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Byron Shire
May 30, 2023

We need trains not privatisation of valuable rail land

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Rusty Miller (Letters, 3 May) is right. After we were assured that despite the removal of the legislation that had prevented the Casino to Murwillumbah (C–M) rail corridor land from being sold off, that’s exactly what the state government is now doing. 

The documented facts are: As Don Page, National Party MP for Ballina for 27 years, said of the train closure in 2004: ‘approximately 133,000 people use this train each year and its termination will particularly affect the elderly and disabled.’ 

The Liberals/Nationals also said the social, environmental and cost benefits of a commuter train service on the line ‘would be enormous’. After promising for so long they would return trains to the C–M line, they even had cute t-shirts made saying: ‘You Can Have Your Trains Back’. They are now spending so much taxpayer money destroying the line for a bike track. This is a huge injustice and betrayal of the Northern Rivers community. 

When Justine Elliot, Labor MP for Richmond, promised $150m for train services on the C–M line in 2004 she thanked all those people who fought so hard and said it was ‘a great victory for our community, which has run a tireless campaign to save the train’. They’re still campaigning today for the trains we need.

When the Labor Party closed the train service in 2004 they claimed it would cost $88m over ten years. That’s $666,666 per kilometre to upgrade the line for the old heavy XPT train. In 2016 it cost $660,000 per kilometre to repair the line in Byron for the Solar Train. The first section of rail trail cost $600,000 per kilometre for a few fit cyclists and (‘cycling tourism’) which has increased traffic not reduced it.

All North Coast councils should be demanding the state government provide the train services we were promised and have needed for so long. Otherwise, ratepayers and taxpayers will be paying hundreds of millions to build and maintain more roads to cope with the increasing traffic gridlock. 

Louise Doran, Ocean Shores

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  1. Oh dear! another graduate of the Richardson school of transport economics. Please read the Arup report before commenting again.

  2. Louise please do research before posting untruths on subjects you don’t know . I lived in Byron Bay from 1964 to 2019 and watched as railway land was sold off since the mid 1980s. The now car parking areas west of Jonson st (between Jonson and the railway line ) had active rail lines and operations until the mid 80s and it all got ripped up in the late 80s after Byron Council bought the land for parking .

    Most of the properties abutting the rail corridor along Shirley St either bought or leased from the railways land at the back sections of their properties surplus of railways requirements. The railways sold off a huge swathe of land between Cavanbah St and the railway line back in the 90s to a local developer which is now Khia. The nearby residents kicked up a stink as they lost the illegal crossing to the beach (it is illegal to cross or access railway land except at designated crossings) . Another piece of railway land that was surplus was behind the Mitre 10 at the south end of Jonson St but it had two adjoining owners who both wanted too buy it so it wasn’t sold off until a few years ago .
    Another piece of railway land sold off many years in the 70s was at the Shirley St level crossing south side that has a motel built on it .
    The First Sun Caravan Park has leased a large section of railway land forever (Byron Council may have bought ?) .
    So Louise railway land has been sold off for more than 40 years in Byron Bay .
    FYI- your use of terminology ‘bike track’ for the rail trail shows your ignorance on who uses the trail . I would suggest that you do some ground truthing by actually visiting the rail trail and see that lots of local residents and visitors walk , run or merely congregate on the rail trail.
    Your blinkered writings are wearing thin and I suggest you would be better spending your energy on pushing for the new modern alignment railway system as stated at all local , state and federal levels that will follow the M1 between Chinderah and Yelgun .
    Nostalgic slow meandering trains on the 1890 steam age alignment will not get workers and commuters out of cars , nor will it get freight off our highways .

  3. In fact the strongest protection is on the Tweed Valley and Richmond Valley sections of the rail trail. A sale of any part of those corridors could not have happened because the Transport Asset Holding Entity is no longer in control of those sections.

    The rail trail legislation transferred the ownership to the local councils and includes the condition that no part of the land can ever be disposed of to any but another public body. The Minister for Transport retains the ability to revert the corridor for any transport purpose. Clearly that does not include disposal of the land to a developer. Any sale by the government would require further legislation.

    The Byron Shire section of the corridor could have had this same protection had they accepted Tweed Council’s 2016 offer to join the TVRT project.


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