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Byron Shire
January 26, 2022

A little rail tale

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There is still a chance to save our wonderful railway line between Casino and Murwillumbah, especially in the Byron Shire, from being demolished, if the candidates that support the return of rail services are voted into council.

Members of the rail groups, Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) and Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) as well as the not-for-profit charity Northern Rivers Rail Ltd, ask that if you support regular rail services with a bike/walking trail beside the tracks, please make sure you vote for the candidates who have expressed their support for having both.

We are at the crucial crossroads where if people don’t stand up for what they believe in and vote accordingly we will lose any hope for a future rail service in the Northern Rivers!

As we had a very profitable railway service up until 1990 it shows we could have an even more popular and financially viable passenger and tourist service now as we have so many more people living in and visiting our region.

We are concerned that an elite group has been ‘peddling’ untruths about the potential for rail, saying it would cost $953 million ($7.25 million per km of track – when it is already there!) and that it would not be widely used. Through our research over many years we’re convinced a vast majority of locals and visitors would happily ride the rails on a community owned unique solar powered light rail service, accommodating everyone, including the youth, the elderly, disabled, commuters, school kids, shoppers, those who’d like a night out without the worry of drink driving, and the 2.4 million visitors annually to Byron Bay.

Please see our advertisement to see the councillor and mayoral candidates to vote for.

Let’s have both rail and trail – as they do around the world so successfully!

Lydia Kindred, Northern Rivers Rail

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  1. It is tale alright. A tale of delusion and falsehood. None of the organisations, Toot, NRRAG or the farcical the not-for-profit company formed by their principal advocates has the capability to fund the vast millions of dollars required to return trains to these decrepit tracks. Northern Rivers Rail Ltd was created weeks after the legislation to close two sections of the corridor and dedicate them for trails was passed by the government. It was nothing more than a cynical last ditch attempt to stop the trail in the forlorn hope that, if they just hung onto the rails, some future government would provide a fortune so a tiny fraction of the population could enjoy luxury public transport.

    Their company charter says they will restore the whole 130 km of line then run tourist trains (not commuter services) on it. This would make it not only the longest tourist railway in Australia but it would probably exceed the total length of all tourist trains combined. Tourist railways exceeding 20 km in length are very rare.

    Then comes the clincher. They claim they will then extend the railway from Murwillumbah to Queensland. These multi-billion dollar projects are to be undertaken by a company that has no staff and not even enough money to employ a manager. They are funded from $20 subscriptions by the old age pensioners that make up most of their members.

    Lydia has claimed that they will be able to to do this very cheaply because they will use volunteer labour. These people are telling us to vote for candidates who share this pipe dream. Think carefully who you put on the ballot paper because they will be in charge of spending your rates.

  2. Ya All Dreaming.
    When the bike riders come you will all have your hands out.
    There will be more bike riders than train customers with the revenue into the local community’s to match.

  3. In these days of mass tourism to our area the reinstatement of this asset would be a winner. Queensland has offered an extension of the Murwillumbah line into Queensland at State expense.

    • Absolute nonsense. NSW has funded an investigation into whether it would be practical to build its own light rail from the Coolangatta airport to Tweed Heads when the Gold Coast Light Rail has reached there in several years time.

      Light Rail is not for intercity trains. It is used in densely populated urban areas such as among the 500,000 people who live on the Gold Coast in a population density literally 100 times that of the Northern Rivers Region. Despite only the first part of the network being completed, their system already carries ten million passenger per year. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Lismore every day 365 days of the year. Trains come by every few minutes most of the day and continue most of the night. That is how the billions of dollars invested can be justified. A train leaving every hour of so from Murwillumbah or Lismore is not in the same league at all. Nobody is going to pay for such a train. Not now, not ever.

      No railway will ever be built from Murwillumbah to anywhere. Any new investment in rail in the distant future will come from the Coolangatta airport and run close to the M1 to Yelgun where it cuts nearly 20 km off the route through Murwillumbah, is much closer to the growing populations of the coastal areas and avoids the need to reconstruct the most decrepit part of the old railway through Dunbible Valley and Burringbar Range.

