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Byron Shire
November 30, 2022

Tweed Rail Trail on track to open early 2023

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Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry, Tweed MP Geoff Provest and Project Director Iain Lonsdale

For those who are keen to access the Tweed section of the rail trail the reality is in sight. Tweed Shire Council (TSC) has announced that the 24km of rail trail they are working on will be open to the public in early 2023 subject to weather.

Dunbible Creek Rail Bridge.

The trail is seeing the restoration of a range of heritage-listed bridges including both the the historic Dunbible Creek Rail Bridge and the Burringbar Under Bridge No.1 near Mooball, a bolted plate girder bridge, first opened in 1894. They are two of the largest and most historically significant landmarks on the Rail Trail. 

‘These are unique heritage bridges that really add to the look and feel of the area with the 100m timbre bridge at Mooball being restored,’ said Project Director Iain Lonsdale.

Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry gives the new Tweed leg of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail a spin.

Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) said restoration of the bridges will give the public access to a nature-filled 24 km trail that takes in some of the most beautiful parts of the Tweed Valley.

‘You can sense the excitement building in the community as we start the countdown to the rail trail opening early next year and will be a great addition to our vibrant community,’ Cr Cherry said.

‘The rail trail will not only be an incredible way to experience nature in the Tweed, it will also preserve some of the important railway heritage which is exemplified by the most grand and newly-restored heritage-listed bridges at Dunbible and Mooball.’

Dunbible Creek Rail Bridge prior to restoration.

Prior to the restoration works, trees and vegetation had overgrown and obscured parts of Dunbible Creek Rail Bridge and it was unsafe for public use.

The complex restoration process took about five months and was completed under the guidance of some of Australia’s leading steel treatment experts, including the team behind the steel preservation treatment of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

‘There are 28 bridges on the Rail Trail with 14 significant ones,’ said Mr Lonsdale. 

‘We had a specialist contractor in to bag the bridge and vacuum out the dust and lead paint, so that there was no contamination of the creek and waterways, and applying the state-of-the-art steel preservation treatment.’

Dunbible Creek Rail Bridge is a classic example of the American-inspired steel through-truss bridges that became a hallmark of the North Coast Railway Line after it opened in 1894.

Construction will now continue to finalise the approaches to both bridges with finishing works to include new balustrades and decking.

‘The Tweed section of the rail trail between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek is looking fantastic and the contractors are well on the way to completing the earthworks, bridge restorations and installation of the gravel surface,’ Mr Lonsdale said.

‘In the next and final phase of works, the focus will shift to works in and around the villages of Burringbar, Crabbes Creek and at South Murwillumbah.’

Dunbible Creek Rail Bridge.

Rail trail opposition

Mayor Cherry said that while her personal position to the rail trail was on public record that ‘when it became clear that was the action being taken I had to move on. Yes we had a loss but we are going to retain the heritage trail line land and it can be returned to public transport in the future if we need it. So let’s enjoy what is here.’

Member for Tweed Geoff Provest said it was wonderful to see the remarkable historical landmarks restored to their former 1890s glory.

‘I applaud the project team for their commitment to restoring our history and to delivering a high-quality recreational asset for the community and visitors to enjoy for decades to come,’ Mr Provest said.

‘The rail trail will be a priceless public asset not only for activities like cycling and walking but also because it will underpin new business opportunities and support local jobs in the Tweed.’

Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry and MP Geoff Provest take a look at the new Tweed leg of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail a spin.

Innovative opportunities

‘The  Dunbible Creek Rail Bridge cost around half a million dollars with the total costs of this section being approximately $14.3m,’ said Mr Lonsdale. 

‘There si no future funding guaranteed so we are looking at ways to raise money to support the maintenance of the rail trail. For example we have the rail trail branding, we can lease parts of the rail trail, which is 40m wide at points, to operators who want to develop businesses that will complement the rail trail. 

‘It is about making opportunities that complement the rail trail, not about exploiting the rail trail for commercial businesses. The environment is the most important asset and it is about balancing the interests of the environment and private businesses,’ he explained. 

‘This is a public asset for the public. Paid parking is absolutely not part of our thinking. 

‘It is about achieving financial sustainability as we can’t keep relying on the rate payers to fund the trail. What I love about the project is that it is opening the floodgates for a range of innovative ideas that will come forward. But we are taking it with baby steps and community representation is fundamental to any rail trail.’

