Community Consultation has NOT occurred
in the Tweed
Rail trail projects in NSW require an amendment to the Transport Administration Act 1988 to close the rail line before work can commence on developing the rail trail.
Rail trail proponents must show a viable business model and evidence of effective community consultation, prior to amending the Transport Administration Act 1988.
Shirewide "effective community consultation" has NEVER taken place in the Tweed. (see evidence below)
Therefore, have our communities been hoodwinked by a powerful cyclist lobby network?
deceive or trick.
eg: "communities were hoodwinked into thinking there are no other viable options for the railway line"
In 2013 we started hearing about a "Northern Rivers Rail Trail". Along with its suggestion came a strongly co-ordinated push, by a very professional and organised group, to convert the closed railway line between Casino and Murwillumbah into a "World Class Rail Trail". This push would later extend from the highest levels of state parliament.
Suddenly members and supporters of this project were set up at markets throughout the region and it seemed almost every shop counter had a petition for the public to sign their support of a Rail Trail on the closed line.
They had a great argument ~ the line is not being used, let us use it. Their petition stated "It is important to preserve the rail corridor as a community asset for any potential future commuter use such as solar/electric commuter vehicles, light rail, mono rail etc". They also promised that it would create jobs and increase tourism revenue to the region.
Of course the locals jumped onboard to sign up, who would not want all of that for their local area? However, what we were NOT told was that this project would require an Act of Parliament to close the railway line removing it's guaranteed protective status and that all parties involved in the development of this project have an absolute, no ifs or buts, agenda to remove the railway tracks completely and build the trail on top of the formation.
Was this fair to collect signatures of support without explaining these critical elements?
Was it fair to raise over $70,000 in donations to push this project through without making those facts clear?
Did their words "preserve the rail corridor" portray something very different in your mind?
Surely it didn't sound like ripping up over 2000 tonnes of perfectly viable railway track steel, thus destroying 100+ years of railway history and the chance of returning sustainable community transport to our busy region?
IT'S TIME TO SET THINGS STRAIGHT
"It is important to preserve the rail corridor as a community asset for any potential future commuter use such as solar/electric commuter vehicles, light rail, mono rail etc." (Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. Petition)
An Act of Parliament was passed in October 2020 which authorised the closure of the railway between Crabbes Creek and Condong (and between Casino and Bentley) as well as the removal of the railway tracks and other works.
A business case for a Light Rail Service was put forward in 2018 and again recently with costings, budgets, timetables etc. Running between Byron Bay and Murwillumbah this would serve as a much needed Community Transport service as well as a viable tourism venture dispersing some of the 2.5 million visitors to Byron each year on day trips out into our hinterland with Murwillumbah as the destination. The Light Rail service could operate very safely alongside a bike trail (think of how trams and pedestrians mix on the Gold Coast or Melbourne) and obstacles such as bridges and tunnels need not be the deterrent we have been led to believe. This professional report by a respected local civil engineer has been poo-poo'd by Rail Trail proponents, yet time and again it stacks up to scrutiny. We will be sharing more details of this case study over the coming weeks as we prepare the data for presentation with input from a current railway civil engineer and program manager.
"The railway tracks and sleepers are in utter disrepair and are completely incapable of running any rail travel ever again, now or in the future" (just about every person from the heads of parliament to bicycle riders who are fixated on removing the tracks to build the rail trail on top of the formation)
On the contrary Byron Shire Council, directly adjacent to the Tweed, have recently completed an independent engineering assessment on their portion of track (which is in no better or worse condition than the Tweed section) as part of a feasibility study into dual use of the corridor. Their findings were that "rail earthworks and formations are in sound condition... track geometry is sound... the rails are in good condition... ballast profiles are to standard... in it's current condition it was assessed as suitable to run low axle load vehicles at low speeds"
Aha light rail? Have a read for yourself...
"effective community consultation, including engaging with adjacent landholders and the broader community to address their issues, such as potential biosecurity concerns, is required for all rail trail projects." (NSW Government Premier and Cabinet) https://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/updates/2018/08/16/rail-trail-community-consultation/)
With this issue causing so much angst and division in our communities (as seen by the ongoing Facebook wars and actions to "save our railway") it is irresponsible of authorities to not perform a shire wide poll of what the LOCAL communities want. This would be TRUE "effective community consultation". No more trickery by powerful lobby groups, who's Australia wide members have effected these outcomes, but a simple question to ALL RESIDENTS of the Tweed Shire (prepared and delivered via an independent agency) something like ~ do you want the railway tracks removed from our rail corridor for the rail trail to be built on top? It MUST be made clear to people what they are agreeing to. Even the Mayor agreed in October 2020 that "the Government have completely failed their own requirement for effective community consultation and demonstrated community support before closing the rail corridor."
"The Rail Trail will create numerous, sustainable jobs, new businesses can be created and existing businesses have the opportunity to grow. The Northern Rivers Region attracts thousands of visitors a year and a rail trail would encourage healthy, outdoor activities into the smaller towns and villages of the area. Rail Trail surveys show that they attract higher yield and longer staying visitors. It will encourage sustainable transport, reducing the number of cars on the road and the need for more car parking spaces in the busy towns. Locals will be able to use the rail trail to link up with neighbouring towns, without using their cars and children will be able to ride to school safely." (Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc. Petition)
Let's save time and address all these points in one here. Rail Trails may be fabulous for resurrecting dying communities, certainly we hear time and time again about the life that has been pumped into the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Trail communities. But we also hear from locals that the villages along that trail were becoming ghost towns, that you couldn't purchase fuel in Rosewood for years. Let's not compare apples with oranges. The Northern Rivers does not have thousands of visitors per year, we have 2.5 MILLION per year just to Byron alone! Murwillumbah has SEVEN petrol stations! This is a rapidly growing and expanding region. We need a viable, sustainable way of effectively moving mass numbers of those visitors around our region on day trips. Not everyone is willing or able to ride a bike, or even walk for that matter. To say that locals will use this trail to commute daily between villages by bike or foot or that kids will travel 24km's of trail from Crabbes Creek to High School in Murwillumbah is far fetched. Linking Byron to Murwillumbah via light rail is a no brainer. If we're talking about jobs and economy doesn't it make sense to give visitors either option, Rail or Trail, of travelling to destination Murwillumbah? If Murwillumbah received just 2% of those yearly visitors to Byron, via a Light Rail trip, that's 50,000 extra visitors to Murwillumbah per year! Combine that with other users AND the Bike Trail enthusiasts now we're REALLY generating extra economy into Murwillumbah.
Surely we can develop a WIN/WIN for EVERYONE?