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Byron Shire
March 29, 2023

An ‘ambitious’ 11 th hour pitch to return rail services.

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Call for Labor government to reinstate logging moratorium – now

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Political cosplay for fun and profit

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While we all agree that it is good to have ambition, completely ignoring relevant facts turns ambition into fantasy. Tweed, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Ballina Shires have all accepted what successive NSW governments have been saying for the past 20 years. No public commuter train service will be returned to the Murwillumbah-Casino line!

Does anyone honestly believe the 100-year-old rails and sleepers would even be used by a reinstated train service? The Tooters do. They hold up the Elements train as a proof of concept. The fact that the Elements train runs on the flattest, straightest, shortest stretch of track at the blistering pace of 10km/h appears not to get in the way of that fantasy.

The Elements train is licensed as a tourist venture, not as public transport. The state government has always been the only public transport train operator. The inherent risks and liabilities of a rural commuter train service operating in all weather conditions are huge. No government is going to license a private operator to do this, and no insurer would take one on. Yet this is the proposal that is still being spruiked by train lobbyists to Byron Shire Council.

Sure, if the Northern Rivers population density ever approaches that of the Gold Coast, then a train service might make sense. That service may even use some sections of the current corridor (which the rail trail will have preserved). Of course, this train will be a relatively straight double carriageway on new electrified tracks with concrete sleepers, like all modern train lines.

If we want better public transport, Council should be lobbying the government for a fleet of small, nimble electric buses that take people from where they live directly to where they need to go.

Initially, the Tooters just wanted ‘Trains On Our Tracks’. They now want a train with a trail next to it. This change of heart is owing to their realisation that thousands of locals and their kids actually want a safe, easy cycle and walking trail that connects communities through spectacular country.

Unfortunately, a trail beside the tracks is actually a furphy. Much of the rail meanders across the hinterland on narrow cuttings with steep slopes, single lane bridges over creeks and dense vegetation, and long narrow tunnels through the hills. Apart from a few flat, flood-prone, sections, it is unrealistic to have a train and trail side-by-side.

Instead of continuing to waste hundreds of thousands of ratepayers’ dollars chasing fanciful diesel-burning trains, our progressive Council should join the 21st century and support electric bikes, carts, and scooters on the world’s best rail trail. Is our ‘green’ Council really going to be the last to support the healthiest, lowest-carbon mode of transport there is?

Tell your councillors to partner with our neighbouring shires, take advantage of the available state and federal rail trail grants, and complete the amazing Murwillumbah to Casino Northern Rivers Rail Trail.

Sol Ibrahim, Bangalow

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  1. TOOT = Totally Obstructive and Obscene Thinking

    if I had the free time to spend on TOOTing, imagine all the positive things I could do to actually do good for the community…

    their ideological position is no different to the anti-electric cars, pro-fossil fuels mentality, its founded on the basis of nostalgia and re-living the past…

  2. Anyone who believes a trail could or should have been built off the formation needs to visit the Tweed Valley Rail Trail and indicate exactly where their version of the trail could have been built. They can begin by nominating which side of the railway the trail could have been built.

    The formation is on high embankments often bordered by inundated land or running through steep cuttings up to ten metres high with the corridor boundary fence clearly visible at the precipices. In some places a two metre high retaining wall was required to hold back the steep cuttings.

    Even it there were enough room to built it, a second formation for the trail would have meant moving immense amounts of earth, destroying countless thousands of trees and completely ruining the amenity of the trail. which runs under a full tree canopy in many places. The integrity of the formation itself would have compromised and endless problems with erosion and invasive weeds would have ensued. The maintenance costs would have escalated enormously.

    All this just to retain the railway track for trains that would never return, leaving the infrastructure to continue decaying. Instead the trail project restored several of the historic bridges which would have been lost forever had an off formation trail been pursued.


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