♦ Update: the article originally said the rail trial would open on 23 January 2022. No set date has been confirmed for the opening at this stage. Major works are due to be completed on January 23.


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42 COMMENTS

  1. Trains would be better, its disappointing that we have no alternative to the ever increasing cars and buses on roads to move us around. Bikes although very good do not solve the transport problems we face now and in the future.
    Trains could be for everyone, from the youngest children to the oldest in our community. They could be for the festival goers, the school children, the tourists, those how don’t own cars or those who shouldn’t drive home that night.
    Maybe one day they will come back.

    • A railway that doesn’t connect where most people live to the places they need to go would make no difference to road traffic and be an enormous waste of money and resources.

      Trains are for mass transport. Hardly anyone travels south from Murwillumbah. The notion that a town so small needs a railway is nonsense. Trains could only have provided very expensive luxury transport to a tiny minority who happened to live near and needed to travel to locations near the corridor. They expense would be incredibly inequitable

      Exactly which school children would have used trains on the old corridor? Rail supporters speak nothing but mindless platitudes.

      Most tourists arrive by car. They are not interested in a slow expensive train to take them somewhere they could easily visit in their car.

      • This is totally wrong to Rip up our extremely valuable rail infrastructure that was built by hard working people with Bullock teams over 100 years ago The Tweed has 95,000 people 5,000 are totally blind so many disabled people and elderly people who can’t drive need trains There are 2.5 million tourists in Byron Bay who need trains to get jammed traffic off the roads Geoff Provest in 2007 was going to bring back 6 light rail to Murwillumbah and continue to Coolangatta airport to get traffic jams off the roads particularly the M1 on the gold coast the road is a nightmare to drive on

        • Most of the people in Tweed Shire don’t live anywhere near the old railway corridor and would have absolutely no use for any train on it. Most of the elderly and incapacitated of this region don’t live close to it either.

          Geoff Provest did not promise to bring back trains, much less extend the railway to Coolangatta. Both sides of parliament agreed with the finding of a $2 million independent professional report in 2013 that reopening railway would not be funded. That has been the policy of both sides ever since.

          There is absolutely no evidence for the notion that trains on the old railway would make any difference at all to road traffic.

          You need to learn more respect for the truth.

          • Geoff Provest-and the LNP DID promise to get the trains running AND build the rail connection to Coolangatta, not once, but continually over many years. It’s all been very well documented. The fact is 85% of the North Coast population, that’s all age groups, live within five kilometers of the rail line.-

            The so-called ‘professional report’ has been shown to be $2 million of complete rubbish. Any business using shareholders’ money in this way would be prosecuted.

            Once again these people show they’ve no idea what they’re talking about. They certainly don’t know what the truth is.

            An expensive bike track won’t take one car off the congested roads, just add to the problems. All over Australia, and the world, new train lines are being built as THEY DO REDUCE TRAFFIC. Many places offer free train travel for exactly that reason.

          • Yes all them people who said that the train should never be put back will never use it. They will all be running around in there electric car. That we the public funded with our high electricity bills.

      • Bull crap. That train should never have been closed. The government needs to extend it to Coolangatta. We would not be having this problem now. Greed and truck power closed that line. The labor government. You know that government that is there for the people. 😂😂😂😂

    • This project has little to do with transportation and more to do with recreation and tourism. This will bring people from other areas who would like to explore the Tweed on their bikes. Local businesses will benefit. Safe and enjoyable places to cycle distances away from roads are not exactly plentiful.

      • Yeh , Great. Yes, we’ve always know this bike track had nothing to do with public transport-it’s nothing more than an expensive tourist gimmick. We have enough tourists thank you-over six million of them to the region-twice the population of Brisbane where they’re building train lines- not destroying them and replacing them with bike tracks. Bike tracks are just one part of an integrated public transport system-they cannot replace trains.

        Rudimentary research shows bike tracks in other towns do not bring in large economic benefits. They’re certainly not a valid reason to rip up billions of dollars worth of train line in this fast growing region.

        Tourists are clogging up our roads and towns and costing us a fortune building and maintaining roads to accomodate them all.

        We urgently need trains not tourist gimmicks.

        • Louise presumes to critique a study by a professional consultant yet naively compares Northern Rivers tourist visitors with the permanent residential population of Brisbane.

