A rail trail utilising the disused Casino – Murwillumbah rail line could be a major economic driver for the Northern Rivers.
A rail trail utilising the disused Casino – Murwillumbah rail line could be a major economic driver for the Northern Rivers.

ON YOUR BIKE: Passage of Bill paves the way for rail trail

NORTHERN RIVERS rail trail advocates are celebrating after legislation passed the NSW upper house yesterday clearing the way for its establishment.

The Transport Administration Amendment (Closures of Railway Lines in Northern Rivers) Bill 2020, will enable the closure of non-operational railway lines between Crabbes Creek and Condong and between Casino and Bentley.

Essentially, this is stage one of the project which would eventually connect a rail trail on the former train corridor from Murwillumbah to Casino.

Chair of Destination North Coast and vice president of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail group Cameron Arnold met the passage of Bill through the upper house yesterday with “huge relief and satisfaction”.

“Basically we can get on and get those sections of the rail trail built and it is pretty exciting we can all push ahead,” Mr Arnold said.

“The message we really want to make clear with the rail corridor is that it has always been the case of use it or lose it.

“The rail trail retains the corridor in public hands and if in the future sometime they decide to put trains back on the track, it can still ne used for that, but in the mean time it allows it to be used as a rail trail.”

Rail trails are considered shared-use paths and used for walking, cycling and horse riding.

The Bill means the land stays in public ownership, and each rail trail section is then managed by the relevant local council.

Once the line is closed, and legal arrangements are in place with councils, rail infrastructure is removed.

It’s this last point, the removal of train tracks and other infrastructure, which has got pro train groups up in arms.

“There is no way the rail trail can go ahead while the tracks are in place,” Mr Arnold said.

“But even if the train did come back, the tracks would need to replaced, so keeping the tracks is really a moot argument.”

The passage of the legislation went ahead yesterday despite a 10,000 signature petition being delivered to parliament calling for the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line to be saved and for passenger rail services to return to the region.

Calls by the Greens for a further inquiry into the matter also fell on deaf ears.

Tweed MP Geoff Provest said the legislation change did not mean the government was ruling out reinstating a rail line to the Northern Rivers.

“The rail trail land is in public ownership and there are a number of safeguards in the legislation so in the future if things can change we can reinstate the train line,” Mr Provest said.

“We still have the bus picking people up to get to the train at Casino.

“Also we are moving on, we are not too far away to releasing the feasibility study from the Gold Coast light rail into the Tweed – personally I see that as the way of the future to have a light rail going down the M1 to service the population’s growth area. I often looking with jealousy at Sydney the light rail from Circular Quay to Randwick.

“One of the things the pandemic has highlighted to me is with the border passes -our future is public transport connection to the north – they have issued hundreds of thousands of permits and we’ve seen the drama caused when didn’t have those permits, the traffic chaos and the shut downs.”