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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

Business opportunities on the Tweed rail trail as trail set to open in March 

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An artist’s impression of the start of the new Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail at Murwillumbah Railway Station. Image supplied

The Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is set to open in March this year and the Tweed Council is now looking for ideas around the development of businesses and initiatives that can be developed alongside the rail trail. 

‘Council will call for expressions of interest for the Rail Trail Partner Program in mid-January 2023. Adjoining landowners and local businesses who want to be part of the region’s newest must-do experience – for both visitors and residents – should start to consider the commercial opportunities the rail trail will bring,’ they said in a press release. 

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

March opening

‘We are very pleased to confirm the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail will be open to the public from March 2023, as long as the weather stays kind to us,’ Project Manager Iain Lonsdale said.

‘Our contractors at Hazell Bros are working hard to ensure the track and associated facilities are ready to go for March, with works commencing around the Murwillumbah Railway Station in recent weeks.

‘And our team is working with the project partners to confirm plans for an official opening and community celebration event – so stay tuned for more details on that,’ he said.

Workers constructing the slab to mark the old station at Dunbible. Work is continuing along the Tweed leg of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which is expected to be open to the public in March. Photo supplied.

Safety risk

However, Mr Lonsdale urged people to stay off the rail trail until March, regardless of how some parts of the facility may appear to be completed.

‘The rail trail continues to be a construction site until it is officially handed over to Council by our contractors and with that comes the potential for safety compromise,’ Mr Lonsdale said.

‘We know the rail trail looks incredible in some areas and people are keen to use the facility, but we urge people to wait just a few more months so we can complete the project.’

Business ideas?

Tweed Council will be working with its tourism partner the Tweed Tourism Company to develop commercial partnerships to offer guest experiences in:

  • Taste (food and beverage)
  • Stay (accommodation)
  • Move (travel and transport options)
  • Explore (education and recreation)
  • Enjoy (entertainment and events).

They are looking to hear from the community about business ideas and opportunities that will enhance the rail trail experience for locals and tourists who access the trail. 

Council’s Manager Destination, Communication and Customer Experience Tiffany Stodart encouraged adjoining landowners and local business to turn their minds to commercial opportunities available to partner with the rail trail and stay tuned for the EOI announcement in mid-January 2023.

‘In mid-January, we will call for expressions of interest to hear from a wide range of operators and their ideas to make the rail trail a must-do experience and to have quality guest experiences,’ Ms Stodart said.

From 2023 we want to hear from our business community to explore the options to make the rail trail a great experience. The opportunities are there for cafes and coffee, ice cream and gelato, gourmet hampers and picnics, bike hire, shuttle services, educational, recreation and cultural tours and so much more,’ Ms Stodart said.

‘This will also include opportunities to register interest for limited commercial space at the Murwillumbah Railway Station as the main trailhead and visitor welcome at the town entry.’

Construction is progressing well on the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, with work currently underway at the old Murwillumbah Railway Station. Photo supplied

Rail trail website

A new and comprehensive rail trail website will also launch in early 2023 and provide a wide range of information and experiences. The new site will replace the existing page at northernriversrailtrail.com.au.

The Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail will provide a 24 km shared recreation and nature trail where people can walk, ride and explore at their own pace.

Eventually, the new shared user path will connect the Tweed with Byron Shire, Lismore and Casino. To be delivered in 4 stages, the 132 km trail is expected to draw thousands of visitors each year to explore and discover the natural beauty and history of the Northern Rivers.

Lismore City Council has secured funding for the 16.3 km South Lismore to Bentley section and work is underway to secure funds for the 15.5 km between Eltham and South Lismore. The 13.4 km stretch between Casino and Bentley in the Richmond Valley is also fully funded with construction progressing and due to open in 2023.

Funding for the Tweed section was provided by the Australian Government under its Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Package Fund, and the NSW Government under its Restart NSW fund.

To stay informed, subscribe to the rail trail’s news and follow Northern Rivers Rail Trail on social media. For enquiries regarding the operations of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail call 6673 0404 or email: [email protected].  


