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Byron Shire
September 22, 2023

Sharing the rail corridor

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Paying for the maintenance and providing an engaging visitor experience for the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is a key aspect of Tweed Shire Council’s (TSC) Connect Program. 

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I feel compelled to write again regarding the use of the train tracks in our shire for public transport.

I disagree that the rail tracks should be just for the use of cyclists and walking enthusiasts only.

The history, culture, and romance needs to be there for all to enjoy, which includes public transport travel.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, is the ‘safety factor,’ of keeping the rail tracks in place for vehicular movement in the further event of flood. It is a significant regional, historical building block. This corridor rail line, specifically Byron to Mullumbimby, could be perhaps the only northerly approach when it is likely the region has another major flood. This could be the only way to travel, supply and get relief into Byron Bay or Mullumbimby.

When the water catchment at West Byron is filled and houses built upon it, the stormwater will be exacerbating flooding in Byron Bay.

So altogether I feel it is a sacrilege of our tradition, heritage, and cultural significance and especially the flood access safety issue that we must not extract our special ability to ride on any appropriate vehicle upon the tracks again. 

The solar train from Elements into Byron Bay has made a real example of one way of how it can be done.

Walkers, bikers and rail track enthusiasts can all savour the journey from Byron to Mullumbimby again. 

Rusty Miller, Byron Bay 

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  1. Rusty continues in the long held tradition of rail advocates ignoring the facts. The engineering report tabled at the recent council meeting indicated that building an off formation trail would be prohibitively expensive, especially where there are tunnels.

    Nobody had been able to enjoy anything of the ‘history, culture and romance’ of the derelict and overgrown railway for nearly twenty years until the construction of the Tweed section of the rail trail. Since then, tens of thousands of locals and visitors have been able to see first hand the tunnels and spectacular trestle and girder bridges completely restored and rebuilt by Hazell Bros contractors. The trail also passes beside several other bridges where the structure underneath them can be seen. The project restored the very rare, sixty metre long heritage listed steel Pratt truss bridge at Dunbible saving it from the ravages of corrosion that have already destroyed a smaller similar bridge at Eltham.

    Last year the region experienced the most severe flood in history and the old railway played no part in the rescue or relief efforts. The Tweed trail is constructed such that ordinary emergency vehicle can travel its whole length. This would be impossible with the rails in place where only specialised vehicles fitted with railway running gear would be required. The rail trail would obviously be better able to support any purported benefits of access during floods.

    The Elements train has shown us how private capital can be used to dominate the use of a public facility so that resort patrons can travel into town. Fares for the three kilometre ride, travelling far more slowly than a bicycle, are five dollars each way and the facility loses hundreds of thousands of dollar per year. At that price fares to Mullumbimby would be about thirty dollars each way.

    The bottom line is, despite years of canvassing by Byron Council, nobody has come forward with the enormous sum of money required to reinstate the railway let alone the willingness to lose millions more operating services. There isn’t a train and no government is going to fund the pointless construction of a second formation for the trail just because a few railway enthusiasts are still hopeful that trains are going to be magically returned.

  2. Rusty, the restoration of three miles of straight, flat track for a novelty ride into town for well-healed resort guests demonstrates little about the viability of the return of rail.

    Anyway, what Council settled on does not preclude trail and rail (if at all feasible in terms of engineering and finding an operator) between Mullum and Byron. Many of us think it’s got a snowball’s but there you go.

  3. The rail corridor has been privatised for a free bike track but NO PRIVATE FUNDING HAS BEEN PROVIDED FOR THE BIKE TRACK-TAXPAYERS ARE PAYING FOR IT-$900,000 per kilomtre!!!- and it’s creating more traffic and road damage-not reducing it!!!

    Unlike the expensive free bike track, eleven thousand people paid to use the train every month, taking thousands of cars off the roads. Several studies, including the state Legaslative Council’s 2004 report which said the right commuter train service could and should be returned to the line, and the Southern Cross University study which found 90 percent of people would use such a service connected to the Queensland rail system at Coolangatta, are also being ignored. Everyone knows the planet is burning and we need to get the gas guzzlers off our roads, not encourage more of them.

