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Byron Shire
November 28, 2021

Feasibility of trains

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Thanks for Lydia Kindred’s article (3 November) dispelling myths about the Northern Rivers train service. 

The anti-train lobby, usually state government apologists, often argue that the Casino to Murwillumbah train line was unprofitable. Of course in the years immediately before closure in 2004, it was. That is because the XPT train service was based on a Sydney timetable.

However, a train service connecting our local towns to the Gold Coast, with trains running at the regular hours that people travel would be a huge success. 

Train travel, complemented by bus services, would be a huge bonus to the region. Many hinterland towns are being held back by the severe lack of public transport. 

Simon Alderton, Murwillumbah

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  1. NSW passenger-train services never paid for themselves: they were heavily subsidised by freight rail. Once rail-freight services were privatised, there were no more subsidies for passenger rail.

    Get over it, folks. Passenger rail outside metro areas is well and truly dead.

  2. If we are serious about saving the environment on the northcoast we should be demanding that a train service be returned to the Lismore/Byron area linking the north coasts regional centres to the goldcoast the cost should not be an issue, people before profit.

  3. Exactly Simon.

    People keep rabbiting on about the cost of trains, but have no concerns about the cost to taxpayers of empty buses stuck in gridlocked traffic. Roads don’t pay for themselves either, but along with buses they’re fully taxpayer funded part of an integrated public transport system along with trains. That’s why we pay tax.

    People need to pay more attention to the way some really dodgy politicians spend eyewatering amounts of taxpayers’ money lining their own pockets, or buying votes to win elections, as revealed by the ICAC, while other communities miss out on necessary infrastructure. Taxpayers’ money needs to be spent more equitably in communities with the greatest need.

    Despite criminal convictions and gaol time, Eddie Obeid is still doing deals and making millions from the money he stole from taxpayers.

    The Liberal/Nationals promised to provide a train service on the C-M line for many years. Their 2004 PWC study claimed it would cost less than $30m to repair the line. In 2006 the LNP claimed a commuter service would cost less than the large coaches which replaced the train. Suddenly after the 2011 election they were claiming the cost of returning trains had gone from $30m to almost $1 BILLION in just five years.

    The one kilometre Byron by-pass and bus transit centre cost $32.4m. They say six kilometres of Ewingsdale Road needs to be widened. The 132ks of rail line could be repaired for less and a train service running.

    The train service on the Casino to Murwillumbah line, and the line connected to Coolangatta and the airport, as promised by the National Party for many years, would pay for itself from the savings on roadworks, reducing traffic gridlock and carbon emissions.

    Both the ALP and the LNP have shown they can’t be trusted with taxpayers’ money or anything else.

    • Trains running on a steam age corridor through a sparse population is not a viable modern transport solution. A two million dollar comprehensive study determined this beyond doubt in 2013. The Liberal National government commissioned this study as the first step towards their promised return of train services. Unfortunately for the rail advocates the results didn’t match their prejudices. Only a fool would expect hundreds of millions of dollars to be invested without a such a study. They never promised to extend the line to Coolangatta. That is just another delusional thought from Louise.

      What the hell has Eddie Obeid got to do with anything? The closure of the railway has been a fully transparent process supported by both sides of the parliament. The people who can’t be trusted with pubic money are those who want to keep throwing money at consultants to write fanciful reports about futile train pipe dreams.

      PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) is an accounting firm with zero experience in railways. Their two decade old report is totally irrelevant. It is bizarre logic that claims empty buses is a reason to run trains. Similarly the notion that spending billions on trains would result in savings on roads.

      It is high time Louise took a dispassionate look at the complete nonsense she writes. Rail advocates like her have obviously completely lost their grip on reality.

  4. Greg Clitheroe thank you for continuing to counter nonsense with regular doses of “hits the mark” reality and common sense. 🙂

    I continue also looking forward to the day the first bicyclists and various pedestrians and others get to take in the sights, sounds and feel of the Tweed Shire Rail Trail section. And come on soon to be elected Byron Shire Councillors, get with the program, continue that rail trail on and into the Byron Shire. 🌟

  5. TRANPARENT PROCESS!! What rubbish. People who have been shocked by the revelations from the ICAC know the state government has been far from transparent, especially with public money.

    The $250m of public money used by the LNP to buy votes to win elections would have repaired the C-M line many times over.

    Any rudimentary research shows O’Farrell and the Nationals on many ocassions DID promise to connect the C-M line to Coolangatta. They also said the train service would cost $1.5m per year to run, much less than the $2.8m cost of the large coaches which replaced the train, which rarely carry more than a couple of passengers while chopping up our roads. What great value or our money.

