Our rail line in Byron Shire is strategically located within two regional transport corridors that intersect at Ewingsdale. There is an opportunity to use the line as a way forward to a sustainable transport network.
There is simply no other way to avoid ongoing traffic pressures in our towns, villages, and on rural roads if we pretend otherwise. Why? Because the majority of traffic originates outside the Shire and currently we are over-reliant on a single road – the M1 – and no alternative infrastructure. So it doesn’t matter how many bike paths and walking tracks we construct locally, it will not provide movement alternatives for visitors or locals that can ease these growing pressures.
It simply does not make economic, social, or environmental sense to spend millions of dollars ripping up vital infrastructure.
The Multi Use Rail Corridor Study showed that the section between Byron Bay and Mullumbimby can support on-demand rail and road public transport for $12.3 million – a level of investment confirmed by experienced and independent rail engineers who have prepared a business case. By comparison, the only response from Transport for NSW is to spend over six times as much ($78 million) to build a series of elevated concrete ramps at Ewingsdale to stack queuing traffic. This does nothing to provide alternatives or reduce the growth of traffic pressures. It only makes the situation worse and will lead to increasingly large diversions of dollars, more ramps and congestion on local roads.
If the NSW Government took the blinkers off this could be the first step towards a rail link to the border region that will diversify movement options for travellers to and within the Shire. As proposed by Council’s Moving Byron Transport Strategy, this provides alternative movement pathways not dependent on negotiating the Ewingsdale interchange. It would be a major boost to public transport linking poorly connected local bus services. In addition a multi-use proposal would provide safe walking and cycling, helping to promote the uptake of active movement.
Councillors and State MPs need to start representing the movement needs of all in our community and ensure that transport investment meets the current and long-term needs of our community before our Shire starts to look and feel like a satellite of the Gold Coast and its traffic nightmares.