Train Push Gathers Steam

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Photo: thomask THERE are renewed hopes trains will once again run on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line. NSW Minister for the North Coast and Ballina MP, Don Page, has announced a tender to evaluate the costs of restoring and maintaining the 130km-long line for heavy or light rail passenger services, a move welcomed by Byron Mayor, Cr Jan Barham. Cr Barham, describing the announcement as “fantastic”, said the reopening of the line would be a major boost for the Far North Coast. “It would change the way the North Coast operates in terms of people having access to the region without having to rely on cars,” she said. “It would be also good for the local young and aged and people who don’t have cars. “We know a train service will be fantastic for young residents and tourists. “It will create a whole new asset for the North Coast – create a rail trail. “It’s such a safe, relaxing way to travel. “I always used to come up (from Sydney) by train. I was a dedicated train traveller.” Cr Barham said she hoped the evaluation would look at local light rail and commuter options. “That would be a good alternative for the Byron Shire,” she said. “A train where you could take your bike or surfboard would be a great thing.” President of Trains on Our Track (TOOT), Karin Kolbe, said she was glad to see some development on the issue, but would like the terms of reference widened. Ms Kolbe said the study seemed to be very narrowly focused on costs, but there was nothing about the benefits. “A rail service will provide many benefits to the region but these are not being examined at all in the proposed study,” she said. “We’d like to see an analysis of having less congestion, particularly in places like Byron Bay. “We’d also like to see the benefits to tourism considered. “We’d also like to see the environmental benefits, like reduced carbon emissions, or better air quality, accounted for. “And with less cars and buses on the road, maintenance costs to council and RTA will be reduced, and this needs to be factored in too.” Mr Page said the government was delivering on its commitment to examine options for the line and broader transport options in the region, which had been supported by a $2 million allocation in the recent Budget. … Read More

horstTrain Push Gathers Steam

Fury at the Railway Friendly as Byron Hits the End of the Line

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Photo: Wade Laube. Derailed . . . Protesters greet one of the last trains. Byron Bay’s Railway Friendly Bar will keep rocking, but when the last train leaves the platform tomorrow night the town’s railway service will stop rolling. The bar of the Railway Friendly in Byron backs on to the tracks of the Casino-Murwillumbah branch line, which carried its first train 110 years ago. With its eclectic clientele, antique fishing reel collection, cold beer, live music and marinated tofu burgers, the Railway has been the first point of call for thousands who have taken the long train journey north seeking the famed sun, surf and hippy hedonism of Byron. But from Monday, the XPT service from Sydney will terminate at Casino. It means Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby, Byron and Lismore will be serviced by buses and dozens of rail workers will lose their jobs – and the locals who prop up the bar at the Railway are furious. Denise Campbell was born in Byron 56 years ago and used to catch the train each day to high school at Mullumbimby. “For the future of this town we need the railway,” she said before joining a rally chanting “save our train” that greeted astonished backpackers getting off the XPT on Thursday night. North Coast mayors and MPs have been making the same plea to the State Government ever since it announced the line’s closure in last month’s mini-budget. In the fast-growing region where local roads and the Pacific Highway already struggle to cope with traffic, they argue that the closure of a service that carries 133,000 passengers a year is madness. Byron Shire councillor Peter Westheimer said that as well as the rail service being important for locals, the area gets 1.7 million visitors a year who should be able to come by train to ease congestion and the carnage on the roads. Neale Battersby, a former train driver who heads Northern Rivers Trains for the Future, says that as well as maintaining the daily XPT service, the line should have a frequent light rail service and be extended north to Tweed Heads to link with the Queensland rail system through the Gold Coast to Brisbane. A spokesman for the Transport Minister, Michael Costa, said the line had to close because it would cost $188 million to maintain over the next 20 years and the Commonwealth Grants Commission had slashed funding to … Read More

horstFury at the Railway Friendly as Byron Hits the End of the Line