          She makes it up as she goes like the nonsensical claim that eighty five percent of the north coast residents living within five kilometres of the corridor.

          In any case we already know that people will only choose trains over cars when they run from close to where they live to where they need to travel when they need to be there considerably faster than a car. The distances need to be in the order of a few hundred metres so they can be walked without relying on connecting with buses. Having to change modes of transport multiple times is especially the last thing elderly people want to have to do.

          The old steam age line doesn’t even go near where most people live and certainly not near the locations with the oldest demographic or places of low car ownership. It couldn’t support high speeds without hundreds of millions of dollars being spent which would be investment in the wrong place. Trains on this corridor can’t make a significant contribution to the transport needs of our region now or in the future.

          Nobody is going to invest countless millions into what is obviously an anachronism.

          Perhaps if Louise undertook more than “rudimentary research” she would come to more sensible conclusions.

        • Greg, Do planes go door to door to pick up their passengers? Passengers use Park & Ride – taxis take & meet train passengers, everywhere, people are driven to airports & railway stations. Your notion always that the connective Casino to Murwillumbah rail line did not go to where people were, is just so rediculous. Why don’t you say the same about travelling by plane & by train in the cities? City trains don’t go to every suburb either do they. As far as Chris Cherry saying the rail corridor is there if needed in the future. It has been needed all the years & you did not read any of my facts that ARUP stated that once the rail is closed – that’s it – trains would not be coming back! Also, Chris, all the Councillors, Labor, other MPs and you Greg, ignored the statements years ago, by Tim Fischer, former Deputy Prime Minister that the Casino to Murwillumbah was a very different scenario for train travel needs than other rail trails with our closely populated area, connection to the Gold Coast and massive increase in road traffic. Light rail should have been in action he stated. Rail Trails for NSW promoted him as Patron of Rail Trails but omitted to mention his train history and he was such a train buff, having written wonderful train facts. As I have stated before – Truth will prevail. Jillian Spring

          • Planes work with park and ride because they are incredibly fast. Hardly anyone uses long distance trains in Australia because they are incredibly slow in such a large country. Few people use trains for commuter journeys where the need too many connecting services especially at the destination end. City trains take most passengers to within a short walk of their destination.

            Being a Deputy Prime Minister did not make Tim Fischer an expert in transport. In fact as a self confessed railway buff, his personal preference for railway deeply prejudiced his opinions. Professional transport consultants concluded that trains on the old corridor could not make a significant contribution to the current or future transport needs of this region. This is the truth that has prevailed and why the construction of the trail has begun.

            Nobody is going to spend billions installing a light rail system to serve a sparse population. Light rail is for densely populated cities. There is not a light rail system anywhere in the world that would be comparable to what rail advocates want here. There are good reasons for this.

            Trains will never return to the corridor that is now the Tweed Valley Rail Trail. Get over it.

        • Correct Louise, Trains were not allowed to be counted as a great tourism experience; only bikes and as Min Gladys Berijiklian said “A rail trail only if 100% of the community want a rail trail”. Funny that, yet that was forgotten, except it has not been forgotten. Jillian Spring

          • Anyone who wanted to set up a tourist train on the old line has has nearly two decades to put forward a plan. Nobody has done it.

            Nothing would ever happen if 100 percent agreement were required. I very much doubt that Gladys ever said what you claimed. In any case it was not up to her to make that call and she isn’t even in parliament any more.

            The fact is that the parliament made the decision to build the trail and there is very strong support Rail advocates are a small noisy minority wanting something that was not being offered. The trains are gone and they are not coming back no matter how much you complain about not getting your way.

    • Yes Martin, this fast growing region with six million visitors per year needs the trains politicians promised. This disaster is going to cost taxpayers a fortune just to move traffic gridlock around.

      The Byron by-pass cost $24 million and the LNP are planning to spend $78 million-total so far $102 million- just to move dangerous traffic gridlock off the Ewingsdale off ramp of the highway. Then there’s the upgrade of Ewingsdale Rd the LNP are planning- $?????? millions. On top of that there’s the empty taxpayer funded buses and large coaches that replaced the train costing millions. If people preferred buses they wouldn’t be empty.