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29 COMMENTS

  1. A combination of jobs , tourism , fitness and health plus social interaction using the safe linear rail trail will bring joy and prosperity to the little villages along its route .
    After doing the Brisbane Valley RT twice , the Otago RT twice , the Murray to Mountains RT and Atherton Tablelands RT I have seen first hand the positive injection into once dormant or dying towns and villages .
    Bring on the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail .

    • Trains, carrying more people, would provide a higher amount of jobs and tourism to the villages (and provide transport to work in our especially absent of worker accommodation towns), and provide transport for those young and old that dont drive (or cycle)

      • John The Government concluded a decade ago it was not worth restoring rail services .The rail trail is a repurposing of what is disused land for the forseable future .
        It is unclear what your reference below to state rail selling land in Byron Bay is about. Under the new Framework and legislation for rail trails the land remains the property of of the rail authority, and any leases can be revoked if the land is needed for rail or another transport purpose. Putting aside that the Parliament would have to agree to change the legislation, anyone who has seen the new rail trail in Tweed will appreciate how absurd it would be for any government to try some “sell off” of what is already recognized as such a wonderful community asset, that Tweed Council has difficulty restraining the public from enjoying it.

  2. A Rail Trail extension from Crabbes Creek to Mullumbimby, anyone?
    Now THAT would have to make an enormous amount of common sense, wouldn’t it?
    That ball is entirely in Byron Shire Council’s court.
    Do they have the neuronal capacity for such a vision?
    Of course they do..
    But the most magnificent section would have to be Byron Bay to Bangalow..
    Hmmm…

    • Byron to Bangalow has been effectively stopped , as the Byron Bypass road now bisects and overpasses the rail line by aprox 1.5 metres (unless a 5mtre? high overpass of the Bypass road is constructed to allow the Bypass cars and trucks )

  3. disgusting privatisation of public land and heartless destruction of urgently needed public transport infrastructure – seems like par for the course with Liberal Party in NSW gov
    this article makes no mention of the horrible process – no community consultation- as all – by Tweed Council, NSW Gov ignoring 10,000 signatures petition to use the railway line for public transport

    • The corridor land is still owned by the public. Claiming it has been privatised is a lie. The trail enabling legislation is explicit that it cannot be disposed of to any other than another public body. End of story.

      The Rail Trail project has nothing to do with the demise of the railway. It is simply repurposing a disused public asset for another public facility.

      A comprehensive independent professional study funded by the government established in 2013 that restoring rail services to the corridor could not make a significant contribution to either the current or future transport needs of the region and would cost an exorbitant amount of money for both reconstruction and operation just for the benefit of a very small minority. The railway was effectively abandoned and the infrastructure has since become extremely derelict. Nobody is going to pay to repair it and operate train services at a loss.

      The rail trail project was fully supported by the Labor opposition as well as the government. Its construction is the result of due process. The project has continued to be supported by a majority of Tweed Shire Council over multiple terms of office. Voters have not shown a propensity to vote for any candidate who conspicuously campaigned on railway issues.

      Rail advocates are a noisy minority with an extraordinary sense of entitlement who want vast sums of public money squandered on their nostalgic railway dreams.

      • Hear! Hear!
        How the rail advocates can keep on sprouting their rubbish when all of it has been soundly disproven no longer confounds me. I simply feel sorry for them! Tiny minds they have, yes, tiny minds indeed!

        By the way, rail trails rock! 🙂

      • State rail has already sold off rail land adjacent to Byron Bay – your confidence in govt is undeserved. Both NSW and Qld govts are spending $Billions on new train lines (yes that is a B). The Byron Train Line was the most profitable in the state, but the huge social benefit of delivery of trains does cost more than roads funded by car registrations, but delivers a massive social benefit to many areas of public use and need. Qld is now extending a new train line to the border about 60kms away from Byron. And Entitlement?, its called delivery of public infrastructure to facilitate transport available to all.

        • That Byron railway land was not part of the corridor. It was sold without any changes having been made to legislation so absolutely nothing to do with rail trails. No rail trail in Australia has ever been sold to developers.

