Govt support brings Byron bypass closer

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

A BYPASS for Byron Bay is one step closer with NSW Transport Minister John Watkins confirming his commitment to the project.

The Minister met with a delegation of bypass campaigners from the Byron Shire Council and the Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce last Friday to discuss the project.

High on the delegation's agenda were ways to overcome the main hurdle preventing construction of the bypass ? a refusal by State Rail for a second rail crossing in the town.

A spokesperson for Mr Watkins said the meeting had been positive.

"He undertook to look into the feasibility of a second rail crossing and is currently seeking advice on the written submission provided by the council," the spokesperson said.

The bypass proposed by the council and the chamber would begin at the Butler and Shirley streets intersection, follow the existing rail line corridor and end at Butler Street with a second rail crossing needed near Mitre 10.

The chamber of commerce and council delegation argued that the crossing should be made available now that the Murwillumbah to Casino XPT had been cancelled and the line is unused.

After meeting with Mr Watkins, Laurie Lynch, of the Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce, said that even if the rail crossing issue was resolved there were still more hurdles to overcome before the bypass could become a reality.

He said some of the hurdles included permission to purchase land along the rail corridor, wetland conservation, flora and fauna issues as well as funding for the project.

"This (DA for the bypass) has been on the drawing board since 1996 and no progress has been made," Mr Lynch said.

"The sticking point has been the motivation of the council to move ahead and the lack of funding available for it," he said.

However, Friday's meeting with the Minister, and the support of the general manager and several councillors, has given fresh hope to the chamber, Mr Lynch said.

"We're hoping the Minister will come on board and work for us on this issue," he said.



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