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Byron Shire
June 2, 2023

Ongoing onslaught of train misinformation

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The ongoing onslaught of misinformation regarding rail service rebuilding on our corridor is mind-boggling, given that even some of our elected leaders are apparently drawn into believing misinformation too.

Cr Peter Westheimer’s letter (26 April) is unfortunately no exception. It was an extraordinarily long letter, with serial erroneous points, baffling those that know the facts.

Firstly, the existing rail trail does offer a wonderful option to travel along its length. 

Secondly, there was ongoing opportunity for the community to consult and be informed over the entire ten-year process of the rail corridor’s prospects. 

Thirdly, the building company, Hazell Bros, never said that building a second formation alongside the existing rail formation was cheaper than just using the existing rail formation! Fourthly, traversing over tunnels is usually not easy, with land procurements being one issue. Just imagine having to travel over the Burringbar Tunnel, which is about 100 metres beneath the top of the ridge. 

Fifthly, the business case for rail v trail is that rail is far, far more expensive to build, in fact the trail leaves decrepit bridges completely alone, as museum historical features; and then there’s the rolling stock purchasing and maintenance and massive running costs of a rail service. 

Sixthly, the NSW Government did not have ‘a complete lack of foresight’; it instead had the foresight that necessitated ceasing the service way back in 2004, as projected maintenance costs went stratospheric. 

Seventhly, the rail trail has never undergone ‘slick campaigning’. It has simply and consistently stated facts through thorough investigation and tabling of costs via evidence, and seeking funding for best visions for this community. 

Eighthly, look, Westheimer’s letter goes on and on and on about train fantasies. Good luck. But the fact is, that the rail trail makes sense to all that have sense, period, and they enjoy being able to ride or walk along in safety, to schools, seeing friends, or just being on the trail with them.

The visions for walkers, cyclists, and ebikes on a rail trail in Byron Shire is gaining increasing traction.

Doubling down on failed train fantasies is very tiresome and perplexing indeed.

Tim Shanasy, Byron Bay

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  1. Well said – but still there will be responses that maintain the old falsehoods. Fanatical rail supporters seem to have the trumpian view that if you say it enough times then it becomes fact. Wears me out – why are we still talking about this??!!

  2. I can admire people who never give up, who keep fighting for a cause they believe in no matter how unlikely will be their success.

    Without an integrated system this is not likely to be funded by the state government. It’s doubtful that Council will have the resources or necessary skills to run such a service and break even. Elements revitalised the small section of track into town but last I heard it relies heavily on a volunteer workforce and is about getting guests into town not general public transport.

    Train proponents point to great success stories like the Kuranda train. Well they have had 20 years to get someone interested. Council spent $300,000 a few years back for a feasibility study that did not miraculously prompt a stampede of eager investors and went …?

    The denigration inherent in references to Lycra clad elitists and “fit” cyclists is a pathetic attempt to skew reality. There’s also the thought that good facilities can encourage the unfit to get fit – a huge societal challenge.

    Pleas to take cars off our roads and provide public transport ignore the fact that we are blessed with a great bus service that not only has multiple stop/pick up locations but incorporates the convenience of hail and ride plus flexible drop off. They run at regular intervals all day. Despite this they are often almost empty. TOOT adherents love to paint a picture of their horrors to explain this lack of enthusiasm for public transport but when I have used them they are clean, comfortable, air conditioned and much more likely to take me from almost door to door – and they DO have great wheelchair, mobility scooter access. This doesn’t augur well for huge usage of a local train service even if the track was retrievable. And NO it’s not appropriate to quote the costs per kilometre to resurrect the Elements track (7 years ago on even terrain, straight alignment and less overgrown) and draw conclusions for the rest of the corridor.

    I’d strongly suggest people listen to the discussion of item 13.10 at Council’s April 27th meeting where Cr Pugh begs for some clear message from Council on the matter of funding gained, but in danger, for an on formation track which would provide safe access for cyclists and pedestrians in Bangalow and an alternative to crossing Granuaille Rd. Listen to the sorts of things that never giving in and waiting for one more study means for us all.

    It clearly does take a lot of resolve (or obstinacy?) to keep the dream alive. It would be more admirable though if the struggle were a straight good versus evil equation. There are huge benefits to the community of a rail trail (especially now it has/will be taken up by neighbouring LGAs) and what these diehards need to weigh up is the likelihood of small sections of track being revitalised with rail service against the certainty of what they want to take from the community.

  3. It is a fantasy to think that anyone is going to pay to reestablish rail. Only the new State government could afford this and they have already put on hold or cancelled some infrastructure projects in Sydney that would be used by hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Also, the ongoing cost to support a reopened rail system would be horrendous. The chances that the government will fund the recommencement of rail in the northern rivers is zero so let’s get on with extending the popular new bike/walking trail.


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