          Billions of dollars are being invested in upgrading lines in NSW in the regions home to 85 percent of the population where trains normally carry a million passengers per day. Operating speeds are being raised to 200 kph taking up to half an hour of some journeys. A lot of money is also being spent on improving safety by eliminating many level crossings.

          Nothing is going to be spent on resurrecting a decrepit steam age line with multiple curves having radii between 250 and 400 metres limiting speeds to 60 – 80 kph. Any new railway from the Gold Coast would not use the old corridor. The long term plan for a heavy railway coming through a tunnel from Coolangatta Airport and continuing close to the motorway is already included in both the Tweed Shire and State government planning documents.

          Trains on the Gold Coast serve their 600,000 inhabitants and connect to another 2.5 million people in Brisbane. Their light rail system currently extend to 19 km and cost billions of dollars. It already carries ten million passengers per year. Nobody is going to pay to connect another sixty kilometres of light rail to a town with a population o 6,000.

          The social benefits of trains are in high density populations where they are essential to move people around. Their high cost cannot be justified in a sparse regional population where buses can do a better job at a tiny fraction of the cost.

          The legendary profitability of the train to Byron is often quoted in various forms by rail advocates but nobody has ever provided any original reference. It is a complete myth.

        • John Lazarus – the mythical words about the Northern Rivers Line making a large profit probably appeared back in the 80s and 90s when it was a freight line that also had 1 north and 1 south bound train . Very little money was spent on maintenance so of course it ‘may have’ produced a profit . Of course by 2004 the trains would be travelling at maximum 20kmh over multiple bridges because this ‘so called profit’ was not spent on maintenance.
          Now you talk about $Billions getting spent in NSW on new train lines but the Sydney to Brisbane line stays on its steam age alignment with mostly single track line between the Hunter and Brisbane which is keeping 95% of freight on the highways and workers in cars .
          We then have NRRAG and TOOTs who are fighting both local , state and federal governments for the future modern rail following the M1 from Gold Coast Airport to Yelgun and then hopefully to Ballina in heavy rail.
          But John I remember you and Byron Environment Centre fighting the Byron Bay Railway Park upgrade plus fighting against the alignment of the Butler St Bypass .
          Of course your thoughts along with BEC are these days are just a fading minority against the huge majority living the modern infrastructure projects .
          Having lived in Byron Bay for 53 years I am loving the upgrade projects .
          FYI- romantic and nostalgic old slow trains don’t get workers out cars or freight off our highways .

        • John Lazarus – there has been huge swathes of railway land in Byron Bay getting sold off adjacent to the railway track since the 1970s . Many of the properties along the north side of Shirley St from the Lawson St level crossing to Dryden St bought part of the rail corridor or have leases over it . The railway land north of Dryden St to Kendall St was sold off to developers in the late 80s for medium density luxury apartments. Land south of the railway station got sold off a few years ago to developers. This was before the change in legislation protecting the railway corridor. The old legislation did not protect the sell off of adjacent land .
          The Butler Street Bypass should have included a flyover bridge as another level crossing is not allowed in Byron Bay if commuter or freight trains are put back on the line (which they won’t be). I flyover bridge would have consumed so more of the Cumbebin Swamp (sorry wetlands). Yes the Byron Environment Centre really would have shot them selves in the foot if asked for a railway bridge just to allow trains to run again . But blinkers seem to be worn by many in Byron Shire .

    • Actually Judith over the last 20 years there’s been many rallies attended by thousands, and over 30,000 have signed petitions for trains-all ignored by grifting and rorting pollies who waste $billions cancelling contracts for submarines, $millions for pork barrelling, car park rorts and sports rorts, but not a cent for the train service they promised. There’s only ever been ONE rally of around 30 bikers at M’bah in support of a bike track.

      Locals are going to be paying through the nose for this expensive destruction for a very long time-long after the bike track has been washed away in floods and covered in weeds. Meantime we drown in cars.