    Eddie Obeid has everything to do with stealing public money-which apparently he’s able to keep-while the ALP was telling our community there were no funds for our train service which, despite the nonsense some people keep repeating, returned more per dollar spent than Sydney trains.

    People who have done the research would have credible facts to back up their arguments without needing to resort to personal put downs.

  6. I love trains – they are a very genteel way to travel. I can’t think of anything more pleasant than, as a senior, paying $2.50 for an all- day ticket to take me for a day excursion to Mullumbimby or Lismore for a spot of shopping, art gallery and a pleasant lunch somewhere before heading home taking in the scenery. A train trip to the Bangalow market would be fabulous.

    As a retired person, and part of the small demographic with eligibility to a concession fare and time during the day to indulge myself in such pleasures, I don’t expect the rest of the state to foot the bill for this. I certainly don’t expect a duplicate service of rail and coach to run to enable people to get from stations to where they actually want to end up.

    It is just not feasible to look to the cost of repairing the short, straight, flat and reasonably preserved Elements section of track and make any sort of calculation on this basis of the cost of repairing the entire line including rotting sleepers, unsafe bridges etc.

    What gets me most upset is the way the train delusion is preventing the community from having a fabulous community recreation and green commuting asset and keeping the corridor in public ownership. I abhor the way “bikers” ( read families, all age riders, people commuting from the hinterland to Byron Bay for work) are demonised to push the “selfish” narrative. I can’t think of an attitude more selfish than one that maintains that of I can’t get my clearly implausible dream then no one should get any benefit – I’d rather see the tracks lie mouldering forever.

    I’m also tired of local pollies feeling it’s too risky to face reality and thereby incur the loss of support of the oh so “green” TOOT brigade. That same thinking that couldn’t countenance the use of the rail corridor rather than expend the 32 mill on the bypass, destroying the habitat of a critically endangered species in the process, because it might interfere with the return of rail.

    While on the subject: I have asked previously why the rail corridor couldn’t be utilised to incorporate a much safer and superior bike path as the final section of the Suffolk to Byron track. I’ve been gobsmacked to see the perfect bike paths in the new section of “activated” corridor that take riders into the heart of town. Couldn’t the use of gravelled track be extended a little further south to link at Old Bangalow Road, using the money that was expended on changing the parking availability and painting a narrow section of road that culminates in the dangerous (for cyclists) bypass roundabout? Or did this smack too much of a rail trail?

  7. Bike tracks are not a ‘green commuting asset’ they are just one part of an integrated pubic transport system, along with trains and buses, which are desperately needed in an area with over six million tourists and fast growing population and insufferable traffic gridlock. People keep making incorrect assertions and about the cost of repairing the C-M line and viability of a train service despite all the evidence to the contrary, all of which, apart from the Nationals dodgy study which claimed the cost of repairing the line went from $30m to over $1 BILLION in five years, are easily accessible on line. People who make these assertions have obviously never used the Gold Coast train.

    Ballina people are complaining about the behavior of cyclists on their lovely coastal track making it unsafe for walkers. So it’s untrue to say everyone can safely use bike tracks, especially in isolated areas. If very few cyclists can be seen using the track alongside Ewingsdale Road, which can get people into town safely and quickly, it’s ridiculous to assert large numbers would ride kilometres on an isolated track in 38o heat or pouring rain.

    If local people wanted millions spent ripping up their train line for a bike track Ben Franklin would have been elected by now as he’s been promising one for years, and Lismore would still be a National Party seat.

    Road transport is a major contributor to carbon emissions which scientists have been telling us for decades we must reduce or we’ll all fry.

    There’s NOTHING green about ripping up a train line that could reduce carbon emissions while providing safe, comfortable, affordable transport for millions.

    • I will not respond to the arguments about viability of trains. When the railway was closed by the Parliament from Casino and from Murwillumbah last year there was no proposal put forward for any body to fund trains on the line from Casino to Murwillumbah. Plainly no one thought they are sufficently viable to fund one.

      I will though comments on what you refer to as “bike tracks” There is no proposal to build a “bike track” on the former rail corridor . The proposal is for a rail trail, a level wide mixed use path for cyclists and walkers. There certainly are a lot of users on parts of the Ballina coastal path. I walk and cycle along it with groups and from time to time both are annoyed by walkers and cyclists who do not follow the NSW road rules that are there to avoid conflict and accidents . This is common on popular urban recreational paths, although separate studies done by QLD and NSW traffic authorities show most riders do travel at safe speeds and serious incidents are not common. Rail trails are much longer and so even those with large numbers of annual users are rarely crowded in any one place.

