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May 18, 2024

Bentley to Lismore Rail Trail one step closer

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A map of the proposed rail trail. Image supplied.

Lismore Council has voted to accept a staff recommendation to endorse a funding deed with the federal government for a 16.3km section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

The section of the trail under the deed would run between the north/east side of the bridge over Back Creek at Bentley and the Lismore Railway Station at South Lismore.

A grant of $9,863,615 under the Building Better Regions Fund – Infrastructure Projects Stream – Round 5, would see the trail join the Richmond Valley Council section of the Rail Trail linking Casino to Lismore, providing a total rail-trail length of 29.7km.

NSW Public Works Advisory was engaged to provide an independent assessment of the project scope and budget, which confirmed the grant provided sufficient funds to complete the project. The report outlined the benefits, key risks and considerations for delivery of this project, and recommended the acceptance and execution of the funding deed.

The staff recommendation was that: Lismore City Council notes the project risks associated with the Northern Rivers Rail Trail between Bentley and the Lismore Railway Station project, and endorses the execution of the funding deed with the federal government consistent with the support provided to date under Council’s adopted Delivery Program, and that; Council be provided with regular updates on the planning for this project and actions to mitigate the project risks, and that further financial information be provided as part of Council’s 2022/23 budget deliberations.

A blast from the past

Ex-Lismore City Mayor Jenny Dowell found herself on the other side of the chambers when she spoke during Council’s meeting in favour of the Rail Trail.

‘As is evidenced by the timing of this funding agreement that’s come for funding from the federal government for the Bentley to Lismore section of the rail trail, there is information that I think you need to know.

‘Although I’m speaking as the Lismore rep from the Northern Rivers Rail Trail committee, I’m also authorised tonight to speak on behalf of Regional Development Australia, Northern Rivers Board, of which I’m a member. The chair Don Page and the executive director Tim Williamson have approved me to inform you that the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is the number one regional priority for RDA Northern Rivers. The number one. The only regional priority for RDA Northern Rivers.’

Strong support from Regional Development Australia

Ms Dowell said the strong support for the rail trails by RDA is based on several issues: the employment in construction and ongoing employment through tourism and adjoining businesses and activation of communities along the way; keeping the corridor in public hands; connecting regional communities; generating health and social benefits; enhancing the environment with no negative environmental impacts, and; creating an alternative route for delivery, and an escape from flood situation or others.

‘Our Northern Rivers Rail Trail engineers also believe that construction of the rail trail may actually have a flood mitigation positive impact. There is no need to be along the top of the embankments, for example along in south and north Lismore.

‘RDA Northern Rivers is aware and has emphasised with our state and federal MPs with whom we have very good relationships, the need to address the necessary legislative change at the state level, the governance model and the need for maintenance money.

Councils should not be responsible for maintenance

Ms Dowell said RDA and the Northern Rivers Rail Trail agree with all councils along the route, that council should not be imposed or should not be given responsibility for the maintenance of this rail trail. ‘We are working strongly with our federal and state members and other bodies, Destination New South Wales and others to make sure that that does not happen.

‘The Northern Rivers Rail Trail committee has constant engagement with staff from Tweed, Richmond Valley and Lismore councils and we commend your staff for this report.

‘There is strong community support for this project and a sound business case with return on investment being $1.70 for every $1 invested.’

Ms Dowell said rail-trails have revitalised communities throughout New Zealand, throughout other states in Australia. ‘Most recently, opening at the start of COVID, the Rosewood to Tumbarumba Rail Trail has had incredible benefits for those communities. Recently, Destination New South Wales and others held a meeting at Eltham and asked for people who might be interested in mentoring opportunities to take advantage of the Rail Trail and 20 businesses have signed up.

‘We urge you to sign this funding agreement and be assured that RDA and Northern Rivers Rail Trail will support and work with you along the way we understand the enormity of your task. We believe that together we can unlock a further $20 million to take the rail trail from Lismore to Bentley to Booyong.’

Giving hope to the people of Lismore

President of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail committee Pat Grier also spoke for the recommendation. ‘This project will give hope to the Lismore people because you’ll be getting funding of up to 30 million (dollars) to create a rail trail in this region. But it’ll also be fast-tracked within the next few years out 30 million will be coming to you and ever be creating jobs straightaway in the construction, but also give the opportunity for businesses and other jobs coming from those businesses. So this gives huge hope and bright and a bright future to the Lismore area. This is exactly what people want.’

Mr Grier said he wanted to talk about risk mitigation for council. ‘Quite rightly as a council you say “well where do we find the money if this goes wrong?” Well, there’s two parts to this project. One is the construction and for the construction to take place, there has to be an act of parliament to transfer it from Transport to open up the corridor so that the lease can be moved towards you, for you to actually start construction. That’s the first part of the process, and a lease will be given to you to start the construction, which then will be moved when the construction is completed to the actual body that’s going to be running the rail trail going to the future.

Unexpected costs met by the government

‘The second is that the funds that have been allocated, have now been found by an independent body, to be adequate to do the first section which is from Bentley to Lismore. And from Tweed any overruns or any unexpected costs have been actually met by the government, so you’re very fortunate that you’ve got the Tweed ahead of you.

‘So a lot of the risks that are quite rightly listed in this paper have actually been covered by Tweed. And most of those risks such as antagonism by community and so on and so on, have dissipated.’

Mr Grier spoke about the financial risk to the council after the construction. ‘So the first stage is you will be given a lease of the corridor to carry out the construction. Then at the end of the lease, there was going to be an independent corporation set up supported by government underwritten by government, and we’ve got the support of government for this, to set up an independent body that will run, manage and meet all the costs of the rail trail. It will be a separate body to the council and that will have government representation, all the councils will be represented on it, there will be business representatives and there’ll be community. It will be a separate party set up by government to run the rail trail.

