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Byron Shire
February 5, 2023

Disused rail to become part cycleway in Shire’s north

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Letters – 1 February 2023

The Echo loves your letters and is proud to provide a community forum on the issues that matter most to our readers and the people of the NSW north coast. So don’t be a passive reader, send us your epistles.

Council’s cycleway plan Option 1 (top) has been adopted, which will see the cycleway run along the disused railway north of Mullum then turn right at Synotts Lane.

The long-awaited construction of a cycleway between Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads has taken a significant step forward, with Byron Council selecting a preferred route and commencing the design investigation process.

Creating a safe cycle link in the Shire’s north has been a topic for discussion for over a decade, but meaningful action in relation to the plan has been a long time coming.

At last week’s Council meeting, councillors received the results of a community survey that demonstrated clear support for the project as a whole and for the first of two route options.

‘The people of this Shire, particularly those in the northern towns, want it and they need it,’ Labor councillor Asren Pugh said of the project.

‘I think we need to stop mucking around and meet our community’s expectations about getting this happening.’

Option 1

The chosen Mullum to Bruns route, known as Option 1, will also take in Ocean Shores and surrounding areas.

Beginning at Mullumbimby Station, the route heads north along the rail corridor until Synotts Lane, where it heads east through adjoining properties, the Brunswick Valley STP and connects to Brunswick Valley Way just north of Rajah Road at Ocean Shores.

In the recent community survey, 61 per cent of participants said they wanted this option, compared to 26 per cent who preferred the southern option that went via Saddle Road and McAuleys Lane.

The remaining 13 per cent were either unsure or didn’t support either option.

Make use of existing rail corridor

Cr Pugh said the advantages of Option 1 were that it would make use of the existing rail corridor, which removed the need for infrastructure duplication, and opened the door to possible government funding.

‘We’ve had broad level support for funding the rail trail in this part of the Shire [from the state government],’ he said.

Mayor Michael Lyon then sought to address the argument that building a cycleway on part of the rail corridor would prevent any future return to rail travel in this part of the Shire.

‘From Mullum north along the rail corridor, the idea of bringing the trains back is gone,’ Cr Lyon said.

‘The dream of any imminent return of rail north of Yelgun is over. 

‘But I don’t think it’s over for the long term, and I strongly agree with the argument that holding that corridor in public hands keeps the option open for a return to rail use in the fuure.

‘Utilising it as a cycleway corridor keeps it in public hands.’

Not unanimous 

But the choice of Option 1 did not receive unanimous support from councillors.

Greens Councillor Duncan Dey argued that councillors should keep their options open, at least in the preliminary planning stage.

‘The northern route involves going through more bush than the southern route,’ he said. 

‘I don’t know whether we’ve consulted with police, but I think that’s a big step that needs to be done, because it may be that we’re required legally to provide vehicle access or a level of surveillance to ensure safety.

‘I also think that with putting a path through that bush there’s some ecological issues.’

Crs Dey and Peter Westheimer put forward an alternative motion that would have seen Council staff investigate both options, but they were voted down.

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  1. The Minutes of the Meeting are not yet available online. However I thought Crs Dey and Westheimer ultimately voted for the motion after their amendment was defeated, making the result unanimous. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Any trail built to the standard of a rail trail, which would presumably be the standard used, would be wide enough to support vehicle access for the likes of ambulances. That is how the Tweed Valley Rail Trail has been built. There is no requirement for surveillance.

    • This is an inital step to commence investigations and consltations. Option One would repurpose part of the former rail corridor and so must be done under the framework of the recent rail trail legislation for NSW , which explictly requires consultaion with the local indigenous community.

    • I would hope there has been some consultation with First People of the Brunswick. Do you know if the Minyangbul people have a representative that communicates with council? I would suggest you reach out to council and ask to be included if that is not already the case.

  2. So good to see our Mayor, Michael Lyon, say it the way it is, that the solid and constant stating of the NRRT, that the corridor must remain in public hands and NOT be sold off, has been stipulated by our Mayor too.

    Who knows what future our corridor will be needed for, but in the meantime, to encourage public use like our council has voted for, is logical and commendable.

    The days of fantasy look finally to be over.

    Thanks to the councilors that voted with true vision.

  3. Great news. Not only will it will it link Brunswick Heads to Mullumbimby, extending the Northern Rivers Rail Trail from the Tweed to Billinudgel and Mullumbimby, with links to Ocean SHores and Brunswick Heads , will give users of the Trail great destinations to walk and cycle to in Byron Shire. Residents in environs of Burringbar, Mooball and Crabbes Creek will be able to safely cycle to shopping, beaches and other destinations around the Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads area.
    This is the kind of low key , low inpact tourism , recreation and transport our region needs.

  4. Connecting to the Tweed Rail Trail – I’d like to put it to council to make the most of the rail corridor from Mullumbimby to Billinudgel to join up with Crabbes Creek and the Tweed Rail Trail.

    Council, do not miss this opportunity, strike while the irons hot!

  5. The best outcome for all residents and visitors to our region is to have both rail services and a bike trail together within the rail corridor which is a minimum 32 metres wide.
    Several local railway companies are working to bring trains back to the rest of Byron Shire, extending the solar train service to Mullumbimby and up to Yelgun and also in the other direction to Bangalow. Then continuing through Lismore Shire is the next logical step for so many in our region as a connector for tourists, the elderly, disabled, young people and commuters.
    This will help our region socially, environmentally and economically to become more sustainable into the future rather than relying on polluting cars that will congest roads more and more and make climate change worse.

    • This is good news indeed Lydia. Can you give us some more details about these “railway companies” that are interested in extending the solar train service?

  6. This initiative will be of even greater value once Byron Shire Council get with the program and make some serious headway in building their section of responsibility of the NRRT, before we all get much older.

  7. The tender process for the Tweed Valley Rail Trail invited bids for both on-formation and off-formation trail designs. The single bid for an off-formation design was submitted by the same company that won the contract for the on-formation construction. They submitted their partially completed off-formation bid because it became obvious that the uncosted earthworks to build a second formation for the trail would vastly exceed the available budget. This confirmed the findings of the Tweed Council engineers who determined very early in the design phase that an off-formation trail was not viable on about eighty percent of of the route.

    Ms Kindred is well aware of this fact but continues to promulgate the myth that a trail could be built beside the formation in an effort to mislead the public into believing that we can have a trail with the railway tracks retrained. She is obsessed with the railway to the point of being blind to the reality and has absolutely zero concern for the viability of any trail.

    The “rail companies” she refers to are nothing more than company registrations by the lead proponents from local rail advocacy groups, including herself, in a desperate ploy to buy credibility for their futile notions of returning trains in order to stop the development of the trail. They have no relevant experience and very few resources, certainly nothing like what would be required to manage such a huge project, let alone pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars of work required to reinstate the railway.

    The train is not coming back. Nobody is going to fund the resurrection of the decrepit infrastructure just so they can lose millions of dollars each year running services at a loss. There is absolutely no point retaining the tracks just to sit there continuing to decay.

    Meanwhile the Tweed Rail Trail Project has saved and restored heritage listed bridges which would have otherwise have been lost forever. Once opened the people will finally be able to appreciate first hand the extraordinary achievements of our ancestors who built the original railway through what was a remote part of the state. The 50 metre long Dunbible Bridge, the 530 metre long Burringbar tunnel and the Moobal trestle bridge will be just some of the amazing things for everyone to see.


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