    Of course airlines don’t want more competition from trains regardless of what the community and environment needs. We’ve seen an airline sent packing to protect the profits of Qantas

    Any report that quotes from an evaluation of the Tumburumba rail trail by a rail trail organisation, (not biased of course) rather doing an independent evaluation of the Tweed rail trail which caters for a similar demographic as Byron Shire over similar terain, is not worth the paper it’s written on. If the Tweed section is such a success and returning econmomic benefits to taxpayers, why wouldn’t they include the information in the study? We’ve all seen the reports on so-called consultancies being engaged and costing taxpayers billions-then writing reports that governments want they know they won’t get more commissions.

    Not to mention thousands of names on petitions, collected locally, not online, of people who want trains not traffic jams. We’re supposed to live in a democracy where our elected representatives are paid well to listen to the needs of communites provide the services and infrastructure needed, not waste eyewatering amounts of taxpayers’ money ($900,000 per kilometre!!) destroying valuable, essential public infrastructure that studies have shown will provide necessary transport for the majority of growing North Coast population centres and 5.2m tourists.

    This community didn’t allow politicians to destroy the last remnants of rainforest, nor destroy farmland with CSG mines, or allow dodgy deveopers to destroy the joint with massive resorts. They’re not going to allow dodgy politicians to waste taxpayers’ money destroying valuable public infrastructure.

    • Louise manages a falsehood in the first six words. The only part of the rail corridor that has been effectively privatised is the three kilometre section where the Elements Train already operates.

      As usual she drags out stories the ancient reports written by parliamentarians who knew nothing about railways then goes on to tell us that politicians are deplorable people. In fact the only comprehensive professional study of the corridor showed that trains on the old steam age track could never meet the modern transport needs of the regional population and would represent an unconscionable waste of public money that would be better spent on running buses that would serve a much wider demographic.

      She fails to explain how a railway between small towns would be competition to airlines. Nor does she show how a train that we have managed to get along fine without for two decades is somehow ‘essential’ and how a decrepit railway buried in vegetation and supported by decaying timber bridges is ‘valuable public infrastructure’.

      The tail is not a waste of money. Its financial viability was established for projected numbers of users far below those now being counted. Reports by professional engineers repeatedly tell us that it is not plausible to build a trail off the formation for a multitude of very good reasons.

      The community wants the trail. That fact is obvious from the popularity of the already completed Tweed section of the trail without spending money on any study. If Louise actually bothered to visit the trail she would be forced to accept the truth, which is why she has never been on it. Until very recently, Louise was telling us that nobody used the trail but now she complains it is generating unbearable amounts of road traffic. I wonder what her story will be next week?

      We are all growing very tired of the boring repetitive hyperbolic nonsense coming from a handful of railway advocates like Louise who have absolutely no grasp of reality.

  4. Rusty, you are somewhat over egging the reason to keep the rusty rails by stating.. “I feel it is a sacrilege of our tradition, heritage, and cultural significance”

    Just a bit, unless, you omitted to include its contribution to World Peace as well.

    Did you?

  5. don’t worry its just a very loud and noisy minority trying to ruin it for everyone else, what else did you expect in the byron shire!

  6. Rusty is speaking common sense, and has been in this town longer than most of us , he knows Byron and what it needs , and what the risks are. Maybe some people could show a bit more respect . If people in this town and region think that last years flood was bad , wait until a couple of years or so when we get the next big wet weather season and see how it floods once West Byron is built , and all the enormous industrial unit complex’s being built in and around Bayshore drive (which already floods) and the industirial area are built , One in particular in my backyard backing on to a nature reserve where they have simply connected the industrial size stormwater outlet pipes x 8 ( for 18 units ) into the nature reserve. But don’t worry we have a strong council that are not influenced by big developers………………………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Whether it is minimizing the flood risk to this town , or planning for future transport needs including rail, We need smart decisions being made now ..


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