‘Then the lease that you have will then be transferred to that corporation and they will be liable for all the funding of the rail trail. There’s a whole raft of ways for the funding to be raised and we have a target. But I can assure you as far as liability of costs after the construction will flow to the setup corporation which government will develop for the whole 136 kilometres of the rail trail.

Bringing $30 million to the Lismore region

‘If you want a project that’s going to bring 30 million into your Lismore region that’s going to give hope to your people, this is one of those projects I’m sure there’ll be others, but once you have worked all the way through the problems you’ve got today, [the floods] you’ll look to the future, and this will be the project that will actually deliver on the future for Lismore and the whole region.’

An excellent project

Cr Elly Bird opened Council’s debate on the Rail Trail. ‘The Rail Trail is an excellent project and the thing that stood out for me this evening in the public access was that we need a project that’s going to give our community hope. The Rail Trail has done that before this recent [flood] event and it’ll do that afterwards.

We need a project that’s going to stimulate significant economic development. It’s going to give our community an opportunity to get out and enjoy our beautiful countryside once it’s repaired. We’ve heard that the risks have been adequately addressed by committee members and that it’s the number one regional priority of the Regional Development Board for the Northern Rivers. It’s a no brainer. It’s an excellent project. It’s well funded and it’s backed by bipartisan support at all levels of government so council should get on board and let’s get it happening.

A lot of issues in the documentation

Cr Peter Colby wanted to make an amendment to the motion. ‘I believe that it needs to go back to the situation where we’re actually briefed by the actual Council staff. I think there’s a lot of issues in the documentation that need to be addressed, and I think during the flood period where there was a point where we were actually going to get a briefing but it was cancelled. But bringing to light what was brought forward tonight, by the Northern Rivers Rail Trail people I think they [staff] should have reached out to the Northern Rivers Rail Trail people to clarify the actual real costs and the real leasing arrangements and the liabilities that Council will be involved in, and just to put it on the record

Cr Colby said he didn’t oppose the Rail Trail. ‘I believe that it’s a valuable item but I think we have to take a longer view at the actual issues of transportation in the Northern Rivers. I think they can be part of that for tourism. It can actually be part of the transportation strategy for the Northern Rivers, but once we get through the next six months or so, we should look at some way of actually looking at a transportation strategy because there’s got to be a lot of people moving around and we need to address that.

‘If I can change the amendment to say that we refer it back to the workshop committee, so that we can actually understand exactly what the changes are, and how it mitigates the liabilities of the council to be able to fund this.’

Focus on the motion

After several more questions and some debate about the risks and how the financials would work, General Manager, John Walker, said he wanted councillors to focus on the motion itself. ‘What you’re being asked to do tonight is endorse the execution of the funding deed, not asking him to design it. There are issues that will go on as we move through with regular updates and planning. So the important thing tonight is to endorse that execution to make sure that the funding is secure before that date expires. And before this election. As you can see, we’re getting regular updates on the planning and on things that go forward.’

After almost 40 minutes of debate, councillors voted. Cr Colby’s amendment failed and the recommendation was passed with Councillors Ekins, Hall, Jensen, Rob, Gordon, and Krieg for, and Councillors Colby and Bing against.

Cr Guise did not vote and removed himself from the chambers during this item stating he had non-pecuniary but significant interest in the rail trail matter because he lives in North Lismore adjacent to the proposed rail trail.

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  1. Fantastic news.

    And thank you to The Echo for the thoroughly detailed report. It should help allay some of the concerns being stirred up by misinformation campaigns conducted by some noisy rail trail opponents.

  2. Great news. Very sensible decision from Lismore Council not to throw this opportunity away during these hard times!

  3. $10 million to permanently destroy Lismore’s railway connection for a bike track? That feels like a slap in the face.

    $25 million for 29km of rail trail is a massively expensive rail trail. Even after flood damage to some areas, you could without a doubt repair and reopen the same section of railway line for that money.
    What is more beneficial to Lismore; rail connection to Brisbane, Sydney and the rest of NSW, or a bike track to Casino that would be the hottest, most bland section of trail in the whole region? I’m sure the tourists will flock to Bentley 35 degree heat over somewhere like coast…

    The whole “it’ll be managed by a corporation” idea is a new one too. When did they cook that up? Rail trail proponents have always spoken in the context that it would be Council-managed, as will be the Tweed section. For Tweed Council it will cost them over $200K a year just to manage 24km. Assuming the whole trail is built, the Lismore LGA will ultimately encompass close to 40km of trail, plus dozens of bridges…
    RT proponents have also been saying for years how the State Government isn’t willing to fund long-term rail trail maintenance. Has that changed overnight?
    Interested to see where this “corporation” plan to get all their money from for maintenance if not for Gov, especially to cover damage from flood events like this. I have heard from some RT proponents that the disposal of swathes of rail corridor land via long-term leases is one way they intend to make some money.
    But hang on, weren’t we told the corridor land would never have to be leased? Other proponents haven’t ruled out implementing a user-pays system. The story just keeps changing with this group…

    • The evidence from comprehensive studies of train and trail projects shows the rail trail will be far more beneficial to the region than any train. I notice you carefully avoid any consideration that the trail to Casino is just one section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail. The section to Casino will be a beautiful compliment to the very different countryside on the rest of the trail, providing an incredibly diverse set of experiences, landscapes and vegetation from subtropical rain forests through to dry open plains.

      The story changes according to you as you seize upon every rumor and piece of misinformation in your conformation bias driven frenzy to discredit the trail project in every way you can. Most of these stories come to you from people who share your agenda.

      Yes it is an expensive rail trail as rail tails go. That is because, unlike the incredibly popular Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, which was a low budget build, the designers of our trail have aimed to maximise the accessibility for people of all levels of ability and minimise the ongoing maintenance costs.

      This key feature is what will bring people to our trail in huge numbers because everyone from preschoolers to grandparents will be able to enjoy it together. Bagging the project is just making you miserable. Take a step back and let what will be take shape, despite the noisy, ineffective opposition.

