Chris Abraham, Mullumbimby Creek
The rail service between Casino and Murwillumbah was suspended by the NSW Government without any public consultation. A contract was issued for the ongoing maintenance of the track, but this was inadequate and its condition has deteriorated.
In addition, the State government commissioned a consultant to review options to improve public transport, which included a cost estimate for reopening the railway. This cost estimate has been shown to be grossly inflated.
Proponents for a rail trail successfully lobbied NSW parliamentarians who then approved the rail corridor being rezoned to Crown Land. This will result in very little chance of the railway ever being reopened in the future. Once again, there was no community involvement before this decision was made.
There is a high likelihood that developers will be hoping to buy or lease sections of the corridor, particularly near towns along the route. This would mean, once again, that there would be no space for the railway. The railway and rail trail could have fitted into the rail corridor, provided that it was not positioned on top of the existing rail track, and no other development was allowed in the corridor.
There are many advantages in having both the railway and rail trail side-by-side in the corridor. For example, those that did not wish to, or were not able to, walk the full length could park their car at a station, walk or ride to a station down the line and then return by train (with their bicycle) to their car. Apart from the multi-use of the corridor by pedestrians, commuters and tourists, it would be possible for the line to be extended to Queensland should there be demand for this in the future.
It is becoming impossible to predict the future with the long-term impact of COVID-19 and climate change and therefore such decisions like closing a railway should not be implemented for the foreseeable future. This would not preclude constructing a rail trail, providing it did not prevent the possibility of reopening the railway.
Concerned members of the community are working tirelessly to reopen the railway, quite likely as a privately run service, since government has made such a short-sighted decision to close the railway permanently. If you would like to find out more, please go to the Northern Rivers Rail website.