      This is why both Labor and the LNP lost so many seats to independents at the last federal election. Can’t wait for the state election in March. If people care about this wonderful region and don’t want to see it destroyed they have to vote for decent people, not grifters and rorters.

      • The “thousands” supposedly attending the rallies are the summation of the same few people over and over again. Similarly the petitions. I even signed one back in 2004 when, like most people, I had no idea of the reality and no intention of using a train.

        A railway advocate rally at Dunbible to protest the removal of the tracks was attended by about thirty people as evidenced by the footage on the NBN television story. The group consisted of every available rail advocate they could summon from the whole region.

        A series of rallies at all the remaining stations was held in August. No images of the “crowds of supporters” were published because there weren’t any crowds. I went by the rally in Murwillumbah and there were ten people, including one I think was waiting for a bus, most if not all, just the organisers. This number is typical attendance at their protests.

        A gathering was held at the Murwillumbah Railway Station to celebrate the acceptance of the Tweed Valley Rail Trail project. Despite only three days notice, it was attended by over 200 people.

      • People who weren’t there and have never used the train have no idea how many did use it, let alone how many thousands of outraged locals have turned up to rallies and signed petitions for trains. Despite it all being well documented the RT crowd continue to take up so much time and space talking nonesense.

        As the Byron Solar train has shown, the $32 MILLION cost of upgrading the ONE kilometre Byron by-pass plus the bus stop, then add the cost of upgrading Ewingsdale Road to move traffic gridlock around, roadworks far outweigh ANY financial and environmental cost of repairing the train line and running a commuter train service for locals and millions of tourists.

        The National Party have lost two North Coast seats since their disgusting backflip on trains-only one seat left.

        The majority of Byron Shire residents haven’t voted LNP since 2011. They vote Green-or for people who are percieved to be Green. The last thing they want is wasteful, dodgy, destructive LNP policies imposed on them.

        • I met the train in Murwillumbah several times in the late 90s. A handful of people would get off. It makes no sense for hundreds of tonnes of machine to transport the number of passengers that can travel in a bus. That is why the service now runs in a bus.

          The money spent on the roads is justified by the huge number of people who use them. Resurrecting railway services would be an inordinate amount of money spent on a small minority who happened to live along the corridor and had a need to travel to the very limited number of places along it.

          Bottom line is, like it or not, the train has gone and it isn’t coming back. It won’t make any difference how many letters you write or how many times you repeat the same misinformation. No change of government is going to change this reality. Policies held by the major parties rule out reconstructing a railway for a small regional population.

          The railway is not coming back. Any discussion that doesn’t acknowledge this fact is a waste of time.

        • “The RT crowd continue to take up so much time and space talking nonesense (sic)”

          How dare they take up space constantly talking nonsense/making their case! Surely only TOOT and NRRAG are allowed to do that?

  4. Feasibility study should have covered this YEARs ago, who planned this, not a businessman…
    Shame on the incompetents. They shut us out years ago.

    • It isn’t the first time business opportunities for the trail have been discussed by the council. It is just now it is at the pointy end with the trail very close to opening that they are looking for firm commitments to include in promotions.

      Your negativity is a very lame cover for your obvious anti-trail sentiment especially when you remain anonymous.

  5. Its not rubbish, you just dont agree with a well established several hundred year social benefit alternative established as early as 1550, in Germany, which were pathways of wooden rails called “wagonways” , which were the beginning of modern rail transport , mr tiny bicycle shorts

    • Irrelevant trivia and tacky personal insults are reliable indicators of someone having nothing intelligent to contribute to a discussion.

