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Byron Shire
September 22, 2023

Rail trail option to be explored for disused railway 

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Billinudgel – a station with no trains… This would be one of the local towns that would benefit from a rail trail between Mullumbimby and Wooyong. Photo Jeff Dawson

Byron Council will investigate building a bike and pedestrian path beside the rail line between Mullumbimby and Wooyung, in a bid to make use of the currently unused track.

In a move that has reignited the rail vs trail debate within the Shire, councillors resolved to commission a report on the issue at last week’s Council meeting.

The catalyst for the return of the issue is the recent removal of train tracks in the Tweed Shire, following that council’s decision to build a bike and walking track on their section of the corridor.

Last week’s Byron Council meeting heard that there is an option to link up with that track, effectively providing a path from Mullum to Murwillumbah, including a side link to Brunswick Heads.

‘At the moment, nothing is happening in the rail corridor in the Byron Shire,’ said Labor councillor Asren Pugh, who moved the motion.

‘I’ve had the opportunity to walk along much of the corridor [between Mullumbimby and Billinudgel] and it is an amazing piece of infrastructure.

‘This is about making use of this asset for locals and residents. There’s currently no way to ride safely between the northern towns of the Shire. I think we need to make decisions about the rail corridor and stop pretending something else is going to happen.’

‘Let’s get on with making a decision about this asset, because otherwise it will continue to rot.’

But the move was not without its opponents. Three residents spoke against the motion during public access at last week’s meeting, and expressed concern that moving ahead with a bike and pedestrian path would rule out the possibility of reopening the train line.

‘Locals want a train service,’ long-term local and rail advocate Louise Doran said. ‘This isn’t going to take any cars off our roads.’

NSW Labor took the trains off the tracks in 2004.

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  1. This is a good move. A path from Mullumbimby to Brunswick Heads,and a path through the Shire along the corridor were both identified by community consultations -including consultations at Ocean Shores -as a Priority A in its Bike Plan As Major Michael Lyons pointed out, with the building of the rail trail in Tweed, there is no longer any realistic possibility of a railway north, but the report will examine any previous rail proposals, to ensure it’s clear there is none proposed now. It will also outline the extent of restraints – and they are manifold on that stretch of the railway- to building the rail trail beside the rail formation.
    That should make it clear the rail trail is really the only feasible option to open the disused corridor North of Mullum to the public. This is an exiting opportunity for people looking for sustainable active transport and recreation, and it will also help shift the visitor profile to those who want to physically experience our beautiful outdoors.

  2. “In a move that has reignited the rail vs trail debate within the Shire, councillors resolved to commission a report on the issue at last week’s Council meeting.” NO! Not another effing BSC report! …… ffs!!!!!!

    btw No need to do anything other than clear the track between Billy and Crabbes Ck.
    Cyclists can then use the old highway into Brunz. From there, depending on the tide, it’s a spectacular ride into Cavanbah (Byron) along the beach.

  3. Idiots !
    How dare you cheer the vandalism of this hard fought for, and paid for by the previous generation, for the betterment of the nation.
    Yes , that’s right ‘the nation’ and it IS the nation who owns this infrastructure ,which will never be affordable to repeat in our future .
    This action by a vocal group of frivolous horsey and bicycle hobbyists and the attendant parasites, hoping to capitalise on tourist interest and not realising that COVID and the near collapse of international air-travel, will never see the heydays of big-spenders return in a World racked by pandemics and ever increasing catastrophic climate effects and global famine.
    Horsey tracks and bicycle trails will never replace the most efficient and least polluting transport system, that will be trashed by incompetence.
    Cheers, G”)

    • You are really claiming that trains are “the most efficient and least polluting transport system”? In a conversation about bikes?!! Anything that can allow a man the weight of a walrus to travel 100Km using only the energy of a scotch egg is plainly more efficient than a train.

      Your point about covid is similarly daft. Not many people bring their bikes on an international flight and so your argument there rests on the idea that trains are more covid safe than bikes. A point that is plainly at odds with reality.

      If you are going to call people idiots then at least sanity check your own flimsy argument first.

    • Anyone with any knowledge of how government works in NSW, jobs for the boys, and the corruption uncovered by the ICAC, (Eddie Obeid, Tony Kelly, Ian Sir-Lunch-a-Lot McDonald, Joe Tripodi, Daryl Macguire et al) and the waste of eyewatering amounts of taxpayers’ money on rorts and pork barrelling, knows the state government has NO interest in rail trails. The motive for scrapping the legislative protection from the line had nothing to do with rail trails, but the sale of valuable rail land worth many millions. Chunks of it have already been sold off.

      Byron was once safe for cyclists and pedestrians, but not any more. There are many safe bike tracks in Byron Shire, especially in Brunswick Heads where it’s an easy, safe cycle for children to school and locals to shops, but rarely a cyclist on them.

      Meanwhile, thousands of locals (and visitors), who could have caught a train had there been one, were stuck in kilometres of traffic on the M1 trying to get to the writers festival last weekend. It’s ok for selfish people who don’t have to suffer that to demand the valuable line be destroyed. They obviously care little about the emissions destroying our childrens’ future.

      Why are the bikers so obsessed with destroying the rail line for their own exclusive use and so unwilling to share? What will the bikers have to say if the their ‘wonderful’ bike track ends up being a weed covered white elephant and financial drain on ratepayers, as so many have elsewhere?

