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Byron Shire
September 28, 2022

Railway and rail trail working together

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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.

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  1. The future train network won’t be using the old 1894 build steam age alignment railway corridor .
    As per every submission and document put out by local , state and federal government departments the future train system will follow the M1 highway corridor from Chinderah to Yelgun and from there it is a bit unknown but will more than likely continue south to Ballina .
    Parking stations and railway stations will be built at every highway off ramp .
    The old railway corridor cannot have its speed increased as it has over 80 very tight curves that cannot have curve easing .
    If you want to keep workers in cars then reinstating the old railway corridor will provide this .
    Nostalgic rail travel is for tourists , it isn’t for day to day commuters

  2. One again more lies and misinformation from the pro-rail lobby.
    1. The track cannot be sold off to developers. Its is protected by NSW Government legislation to remain in public hands.
    2. The writer misrepresents the cost of reinstating the railway. It will cost at least 1 billion to bring the track back to standard and rebuild bridges – and that doesnt include the rolling stock.
    3. As its beed said adnauseum, it is not possible to have the rail trail build off formation due to the swamps between Byron and Mullum.
    4. Dual track would be needed for any kind of commuter service. Add another billion dollars to the cost of reinstating it.

    Once again the train enthusiests spruik lies and missinformation about the cost of their fancifal and expensive 19th century railway dreams.
    And they never have to worry about how much stuff costs because they never have to worry about paying for it.

    • I think you’d find you’re the one “misrepresenting the costs of reinstating the railway”. The “$1billion” figure comes from the 2013 ARUP report. That report investigated the cost of restoring the line to mainline standards for XPT-weight trains. Here’s the thing, nobody is suggesting to restore the line to that standard. All suggestions are for lighter-weight trains, so track restored to accomodate 10t axle loads. That’s a much cheaper endeavour than resorting for mainline trains, given the weight requirements are far lower. Furthermore, the ARUP study costing was around 50% contingencies. If you read the full report, infrastructure repair costings for XPT-weight trains were put at around $470M. Hence, it is unlikely repairing existing infrastructure for XPT-weight trains could cost $1Billion, and it is impossible this would be the price of restoration for lighter-weight trains.
      Something to think about: A $1Billion repair cost for this line would mean it is more expensive than building the Alice Springs – Darwin railway brand-new. The most expensive aspects of railway construction are often land acquisitions, earthworks and supporting infrastructure (eg stations), and our railway already has all of this.

      Dual track wouldn’t be needed for commuter services, unless you were talking about running multiple trains every half hour or so, but that would never be necessary. All that would be required is the establishment of more ‘passing loops’ where needed. These are essentially just sidings connected at both ends, and allow trains on a single track to pass each other.

  3. Most city rail services run on lines much older and with more bends than the C-M line. All over Australia train lines and tramlines, such as those which were ripped up in Sydney and the Gold Coast, are now being rebuilt at a huge cost to taxpayers.

    Workers are being forced to spend huge amounts to drive long distances to work as local bus services, which are subsidised by taxpayers, take twice as long as the train took to travel the same distance and do not connect people where they need to go. Workers (who can no longer afford to live in Byron) and Uni students should be able take their cycles on the train to and from towns such as Lismore and cycle to their destination at the other end. Others could catch local buses to and from stations, as they do on the Central coast and the Hunter Valley. Millions of tourists should be able to catch a train from Brisbane/Coolangatta to the North Coast and Byron instead of creating traffic gridlock and spewing carbon emissions in our towns.

    The cost to taxpayers and ratepayers of building and maintaining roads far outweighs any cost of restoring the train line and getting trains running again.

    In contrast to the ill-informed nonsense above, many thousands of informed locals know that train services on the valuable C-M line, worth many billions, will once again reconnect fast growing local towns and provide much needed safe, cost-effective, affordable, sustainable public transport for this fast growing region and six million tourists.

    As local pollies claimed for many years “the C-M line is central to our future-we will need more commuter trains and more tourist trains”. YES WE DO!

    • Louise I am surprised you are pushing the slow train agenda in our modern world . The Brisbane to Varsity Lakes railway line is a dual track heavy rail rated at 160kmh that will continue south to Gold Coast Airport. With the Brisbane Olympic Games arriving quickly this must be built ASAP for international spectators to have one of three available airports ie Gold Coast , Brisbane and Sunshine Coast . The line heading south will be built to modern standard of twin track heavy rail for 160kmh commuter trains that will service both the burgeoning coastal dwellers from Kingscliff to Pottsville as well as the inland dwellers from Murwillumbah to Mooball . The old railway line has over 80 tight curves of 400 metre radius or less that limits speed to under 80kmh . Many curves are less than 300m radius with speed limitations of 65kmh .
      Louise today’s workers don’t want to spend their valuable time on a slow train , they want more time with their families. Door to door commuting times must be as short as possible which is impossible with slow trains on a steam age alignment train . The Northern Rivers Railway corridor has not changed its winding and meandering course since 1894 but our road network the highways have been rerouted at least 3 times in the same time .
      Keeping workers in cars is easy with these nostalgic slow train mode pushers .