      For less than the cost of these roadworks the train line could still be repaired to run trains accessible to all and the rail connection to Coolangatta would allow millions of tourists to get here and around the region in a more sustainable way-actually getting cars off the roads and out of towns. Less cars clogging our towns would mean people could safely cycle and walk around towns again. Not to mention low paid workers-who can no longer find affordable accomodation in the area-having an alternative to the expense of driving hundreds of kilometers each week for a few hours work. Oh, how about those who don’t drive? Too bad about them-even if they’ve worked all their lives and paid taxes now being spent on this expensive bike track accessible only to a few fit cyclists.

      With increasing temperatures and rainfall this rail trail will be nothing more than a very expensive, weed covered white elephant.

      Monty Python couldn’t have dreamed up this madness.

  2. I must applaud Aslan Shand for this well documented point in the Rail Trail’s success.

    Also to Chris Cherry, for coming around to the clear benefits of this project. She stands as a regional beacon for the Councillors in other shires that are still in the position she used to be, in uncomfortable doubt and holding hopelessly to train dreams with zero funding potential from either state or federal sources.

    We now see documented old rust, transformed into magnificent environmental and socially value infrastructure.

    Well done to all the Rail Trail Supporters.

  3. The track is in the wrong place for rail. However, the space has been preserved.
    Wonderful job done on the bridge.
    The trail will have to attract millions of tourists to justify the huge sum outlayed.

    • No railway will ever run again between Murwillumbah and Yelgun. One day a railway might be built from Coolangatta airport to Yelgun but it would be close to the motorway where it would be much shorter and faster.

  4. It is time for NRRAG and TOOTs to realise that the future modern rail that is supported at all levels of government will be following the M1 corridor from Chinderah to Yelgun and then with the will of the community head to West Ballina and across to Goonellabah and then to Casino . The modern rail will service both the old existing inland towns and the newer booming coastal towns .
    Time to let go of the old slow and winding steam age alignment railway that was built in 1894 and was never straightened, deviated or gradient lowered since then .

  5. This is extremely exciting for the local and wider community. With the success of the BVRT and how it energised the townships and communities it runs through with tourism and an appreciation of local history and environment. I’m looking forward to cycling it.

  6. I drove by Stokers Siding, Burringbar and Mooball yesterday. It was great to see its progress. The length through Stokers looks finished and the surface is hard and smooth. I also met one of the other people making comments here. Even before it’s built, the rail trail is generating visitors and spending, imagine when it’s completed!

  7. Just to reiterate – the trail is due to be finished and open to the public around that date in January, but that isn’t the actual open day with festivities!

  8. The Tweed valley rail trail will be fantastic for the area, especially Murwillumbah, I can’t wait to ride this trail through some of the most beautiful areas of the northern rivers. I’ve done the Central Otago trail in NZ which is wonderful and extremely popular. Also did the Brisbane valley trail which is very popular as well but I’m thinking the Tweed will be far more scenic, perhaps I’m biased!

  9. Well said Greg Clitheroe
    As a business partner in a local bicycle shop I look forward to optimising public access and use of the rail trail, including the Casino to Eltham trail. Eat your heart out Byron Shire!

    • They are laughing at your complete decision, Byron Shire thankfully recognise the value of rail and public transport in general .
      Greg clitheroe , not all like to fly and while I fly a lot I’m yet to see a single cyclist with bike on the plane , sure wouldn’t fit into my business as transport. The trail is cheap and tacky , and sure to burdon ratepayers substantially prior to its sell off .

      • Bicycles are not carried as hand luggage on planes so of course you wouldn’t see a passenger with one. They are dismantled and put in boxes.

        Generally visitors arriving by plane for rail trail adventures will hire a bike locally. Most of the visitors to Tweed Valley Rail Trail will come from the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

        ‘Cheap and tacky”? This trail will be the highest quality and most expensive trail per kilometre of any regional trail in Australia. This is to meet the design criteria of high accessibility for people with all levels of ability.

        No rail trail in Australia has ever been sold. Trail haters never seem to tire of their false narratives and rhetoric.

  10. Well I disagree I think your rail trail will bring about 10 people per week to your area I believe it would have been far better to have a heritage railway rail motors steam engines rail ganger cars rail biking adventures as your local counsel said the rail trail in parts it is very wide I think you could have had it all it could have been historic rail plus rail trail well done guys you have really blown it

    • The business case for the trail was based on comparisons with established trails. The projected user numbers are in the order of a hundred times what Max suggests.