    • Tweed Council also envisages the maintenance costs will not be left to the ratepayers. The first three years are already covered by a state government grant while other funding models are investigated.

      Even if they were funded by the council, the $200,000 per year is less than 0.08 percent of the council budget, a mere four cents per week per Tweed resident. Compare this to the $3 million it costs to run the shires swimming pools, after the admission charges. I’ve paid Tweed rates for more than forty years and never once set foot in the pools. Am I complaining?

      It cost $9 million annually for parks and gardens, several million for the galleries, museums and sporting facilities. Why is it that the cost of just one public facility is singled out by trail detractors? They do it because it is a distraction from their real agenda and otherwise naked self interest. They want vast sums of public money squandered on providing luxury public transport for a tiny minority of which they are a part.

  4. So on top of the billions of taxpayers’ money the Morrison government wasted on commuter car park rorts, sports rorts, the emissions reduction scheme rort that does NOT reduce emissions, and the billions wasted on cancelled submarine contracts, they’re now wasting millions ripping up a billion dollar rail line for an expensive bike track rort. And they have the hide to call it ‘Building Better Regions”!! No it isn’t-it’s destroying valuable infrastructure worth billions!!

    If Lismore councillors had bothered to check they’d see that most of the work done so far on Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek section of bike track has been washed away along with the contractor’s machinery. What great value for taxpayers’ money!

    Well done former Mayor Jenny Dowell and Don Page, who were front and centre with thousands of locals protesting and demanding train services be provided for locals and millions of tourists on this valuable train line. Locals know the benefits being attributed to a bike track are farcical compared to the environmental, social and economic benefits of train services for locals and millions of tourists, especially when the line is connected to the Queensland rail system, as Don Page and Jenny Dowell once demanded it shoukd be.

    You wouldn’t trust any of these people with a chook raffle let alone valuable public infrastructure.

    They couldn’t care less about the suffering of those who have lost everything, including their cars, in the worst flood in local history caused by rising emissions and global warming, or that petrol is $2.20 a litre and rising.

    There’s something very rotten going on when governments can get away with rorting so much taxpayers’ money and we have nothing to show for it except environmental degradation.

    • No Louise, your claim that the work has washed away is a lie. The contractors built a short section of test track to see how the chosen surface would handle heavy rain. They could not have asked for a more thorough test. That test section is completely undamaged despite the Dubible Valley being one of the epicentres of the deluge.

      Unsurprisingly, the temporary scaffold erected by the subcontractor who is sand blasting and painting the Dunbible Bridge was damaged.

      I ask one of the engineers if the flood had affected their design intentions. He responded that they were considering making the concrete causeways a little thicker. The first hand observations of the height and effect of the flood have provided them with invaluable information.

      As good corporate citizens and part of our community, they have been using their machinery since the flood to help the council clean up Tweed Shire. Now that job is almost complete, the machines are parked at the trailway station ready to get back to the contract as soon as it stops raining.

  5. What a sick, sad world it is,
    when vandalism on this scale is main-stream and state supported.
    Hard won, robust infrastructure is being trashed for the most trivial and inconsequential pursuits of, horsey rides and bicycle promenades.
    In an era of our dire need to capitalise on the co2 savings inherent in bulk rail transport ( with the added bonus of reducing the number of hideously dangerous B-double trucks on our roads ), the mindless throngs have been manipulated into pressing for frivolous pursuits and all the while the real-estate sharks are circling for a killing.
    There are none so blind as those who will not see. Cheers, G”)

    • Nothing but platitudes again from those with a religious commitment to railways unaffected by reality. Services on the old line corridor would not make a scrap of difference to the number of trucks and cars on the road. It is the rail advocates who are blinded by their mindless devotion.

      • No Greg, “religious commitment “is very far from my motivation, I would put it down to Science and Logic.
        It does however raise the question of what is your hysterical need to spout your line of disinformation and propaganda, it does seem, to me though, that you may have a desperate financial inducement ! ?
        Louise has nailed it, the ‘State of Denmark’ has nothing on the stench of corruption and incompetence emanating from Federal, State and local governments and I do detect a waft from the direction of Greg’s fanaticism.
        Cheers, G”)

        • Perhaps Ken could explain some of the science that shows how a slow train that doesn’t go anywhere near where most people live nor where they need to travel is going to attract people out of their cars.

          Are we to imagine that workers in Goonellebah heading for Byron are going to drive down to the station in South Lismore to wait for a slow train when they could be half way to the Pacific Motorway in the same time.

          Will people flock to the train to arrive in the station in South Lismore, still several kilometres from the major employers in Lismore Square, Southern Cross University or the Base hospital? Catch the train to medical facilities that are absolutely nowhere near the railway like Byron Hospital, Lismore Base or Murwillumbah?

          Imagine that people from Ballina will somehow get to Byron to catch a train to South Lismore and walk to their destination? Particularly with South Lismore likely to be pretty much abandoned over the next several year as repeated floods render it uninhabitable.

          Before the efficiency of rail travel can do anything for emissions, the railway must attract people out of their cars. A steam age anachronism is never going to achieve that requirement.

          • Prior to the State gov changing train timetables to ridiculous times, the rail line was highly used and profitable, and provided a valuable public service to those that didnt drive, and got cars off the road for those that didnt want to drive ( or now pay for time limited parking). Just acknowledge you just want a bike trail to ride your bike.

          • John Lazarus, the legendary profitability of the old rail service is an often repeated myth that has never been substantiated. At best it would be built on extremely biased versions of the facts but more likely just plain fiction. It is well known that no regional rail services make a profit. The vast majority of passengers were concession holders who contributed virtually nothing to the cost.

            The timetable was consequence of cutting unprofitable services and having to work with the timetables to suit the much larger numbers of passengers using the service closer to Sydney where the shorter journeys were more practical than spending twelve hours on a train. Do the numbers, it took very few cars of the road at all.

