The aim of these companies is to fundraise and engage with volunteers to clear the vegetation, repair the tracks and run regular rail services. Therefore, the reasoning to have a “rail-trail” to save the corridor is not valid.

‘The state of the tracks varies from place to place but the majority of the line is still in reasonable condition and should not be destroyed, when these companies are vowing to restore the infrastructure, much of which was refurbished not long before XPT services were cut.’

The groups say that although some sections need more sleepers, signals and bridges renewed, this is cheaper and easier now than in the past, with prefab structures able to replace old bridges very quickly.

‘The loss of the northern section of our Casino – Murwillumbah line affects everyone in our region so please come to Murwillumbah and let the council know how many people care about bringing back rail services to our region!,’ says Ms Shelley

The march begins at 4pm this Thursday, June 17  at the Murwillumbah Railway Station. Please contact Marie Luxford on 0401 833 164 or Tom Rayner on 0428 771 811 for more information.


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16 COMMENTS

  1. After 17 years of very sad and lonely neglect, our poor corridor is about to at last, have a breath of fresh air, as some people have fought so hard to gain State and Federal funding to bring this vital and gorgeous landscape back into the community’s consciousness.

    We applaud these caring people for their 8 years of ardent work in securing ongoing public ownership of this vital corridor and the addition to healthy living via walking, cycling, e-biking, e-triking and horse-riding.

    We’ll all look back and wonder why on earth it took so long.

  2. Any further delay puts the $16 million Rail Trail project at serious risk. The council’s decision should
    amount to ticking the box at the end of a journey reached through a multitude of council decisions over
    very many years. The real irony is that it could come down to a majority of councillors supporting the
    project but the vote goes with the minority because one strongly pro-trail councillor has been recused and
    the tiebreak vote happens to belong to someone of the opposite persuasion.

    There certainly would be a lot of very annoyed people if Murwillumbah lost a $16 million development
    opportunity. As the recommended tenderer achieved a 100 percent score on the design criteria, the
    council would probably have to compensate them because their tender was not accepted but only because
    the project goal posts were shifted.

    It has been seven years since both sides of Parliament agreed that they would not be funding the return
    of trains to the corridor and it was formally abandoned. The Rail Trail project saw the opportunity and has
    progressed through a very complex process throughout that time.

    Then, months after the long delayed legislation to rededicate the corridor for a trail, despite having had
    exactly the same opportunity to explore the possibilities, suddenly at the thirteenth hour there are bids to
    run train services. It reeks of reaction to the closure rather than a case of entrepreneurs genuinely
    seeking opportunity.

    None of these groups have business plans and even more critically, any idea where the millions of dollars
    to facilitate their dreams is going to come from.

    Entrepreneurs turn capital into viable projects that make a return on the investment. Traditional
    borrowings for capital need to be backed by assets. This project cannot provide that security because the
    borrower is unable liquidate the asset being developed as it doesn’t belong to them. Consequently, we
    are looking at a very risky venture capital project that needs very careful planning.

    Meanwhile the rail “company” plans amount to vague hand waving and baseless numbers pulled out of the
    air while claiming the old tracks are “almost good enough now” and ludicrously promising to run hourly
    services each way between Murwillumbah and Byron. It is delusional.

  3. Excellent to hear of the new companies. It is high time the railway line was repaired. I’ll more than happily volunteer some of my time to help repair it!
    The “rail trail” is a short-sighted farce. Any proposal to permanently remove the railway line is ridiculous. The trail should go beside the tracks by all means, but it should not come at the expense of railway infrastructure!

  4. The claim that much of infrastructure was refurbished before the closure is false. The section between Crabbes Creek and Murwillumbah was already slated for “major repair or replacement” before the closure and is among the worst sections of line on the whole corridor. Extensive sections have not even had steel sleepers added to back up the decayed wooden sleepers.

    The section in Tweed include four heritage listed bridges with extensive wooden structures that cannot be replaced by prefab concrete. These will be very expensive to restore to take the weight of trains, even light rail. (The Byron Train is “light rail” and weights about 100 tonnes with a full passenger load.) Moreover the notion that prefab concrete is a universal solution that can be just plonked in place is simply ridiculous.

    Like so many of their previous claims that have been shown to be false, this is just more misinformation from a desperate and deluded group of train lovers who are incapable of rational analysis and will say anything to convince people that they have a viable plan to bring back trains.

  5. What a sad indictment, that we need the public to point out the fiasco of allowing public assets to be vandalized for the private gain of a few imbecilic, but vocal and well couched, horse and bicycle enthusiasts.
    So sad ! G”)

  6. “The aim of these companies is to fundraise and engage with volunteers to clear the vegetation, repair the tracks and run regular rail services.”
    Will this be public transport? How much do you think it will cost? The corridor is owned by NSW Government. Do you think they will let you do it?

    • It is just bizarre that they think volunteers labouring on the line like men did when the track was built in the 1890s is a practical solution to resurrecting the railway. It would take thousands of volunteers. Moreover the work practices would not be allowed for safety reasons. Railways are repaired by massive equipment with operating costs of thousands of dollars per hour.

      Then we have Tom Rayner’s ridiculous claim that the decrepit tracks are in “almost good enough” condition to run light rail, as if his say so would be sufficient for the trains to run. In fact a team of suitably qualified specialist engineers with a very large professional indemnity insurance policy would be required to inspect and assess the suitability the tracks and bridges for the proposed services. These rail “companies” couldn’t afford the inspection let alone the repair to meet the requirements.

      No insurance company is ever going to indemnify the public liability of running services on a clapped out track minimally repaired by amateur fettlers.