  6. The opportunity was there when the railway was closed in 2020 to build the rail trail , to advise of any public (or private) transport use for the rail infrastructure and none was presented to the Parliament. As such the legacy infrastructure had only scrap value.
    The petition to the Parliament came seven years after the Government has decided to not reinstate services. The closure of the railway was supported by both the LNP and Labor. Jannelle Saffin (Labor,Lismore) noted The extensive discussion, debate and consultations that have gone on over the corridor. Apart from the formal consultations by Department of Premier and Cabinet and on biosecurity by Primary Industry – the reports of both are in Tweed Shire Council website – it had been the subject of a state election campaign and later council election campaigns, that saw the prominent pro-rail candidate Bill Fenelon twice roundly defeated. As Jannelle told the Parliament at some point you have to come to a conclusive decision, and that was done in 2020.
    As Greg correctly notes there is no privatisation involved. The land will remain in public ownership and it is being opened to the public without any fee. The only privatisation of access to the former Casino Murwillumbah railway, is the lease to the Byron Bay Railway Company for the solar train. Following the closure of the Tweed and Richmond Valley parts of the railway to build rail trails , a private so-called railway company was formed. It is promoting its private railway “proposal ” as an attempt to stop the rail trail, closing off access to the public to our corridor land . So it’s unclear why you suggest the LNP – again with Labor support – is doing the exact opposite: keeping public land in public hands, while opening to the public for public use.

  7. Congratulations Tweed for getting this done, can’t wait to cycle from Crabbes Creek. Would prefer to go from Byron of course, but you know, Byron Council. They’ll talk for a few more years, see Casino to Clunes done, then maybe they’ll consult with community and engineers for a few more years, then wait a few more years just for the hell of it. I might see it in my lifetime but probably not…

  8. So if the rail trail is going to cost locals for a long time and be washed away, why did the Greens as well as the two main parties not oppose the rail trail in principle (they only proposed an amendment to leave the tracks in place)?
    And which independent at the next election will campaign to stop the rail trail? Do you expect them to get more support than the few percent Bill Fenelon did when he ran in Tweed on a platform of stopping the rail trail?

    • In fact the contractors built a test section of compacted gravel trail in Dunbible prior to the record February flood. It could not have had a more thorough test and passed with flying colours.

      The first hand on site experience under such extreme conditions was invaluable. I asked one of their engineers if observing the floods had led to them making any changes to the design. He told me they had decided to make the concrete causeways a little thicker than originally planned but otherwise no.

      This trail has been designed and built to survive at least as well as any other civil engineering structure in the region. As part of our local infrastructure, any repairs would be funded by state and federal governments just the same as roads and other structures damaged in a natural disaster,

  9. I have lots of sympathy for the pro rail people. Good public transport is vitally important and trains are fantastic (except that it’s so much harder to electrify them than buses) . A little more vision is needed however. Public investment must maximise bang for buck which would be starting again with a new alignment that allowed faster travel and serviced the growing population centres and the destinations and services where these populations will want to travel.

    Seeing the old corridor as the only plan seems just stubbornness and rejection of reality.

    • The current rail corridor connects most of the major, fast growing N C population centres, many with train stations in the centre, including Byron Bay. No need for a car to get around. Only twenty kilometres of line is needed to connect to the Qld rail system at Coolangatta.

      If those commenting here had ever used the train they’d know it only took eleven minutes to travel by train from Byron to Mullum or Bangalow. Nothing slow anout that. NO point in spending billions on a new train line that does NOT go anywhere near the towns millions of people want to visit!!!

      • That is quite untrue. The fast growing towns in our area include the largest , Tweed Heads, the Tweed Coast , Ballina and Lennox which will shortly be the second largest, Alstonville and Wollonbar, Evans Head and Yamba, none of which are near the rail corridor. Those towns , particualry in the coastal areas of Tweed and in Ballina , have overwhelmingly more households without a car than do the towns along the rail corridor. Even before the floods the population of Lismore was declining, and exept for Byron Bay the other towns along the disused corriodr are only growing slowly. The public transport needs of all the region can be more economically and equitably provided by road transport. For those reasons the Government is not reinstating trains. That leaves 130kms of disused railway corridor land which the Goverment is opening to the public to enjoy for walking and cycling.

      • The track now ends near Crabbes Creek, 35 km along the motorway from the Queensland border. That is the path that any future train in this region will follow because it is the shortest and straightest. It is already in the long term plan for the region.

        We know that a train on any part of the old corridor would make a negligible difference to the road traffic and would cost a lot of money to resurrect the tracks then operate services. It simply is not going to happen.

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