            In any case the old service are ancient history in the days before the motorway and low cost airfares which were actually the death knell for the railways. What we have now is a decrepit steam age railway that isn’t going to be rebuilt, not now, not ever.

            My motivation for the rail trail is the economic prosperity of the place where I live. It is a unique opportunity.

        • If I had a pecuniary interest in the rail trail, why would I use my real name? Wouldn’t I just call myself some common fake surname like “Green” or “Brown” or use my first name like “Louise” or “Ken”, if I didn’t want my identity connected with my published opinion? If you want to respond, have the sincerity to stand behind your statements by providing your name. Otherwise readers can rightly query the reasons you choose to remain anonymous.

          Frankly, your pathetic accusations that trail advocates must have some financial interest in the project reveals a complete lack of substance to your arguments. Your obsession with need for personal gain reflects the nature of your own motivations, rather than those of people who seek to make the most of a rare opportunity to have a multi-million dollar investment in our communities.

        • Yes; I have just been personally attacked by Greg on a Tweed Shire Council Facebook post; and was ultimately deleted when I pointed out that it was obvious to me he must have a financial vested interest; Greg attacks anyone who does not share his view and I believe this question deserves an answer Greg; what is your financial interest and gains from this rail trail. You undermine any view that is not your own with a full time presence. Look forward to an honest reply; I am sure we will be able to source records of awarded contracts but please save us the time

          • My interaction with Pug Mumma (obviously not their real name) was on the Tweed Council Facebook page on Arpil 29th.

            Pug roared in with two posts on an otherwise reasonably well-mannered thread about the resumption of work on the Tweed Valley Rail Trail, making disparaging remarks about everyone involved being corrupt and accusing people who would use the trail of looking down on the residents of South Murwillumbah as losers. To be frank it was quite offensive. I wouldn’t surprised if an admin took exception but I’m not one to complain.

            After my reply spelling out the facts, both of Pug’s posts disappeared. One of mine went with them because it was a direct reply. The other one replied to the thread and is still there now if anyone cares to look. I still stand behind everything I said in it.

            I’m not so sure that Pug would be particularly proud of their posts but we can’t know now because they are gone.

            I assumed that Pug had taken them down out of embarrassment and because I had utterly demolished their rant. It posts were removed by the admin, then they didn’t take exception to my remaining post but they didn’t like either of Pug’s.

            Railway advocates like Pug argue their right to hold an opinion is being breached when I counter their opinion with hard facts. They mistake disagreement for persecution.

            They are welcome to have any opinion they want but once that opinion has been published, it is open to critique. This is a fundamental principle of free speech in a liberal democracy. It isn’t my fault if they cannot defend their prejudices.

    • Very true Ken, there is much to recommend an efficient passenger and freight rail service linking the population growth areas of northern NSW with QLD. But you wouldn’t waste money attempting to resurrect a line designed with the industries, technology and population distribution of a different era in mind.

      Like the NBN and fibre optic versus copper – better to do it once and do it properly.

      In the meantime using silly terms like “horsey” adds nothing to the success of attempts to denigrate what will be an invaluable social asset and alternative transport corridor. Look around the world. Look closer to home in Victoria and QLD.

      • Exactly. Queensland closed their tortuous steam age Gold Coast railway in the 1960s. Its reconstruction in the 1990s led to a prevalent myth about the regrets of closure among railway fanatics.

        In fact the new line was built on a different alignment that supports speeds of 160 kph that could never have been achieved on the old corridor. Speeds that do get people out of their cars.

        Similarly, time was up decades ago for the railway on the old Casino-Murwillubah corridor which was designed for the needs and speeds of 1890. Nobody, government or private is going to invest the vast sums of money to resurrect this anachronism.

  6. Not a very good ‘supplied’ map – Lismore and Bentley are not shown.
    I wonder what adjoining landowners feel about this proposal as regards disturbance to stock & general farming operations ?

    • As at other rail trails, many adjoining landholders are concerned and sceptical during the planning, often having their fears fanned by railway fanatics who will say anything to try and stop the trail, in the futile belief their train will return if the decrepit rails, rotten sleepers and collapsing bridges are left in place.

      One the trails are opened, the neighbours often become the greatest advocates, engaging with the trail users and providing facilities such as food, entertainment and accommodation, while enjoying the supplemental income this brings to their farms and businesses.

        • The evidence for the economic rejuvenation of communities that host other rail trails both in Australia and across the planet is abundantly clear. The Northern Rivers Rail Trail will have what it takes to be one of the best in the world.

          Your throwaway platitude just doesn’t cut it.

          • No not a platitude or a throw-away – just bitter past experience from over-exuberant Lovies Greg.

  7. But will it be a ‘Rail Trail’ or a ‘No-Rail Trail’ ? The story doesn’t make this clear.
    You could of course have the rail & trail together. In fact they’d be complementary, eg if it starts to rain you could cycle to the next station & hop on the train with your bike to continue the journey.

    • Sadly Ian the ‘rail trail’ plan is for the removal of as much ‘rail’ as possible. Railway tracks will be removed as part of the current plan, and railway embankments may be demolished as part of the plan too. Essentially, the ‘rail trail’ would be the end of all physical possibility of ‘rail’.

      I too agree that they would compliment each other. Constructing the rail trail alongside the railway line has been suggested as a better option but the rail trail group have been doggedly opposed to the idea for many years now. They will forge ahead with removing most rail infrastructure quite literally at all costs.

      • Yes Wayne, bikers have never been able to explain their hysterical objection to the bike track being built on the service road alongside the line rather than destroying valuable public infrastructure which will provide public transport for millions while at the same time reducing emissions.

        As for any mythical ‘tourist boom’ we already have enough tourists and anyone who’s bothered to check knows towns where there are functioning rail trails (those that aren’t overgrown with weeds) aren’t exactly crowing about the economic benefits they bring.