  7. The steel in those tracks must be worth a huge amount, I wonder who’s getting that. There is no need to remove the tracks, in fact they could be used. The trail could be alongside the track for most of it and, with relatively simple inserts, the track itself could become the trail for the narrower parts. If the trains come back the trail will have proved itself and other arrangements can be made.

    • According to Rail Trail Project Director, Iain Lonsdale, the tracks belong to the State Government. Any salvage value is not part of the trail project and would go into government general revenue.

      It has been thoroughly and repeatedly established that it is not practical to build the trail off the formation for more than about twenty percent of the corridor. There is no point building off formation anyway because trains will not be returning. The farcical railway “companies” have no staff, no experience and no capital yet pretend they are going to undertake projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The council need to make decisions based on reality.

  8. People need to make up their minds-they keep saying the rail trail will protect the rail line for future trains-then say trains will not be returning!

    The Gold Coast line was ripped up in the 1960s and the land sold off to developers. It’s now costing taxpayers an eyewatering $75 MILLION per kilometer to rebuild it! The North Coast community will not allow that to happen here.

    As the LNP pollies said for so long “the (Casino to Murwillumbah) rail line is central to our future-we will need more commuter trains and more tourist trains. The line needs to be connected to the Queensland system”. We sure do and it certainly does-asap.

    • One of the primary goals of Northern Rivers Rail Trail was to protect the public ownership of the corridor. As an unused asset it was in serious danger of being disposed of by the government. While remaining in public ownership, the minister for transport also has the right to take control of it for a public transport purpose without further legislation. Which part of protecting the corridor for the future don’t you understand?

      Trains will not be returning to the section between Crabbes Creek and Murwillumbah, especially on the decrepit tracks. There is plenty of evidence that any new railway coming south from Tweed will not take the long expensive route across the Tweed floodplain to Murwillumbah then snake its way along a steam age alignment through the Dunbible Valley and Burringbar Range. It will run close to the M1 where the trains will operate at 200 kph and continue through the very wide corridor incorporating the M1, Brunswick Valley Way and rail corridors on a much straighter alignment using brand new tracks.

      High speed trains do represent an alternative to travelling in cars. Tom Rayner’s ridiculous plan to run old Melbourne trams at snail’s pace along a track that he pretends is “almost good enough” does not constitute a public transport use. The trail dedication will not be reversed by the Minister for it. Besides, nobody is going to invest the countless millions required to even achieve its pointless goal.

    • The Gold Coast railway cost a lot of money because it is a modern fully electrified duplicated track. It takes an optimised nearly straight path rather than that taken by the original railway, now easily supporting speeds of 140 kph. The same requirements would be applied for any NSW rail investment in any new railway as is happening in the Sydney basin where eighty percent of the people of NSW live and 200 kph is the new mark. Nobody public or private is going to invest in the old railway that has curve design speeds as low as 60 kph.

      The M1 was not a case of upgrading Tweed Valley Way any more than a 21st Century railway investment would involve upgrading a steam age single track through the Dunbible Valley and Burringbar Range. Trains will not return to this section of the corridor. Not through government funding and definitely not through nonsense rail “companies” with no employees or experience, funded by $20 subscriptions from pensioners.

      Quoting politicians from decades ago as a source of impeccable wisdom would be pretty unusual for anyone with a clue about the ways of the world.

    • As a retired transport engineer, I’ve been trying to find a link to the ARUP report on the old Casino Murwillumbah track that I read some time back to post here. Not having much luck. If someone else can find it please post.
      It’s a report done by real engineers, not those involved in wishful thinking, ie by those who know how much it costs to actually get a trains operating on the old steam train alignment. The pesent value of the ARUP estimate would, from memory, not give you much change from $2 billion.
      Greg Clitheroe has echoed the ARUP conclusions, and if you read that report, unless you belong to the Simon Richardson school of transport economics, you will understand why trains will never again run on this alignment.
      The rail trail is the only alternative that will save this old alignment from purchase by contiguous land owners. It will make good public use of what is now a decrepit and useless “asset”. As a cyclist I’m really keen to see it happen.
      Anyway the rail trail can still operate without input from BSC. A trail that terminates at Crabbes Creek can follow the old highway and existing cycleways to Brunswick Heads where on a “low tide day” it’s a beautiful ride along the beach into Byron. Or you could head north from South Golden back to Tweed Heads, also along the beach.

      Reiterating: this alignment will NEVER be used for trains again, I’m sorry TOOTs, it’s just wishful thinking.

  9. The example of the destruction of the Brisbane to Tweed/ Coolangatta rail line should not be lost on local residents which is now being reinstated at huge cost. Sydney
    had an extensive tram service destroyed in the 1950s which is also being reinstated(in part) and in some areas extended also at huge financial cost. The destruction and looting of public assets has to stop lets start now and keep the rail line for future use. Rail is the least climate destructive means of transport.

  10. I love the commenters who say rail is impossible in 2021 when it was achieved in the 1890s. That sounds credible, doesn’t it?

    • There are no comments saying “rail is impossible” per se. However it cannot be achieved without spending a very large amount of money to repair or replace the bridges, fix the tracks and provide rolling stock.

      The both sides of parliament clearly stated they would not be funding this because the railway cannot make a significant contribution to the public transport needs of the region and as such is not worth the huge investment. No amount of lamenting this decision has made any difference because it is based on the most comprehensive study ever done into the old railway.

      Consequently costs need to be paid for from private sources. The rail advocates don’t even have the capital to prepare a business plan to determine how much the work would cost or how many fares they could attract to cover the operating costs, the capital expenditure and make a return on the investment.

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