    • If QLD convert to standard gauge trains for the Gold coast then fine. Until then it is just a token offer. The cost of near $1 billion is true, especially if you want to run an actual train service rather then a tourist attraction. Everything has to be upgraded. Track has to be replaced, formations and bridges rebuilt to make the line even possible. New signalling will have to be implemented and trees cut down where they have grown up through the old tracks. This is not something that is going to be cheap.

      • No need to convert any line Craig.

        When the rail connection from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta is built they only need to put in three rails instead of two so any train can use the line. Cheap and easy to do.

        The one kilometre Byron by-pass and bus transit centre cost taxpayers $32m. The $660,000 per kilometre cost of repairing the line for a train in Byron is miniscule by comparison. ALL the track and bridges do NOT need replacing. Even if you double the $660,000, the $1 billion is complete rubbish from a dodgy corrupt government to justify their plan to destroy the valuable rail line and sell off the valuable land to their developer mates.

        As has been stated many times, it’s morraly bankrupt and incredibly selfish of those who demand almost as much public money be spent destroying the line for a bike track to be used by a few fit cyclists who can ride up hill in all weathers, while depriving locals and six million tourists of a sustainable, accessible, affordable train service, when we can have BOTH!

        • Louise – you love a red herring. The fact that there are instances of corruption in the NSW (hardly a new phenomenon at any level of government) does not prove anything about the integrity of the studies done about the feasibility or restoring the rail service. How will the land be sold off to their mates if it’s a rail trail? Leaving it stagnating poses the greater risk of this eventuality.

          It is ridiculous to keep suggesting that an extrapolation can be made from the costs of restoring the small section of track from Elements to Byron Bay CBD. Can we e extrapolate the viability of the entire track from the usage of this section. What can be gleaned from the usage figures and running costs, even with a volunteer workforce.

          What did the by-pass cost so much Louise and why did it ploughed through sensitive habitat? To preserve the train dream with a refusal to investigate the rail corridor.

          The rail lobby will have to do much better to convince me and I’m an enthusiastic advocate of public transport and enthusiastic user of train services. But the train lobby provide only hyperbolic and emotive claims. A good case in point is the argument that if I’d prefer to see the scenery by train than on a bike the tax payer should indulge my whim.

          They refuse to give any credence to the common sense data and argument driven reasoning of those who point out that if a rail service warrants investment (including a link to Coolangatta) it isn’t along this alignment.

  4. Greg Clitheroe is right. There is never going to be the money available to fund this pipedream of a railroad project so let’s just get on with developing the best bike & walking trail possible. That’s something the State Government might actually help to fund.

  5. We can only hope that our councils don’t provide old Melbourne Trams as public transport or the Human Rights Commission will be knocking on their door with a ‘please explain ‘ order to desist.
    “ Melbourne’s trams are likely breaching discrimination laws by failing to provide meaningful public transport access to Victorians living with disabilities.
    That’s the finding of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. A new report shows only 38% of the state’s tram fleet included low floors.
    Only 15% of all tram services were “accessible in a meaningful sense for passengers with mobility restrictions” over 2018-19.”
    Northern Rivers Rail Ltd is a heritage train group so we can only presume that is what will be provided .

  6. This myth that the previous railway line was running at a profit is a complete furphy and fabrication. There is no evidence that the railway was profitable. Quoting Wikipedia is not evidence or creditable. There is plenty of evidence and Government reports that restoring the railway line would cost the NSW taxpayers billions of dollars. Thats why they now run buses to meet the needs of those without cars. Thinking that a fully functional railway could be restored for less than 1 BILLION is delusional.

    The pro-railway crowd also like to trot out conspiracy theories about the road transport industy and Government corruption with zero evidence to support their fancifal claims. They have nothing to support their claims, no accurate costings, and no idea.


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