      The path along Ewingsdale Road is a good example of poor path design and execution. It crosses the road twice, is incomplete after the hospital, the surface is in poor condition, it does not provide safe access for tourists or locals to The Farm, the path under the motorway is overgrown and not signposted andso it does not give good access to roads west of the M1. I ride it regularly and in spite of all that I always find plently of walkers and cyclists using it . Perceptions by passers by that cycle infrastrucre is unused are common but rarely reflect the reality on the ground.

      There is good electoral support for the rail trail and support from community consultations. Both Labor and the Nationals supported the rail trail and their votes across thte region far exeeded the Greens. In Tweed Bill Fenelon, who is a spokesperson for a rail group, ran on a strong pro train platform and got just 15% of the votes. Fixing the roads was a much more important issue than fixing the rails Only in Byron Shire in Ballina electorate was there support for a rail service, and Byron Shire has been examining that as part of its Multi Use of the Rail Corridor, along with a mixed use path along the rail corridor, which the community identifed it as a Priority A in its PAMP/Bike Plan conssultations. The formal consultations undertaken by Department of Premier and Cabinet showed good support for the rail trail in Casino and Tweed, while in Lismore consultations with the community found it was a high priority for recreational infrastructure grant funding applications. Even Ballina Council has now passed a motion seeking proposals to develop linkages to the rail trail.
      There is a great need for better sustainable transport in our area to play our part in the reducing carbon emmissions. Active transport infratructure includng the rail trail is part of that. So too is improving our road transport , and there is no reason we should not be part of the revolution in electric buses that are being rolled out around the world.

  8. Carbon emissions – I agree we have to reduce them. There is a much better chance of introducing electric buses than electrifying a train that will deal with that route. We don’t have them yet but if we need to convert to green transport that’s where we should be devoting our attention and revenue.

    Yes I have used to Gold Coast trains – they’re great. A more recently constructed modern track network allows fast comfortable travel and has been routed to pass through the areas of densest population. The C-M line was designed to service the industries, population centres and travel of the 1800s. If we want to push for a public transport rail network the only plan that would come anywhere near justifying the expenditure would be starting again with a new alignment.

    The insufferable traffic gridlock is largely confined to Byron Bay, Ewingsdale Rd and to a lesser extent Suffolk Park. It’s not significantly by cars travelling to Mullumbimby and Bangalow. Much of it comes from Brisbane day trippers to Byron Bay. I can’t see many of this crowd being attracted to a train service, lugging surf boards and other beach gear then attempting to get around once they get to a station. They could take a bus if they wanted to deal with all this. The rest I imagine are those staying within Byron Bay, filling up the holiday lets, motels and backpackers etc and travelling around the town. Again, I can’t see a train service alleviating people getting from their accommodation to the beach, the pubs, the restaurants, the shops etc. many however see bikes as a very good way to get around and a rail trail would attract tourists who would want to explore the wider region by bike – perhaps even alleviating the traffic jams while they’re thus occupied.

    It might surprise you Louise, that in cities with good bike path infrastructure – even places without – many people ride kilometres to get to work rather than deal with city traffic. If people are going to commute to work the time of travel – early morning and late afternoon – are extremely pleasant and viable conditions for riding. I don’t know how many days in this shire we get to 38 degrees. It’s actually quite accessible to many with the advent of ever improving ebikes. At present no one in their right mind would ride at those times from the hinterland to Byron Bay to work.

    I don’t know how often you are travelling along Ewingsdale Rd at the work commute times – I certainly avoid it if at all possible – but I’ve seen that track well utilised at any time. I seem to recall you recently said the same thing about no cyclists using the new Ballina track, but suddenly they’re a dreadful menace (evidenced by one letter to the editor?)

    It may also come as a surprise that not everyone bases their voting decisions on just one issue so I think the Ben Franklin claim is a bit of a long bow. And I can’t think of a form of transport (other than Shank’s pony) that’s much greener than bikes. We should be encouraging their use and encouraging to the area, people who will value and love the wonders of our beautiful countryside.

  9. After advocating for the rail trail since 2008, I’m comfortable with the idea that this debate has concluded. I don’t need to suffer any longer over the relentless and repetitive attacks by Louise and their cohort. Phase 1 and 2 of the rail trail is to be delivered and no threatened “class action” is going to stop it, I’m sure they have no idea what is involved in such an action or how much it would cost. They cannot demonstrate the support they claim, indeed the only accessible information shows support 72% support for the rail trail and 28% support for reintroducing the train (getup.org). Raising $75,000 is the social license that made it happen. Unlike the friends of the rail trail, the train lobby has delivered nothing, they are completely shameless about denying the majority this beautiful piece of infrastructure.


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