For millennia prior to the advent of rail two centuries ago, the primary motive force of terrestrial transport was the horse. Hence we have many equine idioms and a few come to mind when I think about the disused rail corridor and its accompanying controversy. There’s ‘horses for courses’, which means ‘what works well in one place might not work so well elsewhere’. And there’s ‘don’t stare a gift horse in the mouth’, which means ‘to squander an opportunity or be ungrateful for a gift’. And then there’s ‘flogging a dead horse’, which means ‘wasting energy on a lost cause’.
Peter Westheimer cites the Kuranda railway as an example of a successful tourist attraction, but I would point out that Byron Bay is not Cairns, Bangalow is not Kuranda and there is nothing comparable to the Barron Falls Gorge on the line between Byron and Bangalow. There are good reasons why the Kuranda railway is successful, but they don’t really apply to Byron. Peter knows that most people don’t want trains on their rail trail, given the costs, risks, and problems associated with Peter’s ‘off formation’ idea. There are good reasons why this hasn’t been done anywhere in the world.
The 2004 decision to close the local railway line wasn’t based on the whim of a lycra-clad cyclist, it was made by the state government following extensive studies and consultation with professional railway engineers and administrators. The last twenty years have only furthered the social and environmental processes that ultimately led to the closure of the line. The opportunity to make good use of the abandoned rail corridor by giving a green light to the rail trail remains a viable but neglected alternative to the policy paralysis preferred by our local Council.
For ten years, Councillor Basil Cameron held the line against the rail trail, preventing any progress toward realising this practical and affordable project. Now we have Councillor Peter Westheimer to carry on Basil’s legacy, perhaps another decade of indecision, all the while undermining the prospect and denying the benefit of a rail trail for the Byron Shire.