      • If building the trail is “pork barrelling” it would indicate that the trail is a very popular with the community. Shot yourself in the foot there Louise.

        None of the railway land that has been disposed of in the region was adjacent to parts of the rail corridor where the legislation has changed. Shot yourself in the foot there again Louise. In fact a trail project would be a good reason not to dispose of adjacent railway land.

        There is absolutely no evidence that operating trains would have made a shred of difference to the traffic on the motorway during any event or at any other time. Nor is there any evidence that trains would reduce emissions and every reason to expect total emissions to increase by introducing a train and the huge carbon footprint of resorting and maintaining railway infrastructure for tiny numbers of services.

        Sharing the corridor would require a project that was going to put trains on the track. Where is that project? It makes no sense whatsoever to spend a fortune building an off-formation trail when there is zero prospect of trains ever returning to the decrepit tracks.

        The numbers of users at other trails with far less attractive features than our trail makes it clear that there is effectively zero possibility of the trail becoming a “white elephant”. All indications are that it would quickly become the most popular trail on Australia.

        Any comparison with other heritage rail projects indicates that any attempt to run trains on the old track would be a financial black hole, as evidence by the fact that nobody has come forward to fund any such venture. The tail is not standing in the way of trains because there isn’t a railway project.

    • As usual, a fanatical rail advocate incapable of making an intelligent contribution to the discussion, resorts to insults, condescension and verbal abuse. It is a sure sign that they know they cannot make a rational case for their unsubstantiated assertions.

      The old corridor indeed belongs to the people of NSW who have been very much wanting for years to make use of our asset, which had been left abandoned and decaying for nearly two decades. Nobody has made a train happen and it is now clear that it isn’t going to happen. Tweed Shire has shown us beyond any doubt that we can have a world class trail that will be thoroughly enjoyed by residents and visitor alike.

    • Yeah good on you Ken…

      There will never be a train run along that line again, face it. So why not do something productive with the corridor so people can actually move along it?

      You call them “bicycle hobbyists” but sensible people would call them “humans enjoying the outdoors and moving between towns without cars”.

      The Tweed section is already seeing local businesses have many more people coming through the doors in the towns and opportunities opening up for more. This means local businesses employing more people and paying more tax which brings benefits to the area.

      Physical activity makes people healthier too – including mentally.

      Meanwhile you want to sit there and say no no no over some fanciful idea that the old train line is going to be serviced by trains. There isn’t the demand for it. It is a line to nowhere in both directions.

      The rail trail for cycling, walking and other uses makes a lot more sense.

  4. The notion that ‘the community’ wants trains is a myth promulgated by a noisy minority. They held pro-rail rallies at several stations along the corridor on Saturday August 20 and hardly anyone turned up. I counted just nine at the Murwillumbah event, most if not all of them were the familiar hard core activists. Photos at other stations suggested similar or even smaller turnouts.

    As one of their number said at a recent protest against the removal of the rails at Dunbible, “We have been protesting about this for years and nobody is taking any notice”.

    Despite this, they persist in misinforming the general public with nonsense about how the decrepit railway is in good condition despite being completely neglected for two decades, how cheaply it could be resurrected and how a trail could easily be built beside the railway formation. The fact is that nobody, government or private, is going to fund the repair of the decayed infrastructure or subsidise the fares to make services affordable to passengers.

    There may have been some slim chance of extending the Byron Train to Mullumbimby if the proponents had focused their effort instead of wasting their time pursuing the impossible dream of reopening the whole branch line. Time is up for them to get out of the way and let the corridor be used for another public purpose.

    There is certainly no possibility of trains ever returning north of Mullumbimby. It does not make sense to build a much more expensive off-formation trail that will cost much more to maintain than an on-formation design like the one being constructed in Tweed Shire. This will become clearer as the investigation continues. Unfortunately more time and ratepayer funds will be wasted before the reality becomes obvious but it seems there is no other way.

    One thing for certain is that a lot of money needs to be urgently invested in the 100 metre long heritage listed steel bridge across the Brunswick River just north of Mullumbimby. It is not a long way from the ocean and has not had any maintenance in two decades. It will become unsalvageable through corrosion unless something is done very soon, spelling the end of any hope of trains or a trail on that part of the corridor. A smaller version at Dunbible has been saved by the Tweed Valley Rail Trail project.

    Railway proponents need a strong dose of reality. The so-far-largely-silent majority needs to urgently administer it to them.

    • As usual, spot on and fully factual, thanks again Greg for putting into writing what needs saying.

      Won’t be long now before the Tweed Rail Trail section is open for use. Then, I hope, the pro-rail minority will shuffle off to ponder alone in the dark the reality that the trains are not coming back. Meanwhile the rail trail will be allowing people the opportunity to get out and about amongst the fresh air and scenery. They’ll be to see up close parts of the countryside they would not otherwise be able to visit at their leisure, for as long as they decide they wish to. I can’t hardly wait for it to be open for use!

  5. The fact is, that if the Rail Trail scenario was included in an IQ Test, regarding engineering costings and population numbers viability, it would greatly influence the overall result.

    As it stands, Byron Shire would have a low score, and as time rolls on, with councils on each side of Byron Shire, electing and succeeding in getting on with the only viable option to re-activate our corridor, the Rail Trail, poor Byron Shire is on an exponentially catapulting decent in its IQ score, until it wakes up.

    But how embarrassing it is in the meantime..!


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