      The last train ran in 2004 with the line effectively abandoned nearly a decade ago. Any group wanting to run heritage trains has had ample time to get something going but there has been nothing.

      Heritage rail projects are notorious financial black holes. They normally start up almost immediately after the closure of commercial services with preservation of the infrastructure and often by the same people who had been operating the services. We have nothing of these characteristics.

      It is very rare for a privately operated heritage railway to use more than 20 km of track. A heritage project on the old branch line would be best suited to running between Byron and Mullumbimby where there is already a train and the track is not as decrepit as the section in Tweed.

      The tender process for the Tweed Rail Trail firmly established that an off formation trail was not a viable proposition.

      We haven’t blown anything. Byron Council mucking around with futile railway dreams are definitely in danger of blowing an incredible opportunity. If work to save the steel bridge across the Brunswick River at Mullumbimby does not start soon there won’t be a railway or a trail across it.

      It is already too late for a similar bridge at Eltham.

  11. A great move forward to see this old railway track and beautiful bridges being reused as a cycling/walking track. A great way to burn off excess energy and to experience this beautiful part of New South Wales. We live in God’s country. Ray and Mandy

  12. I just don’t understand why the rail trail is a priority over our roads in our area where they have been demolished by floods.
    Why is nobody working on Kyogle road out to Uki???
    I have heard it is because council has not paid their contractors???
    But obviously the rail trail is more important not.

    • The rail trail project is the culmination of a decade of preparation. Various crises come and go but are not reasons to suspend an ongoing project.

      The rail trail is fully funded from state and federal budgets and is being constructed by a contractor. In no way does it impinge on the repairs to our roads. That funding is specifically for the trail and cannot be arbitrarily redirected, whatever other needs might be.

      In fact the contractor suspended work on the trail after the flood and spent six weeks working on the cleanup.

      The Uki Road is one of dozens of roads requiring major reconstruction. At least it is able to be used, unlike several others which are obviously a higher priority.

      It is very poor form to spread unsubstantiated rumours about the council. Please refrain from indulging in it.

  13. Light rail needs to be investigated for Tweed to Byron (incorporating new Hospital). Bikes are good for some, on fine days.

    • Light rail is a mass transport system used in high density populations like the Gold Coast which is home to 600,000 people at a density literally one hundred times that of the Northern Rivers.

      The notion that a sparse population needs a multi billion dollar light rail system is nonsense. We don’t need more studies. We know the government is not going to indulge such vast sums of money in a tiny minority with inflated sense of entitlement

      It is time to get on with the trail project which we know will be funded and start enjoying the benefits.

    • None of them use any public transport , and ith no children don’t care for the future generations of Northern rivers . It’s just about them and their retirement, sadly they’ll all be gone in ten years while we are left hoofing it .

      • You know nothing about my family.

        I am very much thinking of future generations by ensuring that the corridor is retained in public ownership with a sustainable use.

        There is no train proposal. The alternative to the trail is the disposal of the corridor.

        Those who are thinking of none but themselves are those who live close to the line and have no limit to their selfish desires to be indulged at public expense.

  14. “There si no future funding guaranteed so we are looking at ways to raise money to support the maintenance of the rail trail. For example we have the rail trail branding, we can lease parts of the rail trail, which is 40m wide at points, to operators who want to develop businesses that will complement the rail trail. ”
    Can’t all these imaginary wallets on wheels pay per use ? Oh that’s right , they were only interested in themselves and their personal needs rather than the greater community . Rail is for everyone young and old , disabled or able , poor or wealthy.
    Trails only serve the minority in the short term and noone in the mid to long term as they drain our councils of resources and place pressure on ratepayers rather than state governments

    • Existing rail trails have been thoroughly proven to be a significant economic stimulus to the communities that host them.

      Rail projects are notorious financial black holes. After already contributing ten million dollars, Gympie ratepayers are still subsidising the Mary Valley Rattler by several hundreds of thousands of dollars every year with no sign of ever breaking even. The project is currently trying to find another ten million dollars to keep it running.

      Trains on our old corridor could only ever serve a tiny minority and that is why they will not be funded. The state government has already vehemently declined returning rail services for almost a decade because they would be completely useless to the vast majority.

      Rail versus trail is a false narrative The choices are trail or losing the corridor for ever.

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