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Byron Shire
January 21, 2022

Why not both

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The tender for the first section of the Rail Trail starting from Murwillumbah indicates that it is not more expensive to construct the Rail Trail alongside the railway than on top of the rail tracks. Therefore, why not keep the option available to reopen the railway? We all need to lobby Tweed Council if we wish to have the option to restore the railway in the future.

Based on cost estimates to construct the Melbourne to Brisbane high speed railway, the total cost of building the Casino to Murwillumbah railway from scratch, including land acquisition, will be approximately $15 million per metre or $1,950 million for the complete railway [have asked for a correction from writer]. Since the earthworks have already been constructed, including tunnels, most of the rail track and ballast and many of the bridges (some will need to be replaced), the actual cost reduces to approximately $295 million and not the cost estimate of $953 million figure being used by the State government. Maybe the latter would have been prepared to reinstate the railway if it had used this much-reduced cost estimate.

Northern River Rail is planning to reopen the railway in stages, with the first section being from Byron to Tyagarah with an extension to Mullumbimby. The condition of the track over this length is good and the cost will be relatively small. This section would be operated by a community owned not-for-profit company using solar trains and, if the patronage justified it, the line would be extended to Bangalow, Lismore and Yelgun and hopefully, eventually to Murwillumbah. The viability of the latter extension would be greatly improved if Murwillumbah was connected to the Queensland rail system.

When the railway was operating it was an asset to be used by the residents of the Northern Rivers. Without any input from the local community in terms of public meetings, State government decided to terminate the rail service. Then recently the government decided to rezone sections of the rail corridor so that a rail trail could be placed on top of the railway. Once again, this action was taken without reference to the local community through public meetings. This is surely a case of government not listening to the local community before it makes such major decisions as closing down permanently an asset that is valued by the local community. This is hardly the action of a healthy democracy.

In order to give private enterprise a chance to at least reinstate part of the railway, I urge those that would benefit from the reopening of the railway to vote for those standing for Council who support the railway reopening. These candidates may also support the rail trail. This is not an issue because both can be constructed within the rail corridor. Information can be found from the following [email protected]

Chris Abraham, Mullum Creek


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