      • Oh for heavens sake people need to stop sprouting complete rubbish! While the C-M line is HEAVY DUTY and and heavy trains used it for over 100 years and could do so for another 100years, light suburban commuter trains regularly stopping at local stations do NOT travel at 160km an hour and they don’t need ‘heavy duty dual tracks’!

        Anyone who bothers to check knows the old heavy XPT took 55 minutes from Lismore to Byron on a line with many 110 year old timber bridges that should have been replaced decades ago. Small, fast modern commuter trains could do the trip even faster. That’s why train services in other regional areas are always packed, even on winding 19th century train lines. You need get out more and investigate, particularly around the Hawkesbury region. Meantime stop spreading so much misleading rubbish!

        While the NSW premier is happy to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of our money to pork barrel and win elections while refusing to spend a cent on our train line line for the services we’ve needed, and were promised for decades, to suggest the NSW government have any intention of spending billions building another train line on the North Coast is complete fantasy.

        Emissions from road transport have grown exponentially since 1990 and we’ve experienced the catastrophic weather events which are a direct consequence of these emissions. Above all else our emissions must come down and we have a great opportunity in this region to make a contribution by utilizing the valuable rail line.

        No public transport is able to provide door to door services, but even if a fraction of workers and 50% of visitors were able to travel by train that would take a huge amount of traffic off our roads, reduce gridlock and prevent deaths and serious injuries from road accidents. Taxpayers would save a whole heap of money on roadbuilding and upgrades alone.

        Locals will not allow this valuable infrastructure to be destroyed and replaced with and bike track costing almost as much as repairing the line for trains when we can have both.

        • Louise have you checked the speeds of the Brisbane to Varsity Lakes heavy rail suburban trains ? They do 140kmh in many sections with multiple stations in the 86km route . The Casino to Murwillumbah line is 132km with infrequent stops so 140kmh is required to get workers out of cars .
          You are very determined to push this slow romantic heritage train thinking that people will swallow your never ending thinking .
          Some people complain about the huge amounts of money spent on the building of the smooth and fast M1 highway and then complain that we shouldn’t have a fast and smooth commuter train that will last for the next 100 years .
          The Northern Rivers Rail Ltd and it’s followers have been taken ballast, sleeper and toot toots .

    • Louise which city rail services have more and sharper bends than the C-M line? If you are referring to the section just north of Sydney on the XPT line, if it’s the same as last time I travelled on it, the train slows down to around 40kph or less.

  4. I am absolutely all for trains and public transport, but the re-use of the old train line is absolutely not backed by any data or scientific evidence. Its a pipedream. better off using it for another use like the rail trail, at least then cyclists could use it to commute as well + get people active, outdoors,, there are huge social, community and health benefits for the rail trail.

    The idea of public transport is to try and take trips off the road where possible and put them onto the trains/buses etc. You need the trips to make it worth while, or else everyone will just keep driving their cars because its more convenient, quicker and meets their demands of getting to multiple places in one day.

    The cost of re-instating the existing railway would be better spent constructing a new railway that extends from South-east queensland railway, along the coastal flats all the way to Ballina, then to Lismore via Alstonville. A fast service connecting with frequent trips to Brisbane via Byron, Mullumbimby, Kingscliff, Tweed would actually make it economically viable for a range of persons and trip purposes.

    For example, a Nurse working at Byron Hospital who lives at Kingscliff:
    The old railway won’t do much in terms of this, who is going to travel from Tweed shire to Byron via the old railway to Murbah and Mullumbimby, it would twice the time to drive down the highway…including fitting in train schedule as they wouldn’t leave that often. Who has time to spend two hours catching a heritage train to work when you’ve got a family to look after. Get real, we are living in the 21st century.

    another example, someone wanting to go to Ballina Airport or Coolangatta airport could catch the train to get to their flight from their local station, saving heaps of traffic on the highway.

    The existing railway is obsolete in meeting the demands of modern life for rail transport, it would be far to slow to get between the stations to make it worth it.
    A heritage train is a complete waste of money, it won’t be used by workers, and it will be completely underused as a tourist attraction the rail trail is far better in providing multi benefits. People don’t want to sit on a train and watch the world go, they can do that in the back of a car or a bus, they want to experience it in person, walk it, cycle it. You wait and see the rail trail will be a huge success that will help define the region, and hopefully the start of many walking tracks and cycleways connecting to the central corridor. Humans are meant to be outside in the fresh air not inside a carriage.

    What we should do:
    1. Convert existing railway to rail trail
    2. investigate large infrastructure project, connecting North Coast with SQ QLD via modern electric rail, and then base future residential development around the railway corridor.


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