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Byron Shire
June 3, 2023

Work is starting on Tweed Rail Trail

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The Echo loves your letters and is proud to provide a community forum on the issues that matter most to our readers and the people of the NSW north coast. So don’t be a passive reader, send us your epistles.

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Vale George Davidson OAM former Tweed Shire Councillor

A funeral will be held today for George Davidson OAM who was once a Tweed Shire Councillor and a passionate advocate for the Tweed.

An artist’s impression of how the Murwillumbah Railway Station may look on the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

The Tweed Council section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is a 24km section that stretches from the Murwillumbah Railway Station to Crabbes Creek and work is starting on the construction.

‘The first official works will include restoration and resurfacing of the historic Colin Street Bridge in South Murwillumbah. A compacted gravel surface will also be installed along a 200 metre stretch of the disused rail line to trial the installation process and evaluate the surface’s suitability for local conditions. As part of this process, a section of the old railway track will be removed to enable construction of the new surface,’ said a Tweed Shire Council spokesperson.

Rail and trail

However, there has been an ongoing pushback against the removal of the rails for the rail trail with many locals calling for the rail trail to be built beside the track rather than on formation. ‘On formation’ requires the removal of the rails and then a bike track is built there instead.

At the time of approving the construction of the rail trail contract there was a submission for a rail trail to be built alongside the rails however, this bid did not get accepted by the Tweed Shire Council.

Bill Fenelon who ran in the recent Tweed Shire Council elections advocated ‘for a retention of rail lines along with the creation of rail-trail cycleways. I would like to see a rail connection between the Gold Coast and Casino, connecting our region to Brisbane and Sydney.’

Work has begun to restore the steelwork on Colin Street Bridge at South Murwillumbah.

First works getting underway

Project Director Iain Lonsdale said that ‘Murwillumbah locals may have seen the main site office set up at the Murwillumbah Station in recent days and people may start to see crews preparing for the first construction works, set to begin at Dunbible on 15 December’.

‘It is really important to us that we respect our Aboriginal heritage and our built environment and I am proud this project will restore so much of this important local history and put it on show for people to enjoy and learn more,’ Mr Lonsdale said.

‘The Rail Trail will be a fantastic resource for our community and make the Tweed an even greater place to visit, helping our local businesses to thrive,’ said Tweed Council’s Senior Economic Development Officer Kym Kranen.

‘It will be a destination for the whole community to enjoy – whether you want a safe place to ride with friends and family, go on a long distance ride with your cycle club, or just walk through the countryside to explore local villages, experience our beautiful scenic landscapes or learn about local history.’

When completed, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail will be 132km rail corridor between Murwillumbah and Casino. The Tweed section will link Murwillumbah Railway Station with the Tweed Regional Gallery and travel south through the villages of Stokers Siding, Burringbar, Mooball and Crabbes Creek.

To learn more and let us know your thoughts about how we can make the most of this new community resource, or to register your business interest, visit yoursaytweed.com.au/railtrail.

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  1. Despite drawing the donkey vote position as Group A, Fenelon ‘s team received just 2.7% of the vote. Their “big rally for the last push to return the train” attracted an audience of less than twenty people. Most voters recognised his folly.

    The only off formation tender was incomplete and did not include “uncosted earthworks” to construct a second formation for the trail. It was also “subject to soil testing” to determine if the soil (in many places, mud) beside the formation was capable of supporting the trail foundations. It was perfectly clear that such works would cost far in excess of the budget, which is why Hazells did not bother to complete it. It was not compliant and hence ineligible for selection.

    The results of the election indicate a continuation of the majority support for the construction of the trail as it has been conceived and designed over nearly a decade as a largely on formation “Rail Trail” rather than an off formation “bike track” that would not meet the project goals for accessibility. The state government funding body has already indicated that such a “bike track” would not qualify for the funding. Millions already spent would have to be paid back, leaving Tweed ratepayers with a huge debt, no train, no trail and not even a “bike track”.

    It is time for the rail advocates to accept reality. The Tweed Valley Rail Trail is now under construction. Any further actions to try and stop the project would amount to dishonouring the democratic process.

  2. With over ten years from inception, and eight years of consistent dedication of the NRRT committee to seek and secure state and federal approval and funding, this rail trail is about to become reality for the ardent thousands of supporters to enjoy and celebrate.

    So many of the previously doubtful, have seen the logical need to secure our corridor through activating it into public use. The rail trail is the perfect application for this purpose.

    The corridor will always remain in public ownership and will therefore remain accessible for whatever future communities deem it necessary for. This may be a form of high-tech low cost public transport yet to be invented. Who knows?!

    Multi-use ideas intrinsically fell well short of expectations, as the single formation was only ever designed to accommodate the standard gauge of 4 feet 8 and a half inches, which is not even wide enough for a rail trail alone, without modifications.
    Anyone who has investigated the corridor seriously, has easily seen these issues staring at them.

    Let’s hope our new Byron shire councillors are smart enough to get on board too.
    I’m sure they are.
    Good luck to you all..

  3. This is fantastic news and relevant to the article just published in the Echo on the health benifits of cycling.
    The article mentions Bill Fenelon and trail beside rail. The Government made it clear it was not interested in funding such a path in Tweed which would have required huge and expensive additional earthworks to achieve the wide level path that will attract the wide rage of users expected to use the rail trail. Bill Fenelon’s abysmal vote in the council elections shows how little appetite Tweed ratepayers had for paying to refund over a million in grant funding already spent and to refund the contractor, just to end up with the same unused rail corridor land.
    We expect construction of the rail trail will also start shortly in Richmond Valley, the trail to Lismore is now funded and Ballina is now keen to have an on road link to the proposed rail trail in Bangalow. We hope Byron Shire will quickly resolve its exploration of a possible private strategic partnership for its MURC , and will agree to pursue funding in the meantime for at least the initial stages of the the rail trail in Byron Shire.

  4. At last some good rumblings are now being heard and I can only hope with more articles and promotions like this via the Echo (and hopefully other media outlets up and down the NSW coastline), that the potential for tourism by implementing suitable infrastructure such as this, will be taken on board by all those newly elected Councilors and Mayors.

    I believe now the time is right with all those baby boomers who have reignited their passion for cycling and invested in electric bikes so they can visit all these beautiful and historic localities and reward the businesses that have struggled through this horrible pandemic.

    To give a little history to this concept of “rail trails” there was a Professor of Town Planning who had similar thoughts way back in the 1980’s.
    That man was Professor Elias Duek-Cohen, who whilst holidaying at Emerald Beach (just north of Coffs Harbour) had a vision of what was then called “The Coastline Cycleway”. His thoughts were based on the facts that you could ride (weather-wise) this section of the cycleway all year round and as a marketing tool, the coastline between Brisbane and Sydney is so well known overseas, as can be justified by the statistics from the Big Ride in 2000, where it was advertised at one bike show in Seattle, of the 1,500 riders, 600 came from America!

    Elias then took on the task of visiting each LGA between Kingscliff in the north and Eden to the south and documenting all viable route options to make his vision a reality. The file was documented as the Coastline Cycleway under the control of the Department of Planning at that time.
    With this momentum now gathering speed and 40 years of talking probably now covered in dust in all the local Council offices, can I suggest a working group of relevant council officers together with the passions of any newly elected Mayors or Councilors up and down the coast be assembled so it doesn’t take another 40 years to make Elias’s vision become reality.


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