        Just like the dodgy, dishonest politicians, bikers are in denial about climate change and the consequent disasters which will only increase in frequency and intensity. The way things are going with regular fires and floods and no time to recover, there won’t be too many locals left, let alone tourists or cyclists, if we keep spewing tonnes of emissions from our cars and planes. see Four Corners 28.3.22.

        • “Bikers” don’t care about climate change! Resorting to terms like “bikers” and “ horsey trails” smacks of insufficient faith in the objective merits of your arguments as do all the distractions irrelevancies and hysteria about government rorts. Stick to the issues.

          And it’s not true – rail trail proponents have amply explained the incompatibility of the two purposes. TOOT ect would rather see the community with nothing than admit the shortcomings of a revived rail service on that corridor.

        • The mythical “service road alongside the line” is yet another of the endless lies promulgated by the railway fanatics like Louise. Railways are maintained from the line itself. There is no service road.

          The many reasons for it not being practical to build beside the formation have been repeated over and over again. Trainiacs simply refuse to acknowledge them, just as they refuse to acknowledge the fact that trains on the old corridor could never make a significant contribution to the transport needs of the region.

    • This claim that we can have both is one of the most prevalent myths promulgated by rail advocates.

      As was clearly demonstrated by the tender process of the Tweed section, where tenders were invited for both on and off formation, it is not practical nor affordable to build a second formation for the trail beside the railway. This would require vast amounts of earthworks to widen cuttings, destroy the amenity of the trail and enormously increase the cost of ongoing maintenance.

      The train is not returning. Nobody is going to fund the huge cost of resurrecting a nineteenth century relic and cover millions of dollars in operating losses, so that a tiny minority who happen to live near the old corridor can enjoy luxury public transport.

    • The pertinent question is: do we want a rail trail or do we want either a mouldering track for the next 50 years with the potential for sell off for other development? But by all means let’s put off getting a rail trail with the distraction of the infeasible rail plus trail.

      • What rubbish. People have allowed themselves to be conned about ‘mouldering tracks’ while mouldering, dishonest, bullying politicians waste billions of OUR money with nothing to show for it.

        Most locals know the cost of repairing the line for trains is little more than the cost of destroying it for an expensive bike track, but the benefits of a train service far outweigh an overgrown bike track. Not too many cycling in the wet, but they’d be able to stay dry on a train.

        Polticians are paid well to represent the needs of their communites, not small cashed up lobby groups who can afford expensive ads in local papers and on prime time television.

        The only thing that’s mouldering and decaying is our democracy.

    • The process of getting the Northern Rivers Rail Trail up has been in process for many years. This is the sixth funding announcement. Other announcements did not immediately precede elections. Surely it is obvious that some will happen to occur before an election?

  8. It seems people are still considering the old, decaying rail lines viable and worth $1billion. It’s very obvious these armchair ‘experts’ have not familiarised themselves with the current parlous condition of the remaining infrastructure.
    The rails and metal components are rusted beyond redemption, timber sleepers are generally rotted through and these old lines would have to be completely realigned and replaced to be useful for any new rail.
    Also, livestock quickly get used to passing traffic, although it might be more difficult for neighbouring property owners to give up the public land they’ve appropriated whilst the railways weren’t maintaining their boundaries.
    While railways are great things, this trail will likely carry much more human traffic in one form or another than trains ever would.

    • Armchair experts need to familiarise themselves with the cost of repairs needed to run trains on the line-as in Byron Bay-compared to the cost of ripping it up and replacing it with an expensive bike track which will NOT provide the social, economic or environmental benefits of train services for millions.

      Most of the train line north from Sydney was built well over one hundred years ago, but with upgrades still serves us well. No one is calling for it to be replaced with a bike track.

      • Armchair experts? There was an expert study and report of the cost of repairs but some, because they didn’t like what they read, have simply dismissed it as a lie and substituted their own estimations based on a combination of costings of a kilometre in Byron Bay and wishful thinking. Who are the armchair experts?

        • The cost of repairing the Byron section of line for trains is concrete evidence that there was nothing ‘expert’ about the ARUP study which claimed it would cost $7 million per kilometre to repair the line for trains despite most of it being in good condition and quickly and easily cleared of weeds as it has been in Tweed, and by blokes with brush cutters. The ARUP ‘study’ has also been discredited by BSC Arcadis study which also stated that a bike track was not the best use of the valuable train line.

          Local LNP MPs and the ALP were quoting costings of around $100m to repair the line for trains just months before they commissioned the dodgy ARUP ‘study’. That’s less than the cost of 132ks of expensive bike track.

          • The Arcadis study that miscalculated the number of bridges and did condition assessment by drone footage.

            Yes we have concrete figures from the Byron line but not all kilometres are the same Louise. The Byron line also gives an indication of possible usage figures and economic feasibility without volunteer labour. Not that encouraging I would think.

          • No matter how bikers try to spin it, the huge difference between $660,000 per kilometre to repair the Byron line and the dodgy $7 MILLION quoted by ARUP is as dodgy as hell and no sensible would keep repeating it.

            Compared to the billions the Morrison government has wasted with absolutely NOTHING to show for it, repairing the billion dollar train line and getting the trains running again would cost peanuts. On top of that, money would be saved on road building and maintenance.

            Or we can keep spewing carbon emissions from our filthy fossil fuel cars and planes and back to back catastrophic disasters will mean there’s no one left to drive or cycle anywhere, eg Lismore, especially when Byron is regulalry flooded.

            Most decent people are concerned about the mess we’re leaving our children and future generations.

            But that’s obviously of little concern to self absorbed bikers.

          • The Arcadis MURC report has been widely discredited with sound objective criticism of the methodology and disconnection between the rosy vision and the reality on the ground.

            They show pretty drawings of a trail neatly bedside a railway while the reality is the formation is three metres high with a swamp where they pretend the trail can be built by laying “150 mm of yellow sand” on it and sealing with bitumen.

