BYRON Shire Council has finally thrown its support behind the Murwillumbah to Casino rail trail, yet simultaneously renewed its commitment to seeing trains reinstated on the track.
In two separate motions last week, councillors formally supported the rail trail and also voted to request "an immediate investment in the Byron Shire section of the Casino-Murwillumbah line for light rail".
Byron councillor Sol Ibrahim said it was crucial that the council made a "definitive statement" on the rail trail after the proposal received emphatic support from Tweed and Lismore councils, as well as a formal support from NOROC.
"We really needed to stand up and join the party," Cr Ibrahim said.
"Rail trails only work if you basically get funding for the entire corridor and you don't have any issues along the way. State governments want to see that every single shire is on board."
He said the council had tried to avoid turning the issue of rail trail versus trains into an "either or situation", but acknowledged that, right now, the rail trail was the best way to keep the corridor in public hands.
"Up until now it had always been, 'rail trail would be good but only if trains are there'," he said.
"The reality is well over a decade has gone by and despite repeated requests I think three or four governments have said (about reinstating trains) no, it's not feasible."
The motion by Byron Shire Council acknowledged a rail trail would preserve the rail corridor in public hands.
"It keeps the corridor from disintegrating to the point where a future government will say 'we're just going to sell the pieces and wipe our hands of it'," Cr Ibrahim said.
Byron Shire would be a key hub for the rail trail, as it is already a focal point for tourism.