            Their images of Very Light Rail vehicles were all computer generated concepts and not one of them existed at the time the report was published despite the claim that they were “currently being tested”. Even at present the vehicle they proposed exists as a single prototype, has a target cost equivalent to $1.4 million dollars (ex UK) and seats twenty passengers. Do you own maths to calculate the cost of how many would be needed to make a difference to the traffic on Ewingsdale Road then work out how they would work on a single line.

            They repeatedly claimed that the line was in “reasonable condition” despite never defining what “reasonable” meant, which is incredibly amateurish in a $300K report. They came to this conclusion based on small sections of the line they could see while much of it was invisible, buried under impenetrable vegetation. Apparently it never occurred to them that these buried sections were likely to be in severely deteriorated condition.

            Intrepid locals have battled their way through some sections, often on their hands and knees, to photographically document the real condition of the line which is in “reasonable” condition only if one uses reasoning to consider the effect of rotting vegetation on steel and hundred year old timber. It makes a complete mockery of the Arcadis assessments.

            They based trail use on urban cycle way models ignoring the fact that it would be part of the much greater tourist features of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

            The Tweed section was not cleared by “blokes with brush cutters”. An excavator mounted flail mower spent four weeks just exposing the formation so trail designers could see what they were working with. Those inspections reaffirmed the assessment made before the last train ran, that the track north of Bilimudgel needed “major repairs or complete replacement” even back then. Two decades of neglect have not helped.

            The section Hayters Hill south of Byron was similarly assessed before the rail services ceased. This section was long notorious for land slides. Our intrepid explorers were barely able to recognise where the line ran in that section, let alone inspect it, yet Arcadis claimed it was also in “reasonable condition”.

            Arcadis was asked to write an exploratory piece on the possibility of putting some kind of transport service on the old railway and that is what they provided. Despite being advised by the authors themselves that it could not be used as the basis of a decision to develop the corridor, rail enthusiasts like Louise have read far too much into it (if they read it at all) and have been claiming that “Byron is going ahead with light rail”.

            The bottom line is that nobody is going to pay for this pipe dream that would cost many hundreds of millions of dollars.

    • Greg, I’d like to see your sources regarding that assessment of the line north of Billi at closure. I’d also like to see the source regarding that more recent assessment following the Tweed Shire clearing.

      Liz Levy and Wanderer, it seems exceedingly unlikely that $1 billion is a realistic cost for restoring the railway line. Why do I say that? Let’s look at the Darwin to Alice Springs railway line, which was constructed from scratch over virgin landscape in the early 2000’s, opened in 2004.
      That was constructed at a cost of $1.2 billion. Brand new. 1,420km of track. Brand-new. 15 million cubic metres of earthworks. Brand new. 1500 culverts, and 93 bridges, including three major structures. All brand-new, all from scratch.

      Now lets compare the Murwillumbah line. 132km of existing track. Existing earthworks already in place. 0 cubic metres of virgin earthworks required. Approx. 130 bridges already in place, a portion of which do not require replacement.
      Allegedly it would cost over $1 billion to restore 132km of existing track, yet somehow it cost just $200 million more to build 1,420km of brand-new track, 1593 bridges/culverts and 15M cubic metres of new earthworks? Yeah, no.

      Part of the ARUP report’s problem is that the final costing is over 50% contingency, astonishingly high. For comparison, their rail trail feasibility study included just 15% contingencies. See the appendices of the report for their actual infrastructure costings. The whole line is costed at roughly $470 million to repair, not $1 billion. Secondly, ARUP based all costings on accommodating heavier, mainline-weight trains such as XPT trains. This is contrary to what locals have been campaigning for, which is lighter-weight trains several carriages in length, similar to that of the Byron Solar Train, which is actually lighter than the Gold Coast Light Rail. All signs point towards the ARUP report being geared from the get-go as extremely pessimistic and out to make rail restoration look as expensive as possible. That is simply implicit in the report design, as explained prior.

      Furthermore, we have the example of the Byron Solar Train on track restoration. My understanding is the entire solar train project cost around $3 million. That figure includes all aspects of the project, including construction of new platforms and a storage shed, train restoration, solar conversion AND the reinstatement of 3km of railway track (including a 40m bridge over Belongil Creek). Now according to ARUP, 3km at $7 million per km means they should have paid around $21 million for track repair ALONE. Yet they did not. Why is that, I wonder?
      Furthermore, your claim that the steel components are “rusted beyond redemption” has been invalidated by the Byron Bay example – steel sleepers dating from the late 90’s are still in place working perfectly. In fact, much of what you see on the Byron Solar Train section has not been replaced. They have added steel sleepers to a pattern of 1 in 2 (one steel sleeper and one timber sleeper for every two sleepers), certainly haven’t fully re-sleepered the whole section. Much of the ballast is also existing, simply profiled before the first services. The rails themselves, dating to 1975, are also still rock-solid.
      The thing is, the harshest corrosive environment on the whole line is beachside Byron Bay. Yet steel components on this section are still in use today, even after being buried under vegetation for 13 years. Hence, it is exceedingly unlikely anywhere else on the line has worse corrosion, certainly not anything that would make components un-serviceable.

      It should be abundantly clear that the ARUP report took a dramatically exaggerated pessimistic approach, and hence the report holds minimal validity, if any.
      The “oh but everything is too rusty” line is regularly trotted out by rail trail advocates, despite the fact that physical evidence to the contrary (in the most hostile corrosive conditions) exists in Byron Bay on operational railway line.

      • An interesting comparison Wayne and I’m not unfamiliar with the concept of reports reflecting a particular agenda. We must also recognise the limitations of the Arcadis report.

        If, as train proponents suggest, no price is too high to pay for the environmental advantages of rail (especially in the face of government profligacy) I’d still suggest that starting again with an alignment that takes in the major population centres, travel routes and public facilities – plus allows faster travel – is the way to go.

      • The cost to repair the short section in use at Byron cannot be extrapolated to the rest of the track. The Byron section is straight so the demands on the track are small. They did enough work for it to support speeds of 25 kph. Repairing the track for trains to corner at even sixty kph would require a lot more expensive work and materials.

        Virtually all the bridges have deteriorated beyond the capacity for any train. The tracks in Hayters Hill are now almost impossible to locate let alone be resurrected for trains.

        In any case, the cost of repairing it is not the biggest impediment. No matter how many or few hundreds of millions of dollars would be required to run trains again. services on the old corridor cannot make a significant contribution to the transport needs of the region because they don’t go where the main populations live. They would also be very expensive to operate compared to using buses, which are the solution that has now recommended by a string of professional transport consultants.

        Nobody is going to fund the pointless railway extravagance. The vast majority of the general public are not interested in the train and have no use for it. There isn’t going to be a train. End of story. Get used to it.

      • Nowhere did I use the term “rusted beyond redemption” which you have misleadingly attributed to me as a quote.

        In fact the main problems are related to the wooden components which are severely decayed and crumbling. Followed by the heavily contaminated ballast. Sure it is fine to cut off the trees that grow out of the ballast for a tourist train that does 20 kph but that is not acceptable for running trains at the speeds required for proper public services.

  9. But ….. But ….. But ….. The Morrison Federal government is only going to be in power for another five weeks.
    Don’t you think this money is about the election and not the Rail Trail?

  10. Should have left the rails, widened the corridor and given the area a chance at low/zero emission public transport while offering the trail.
    This stupid idea that it is one or nothing is short sighted and costly.

  11. What a waste of money! People are doing it hard and a few special bike riders are in a position to close the nations Rail corridor to turn it into their own bike track.

    There are no facts in from Tumba RT? Wasn’t it to be the pilot for all NSW RT?.
    I have visited it numerous times and there was no one on it!!!

    • Really this rhetoric, and similar contributions, are over the top. The “nation’s” rail corridor? Just a heads up – it’s Casino to Murwillumbah. Another heads up, it was closed many years before a rail trail was mooted. It is not just a matter of demanding a functioning and viable service be abandoned because people want somewhere to ride their bikes. To suggest so really smacks of desperation.

      Rail trail proponents have looked at the pattern around the country of resurrecting disused infrastructure and turning it to a social purpose. A rail trail is so much more than a bike track. It opens up beautiful landscapes that foster an appreciation on nature and promotes healthy passive recreation. It isn’t just for one small community but would link communities through the region opening up viable means of alternative transport. Many people in congested cities make much less pleasant and longer journeys to commute to work when bike infrastructure is available. Is there anything immoral and dastardly about this?

      Then it’s not as though the trains are going to run on alternative energy sources. Not those distances and those gradients. Nothing wrong with good public transport – and many love to travel by train including me. But proper objective planning needs to consider what will run with maximum patronage with minimum emissions: electric buses, a realigned train line that will service population centres and provide fast flexible travel times or restoring a line for which similar planning was conducted over a century ago.

      • “rail trail proponents have looked at the pattern around the country”. These self-proclaimed armchair experts have no credibility when they keep peddling rubbish. The Tumba rail trail? No one is crowing about the economic benefits of this or any other trail as there are few.

        The rail trail proponents never mention the many cycling tracks that actually run beside train lines, or the long fight by locals since 2003 demanding corrupt polticians provide the environmentally, socially and economically beneficial train service they promised for sooooo long.

        Just like developers who are allowed to build ugly, massive buildings on the beachfront then demand taxpayers pay for ugly walls to protect their property, bike track proponents want to destroy a valuable train line for ‘passive recreation’, but never mention the disasters being created by the lack of action on emissions reduction and the global warming which is destroying people’s homes and lives and creating the mess we’re leaving our children.

        As for trains not running on alternative energy, if people did a little research they would know trains in Europe run on dual fuels and the technology is improving all the time. Japan has almost eliminated domestic air travel and reduced emissions thanks to their fast train services, as we should be doing, if only our governments’ weren’t wasting so much of our money on rorts and subsidising fossil fuels.

        Bike tracks, along with local bus services, are just one part of an integrated transport system. The Casino to Murwillumbah line is the spine of our transport system as it connects the majority of North Coast population centres to the main line at Casino and will connect the region to the Queensland rail System. To destroy it is an abomination.

        Most decent people have much more to fight for than a bloody expensive bike track for ‘passive recreaction’ which will not take one car off our roads but will deprive millions of sustainable public transport. They’re concerned about the state of the planet and their childrens’ future.

  12. Where we’re all the village and town hall meetings on this transfer of public wealth. This destruction of our valuable public rail infrastructure is the number one public interest issue since the gas. I believe the Northern Rivers Rail Trail hasn’t gained a social licence to operate —because to date, there has been appalling ‘proper community consultation’. Ripping up the tracks for this rail trail will rule out ever reinstating rail in this corridor. The community will not accept allowing their public rail infrastructure to be handed over to the cashed up cycle lobby like this! The commercialisation of this corridor by Lismore City Council sub leasing sections out- would surely need a serious rethink after the recent flooding in South and North Lismore! What business or investor would risk that? Our Sustainable Future has been sold out and left the building.

    • Reinstatement of rail services on the corridor was ruled out years ago. Retaining the rails wouldn’t make a scrap of difference. People will not leave their cars at home to catch a train on a slow steam age corridor that doesn’t go anywhere near the major populations of the region could never make a significant contribution to the transport needs of the region.

      The community is already allowing it to happen. A far greater section of the community is supporting the rail trail project than the tiny minority campaigning to save the rails. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised from commmunity contributions to enable it .

      Comparing it with the Bentley gas protest is a joke. That action involved hundreds of protesters in an unrelenting occupation of the site for months. It succeeded because of the numbers and commitment to stop a project which did indeed wreck our community in favour of private enterprise, and had no social licence. About thirty protesters turned up at Dunbible for a brief protest against the removal of the railway tracks. For them that is a big rally and nobody took any real notice.

      Why would anyone be worried about leasing the corridor if flooding is such an issue? You obviously agree that nobody will be taking out the 99 year leases that rail advocates keep trying to scare people with. In Tweed, a decision has already been made that lessees will not be allowed to build anything permanent. All structures must be easily removable. In any case, leases will be secondary to the central goal of the project which is to keep the corridor in public hands as a wonderful community facility.

  13. The community-who pays the taxes-has NEVER ruled out the return of rail, quite the opposite.

    The only people ruling anything out are the same corrupt politicians who waste billions of taxpayers’ money on rorts!! We could have a VIABLE gold plated train service for a lot less.

    Enough is enough.

  14. Yes Louise, enough is enough. People have had quite enough of your false claims to be representing the views of the community, and your vague, unsubstantiated accusations of unspecified corruption, apparently by virtually everyone in the NSW parliament if you are to be believed.

    Prominent rail advocate and long time TooT President, Bill Fenelon stood as the Green candidate for Tweed in the last State election where he was resoundingly defeated. Last year he stood as an independent candidate in the Tweed Local Government election on the platform of returning the train. Despite his team drawing Group A and receiving the donkey vote, they garnered a paltry two percent of the vote. The indication is clear. The people of Tweed aren’t interested in the train.

    In the Byron Local Government elections, the support for the pro rail Greens collapsed in what was probably the largest swing against a political party in Australian electoral history. Many of those votes were picked up by Mark Swivel whose campaign clearly stated that he wanted to see an end to the futile, money-wasting rail pipe dreams and for the council to get on with the trail, as has been done by all the other councils hosting the corridor.

    Meanwhile the now Mayor of Byron, Michael Lyon, once strongly pro-rail, promised to shift his efforts to the rail trail unless funding for the railway has been achieved by the end of this year. His took this middle path, knowing that support for the railway idea is waning while the trail is becoming increasing popular as Tweed continues construction that will reach the shire boundary by the end of the year.
    The people in this region have made it clear that the return of the railways is not something they care about.

    Taxes are paid by all of NSW residents. The support across the state for hundreds of millions of dollars to be squandered on providing luxury public transport to a small percentage of a diffuse population is virtually non-existent. Only a tiny but noisy band of local self interested trainiacs living near the railway are persisting with this futile demand.

    Both sides of parliament agreed that rail services would not be reinstated on the corridor in 2014 and the line was effectively abandoned. In 2020 both sides voted to close the line and dedicate it as a trail. There isn’t going to be a railway. Get used to it.

    • Interesting. Do you think there were zero other issues at these elections that could have swayed voting? Using elections, in which rail is one issue out of over a dozen, as if it is a conclusive measure of community support is quite silly. One way you could substantiate your claims would be with thorough community consultation which canvasses residents of their viewpoints in an unbiased manner. Problem is, that hasn’t happened. Using election outcomes to represent something that they don’t isn’t a valid approach. A classic example of neglect to distinguish causation and correlation.

      Quite strange you persist with this bizarre idea that only people who live right next to the railway line would be allowed to use trains. As if you have forgotten that people can ride, walk or drive to railway stations, just as they have done in the past in this region and of course continue to do worldwide. Tourists and locals alike would naturally utilise a well-timetabled rail service. Somehow I doubt the fact they may not live next door will stop them.

      The Parliamentary vote in 2020 only included the Tweed Shire and Richmond Valley sections, to be clear.

  15. Trains do not have to be giant multicarriage affairs as in the heyday of rail.

    They could be lighter single carriage tram-like affairs. Or even some kind of electrified bus with wheels that could run on rails. This would enable them to run on less costly rails. It would also get the rail system going in some form while bigger repairs are being planned & budgeted for.

    Where is this anti-rail hysteria coming from?

    • Or we could go a step further and use an electrified bus on the road. This would avoid the need for hundreds of millions of dollars of repairs to be undertaken on the derelict railway for the the benefit of the few people who would use a slow train snaking its way through the countryside, nowhere near where most of the region’s population live, or the routes where they need to travel.

      Unless the train is a “giant multicarriage affair” it might was well be a bus. If that bus it isn’t running at least several dozen services per day then the cost of the specialised infrastructure, be it a railway track or a busway, cannot be justified.

      Gold Coast trams run most of the day at 7.5 minute intervals and fifteen minutes into the night, serving the 600,000 people who live there plus the ten million visitors per year. Even with the short section of the project that has been completed, they move ten million passengers per year which is the equivalent the whole population of Lismore every day of the year. There simply isn’t the population in this region to justify the huge expense of rail services at any level.

      The only hysteria on this issue is coming from the rail advocates who contend that vast amounts of public money aught to be squandered proving luxury public transport for a tiny minority. It isn’t going to happen.

  16. Greg,

    Anyone who claims bus and rail are the same shows they have no actual experience of using public transport.

    Trains are so much easier to use. For example stuff is easier to get on! With a train, our bikes, luggage, shopping, pushers, etc … come on via a platform which is level to the carriage. You do not have to ask the driver to come down & open the luggage boot for you. Elderly or infirm people do not have to walk up the high steps as on a bus.

    Also a train has a clearly defined route, namely the track. On a bus the route is only known to regular users. It can & often does change without notice, & often does not have clearly defined bus stops. Most confusing for the occasional user, (and isn’t that the way we all start ?)

    Sorry Greg, trains win, buses lose.

    • A train is completely useless when it doesn’t go anywhere near the places most people live or the places they need to travel. That is the reality of the old steam age railway built for the needs of 1890.

      Trains rely on the specialised infrastructure of an occasional station to get people on and off at all. Modern buses have a low floor and lower their suspension to bring the step level with the curb. They are wheelchair compliant from any location.

      Train services cost many many times as much as bus services. Sorry Ian, trains lost this battle twenty years ago.


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