Protesters blockade Transport Minister
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL firstname.lastname@example.org
A BLOCKADE of Northern Rivers Trains for the Future protesters momentarily held up State Transport Minister John Watkins on his way to a conference in Byron Bay yesterday.
The group of about 30 protesters formed a line across the road shouting 'bring back our train' as the Minister's car crossed the abandoned railway line near the Byron Beach Resort.
However, the group was forced to break apart and make way for the vehicle when it failed to stop.
"I thought he would've stopped and acknowledged the group's passion," Lennox Head-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack said.
"It was pretty rude. I don't think we were a very threatening group."
After the NSW Community Transport Organisation conference, the Minister said he could not address the protesters because he was running late.
"I don't think they asked me to stop," he said.
"And I was running late. My flight was late out of the Sydney airport. I have met with the main protagonists in that organisation previously."
Trains for the Future spokeswoman Karen Kolbe said it was not the group's intention to interfere with the conference held inside the resort.
"It's a conference on community transport which is different to public transport so we didn't want to disrupt it," she said.
"It was more of a symbolic protest to show we're still passionate about this issue and we're not going away."
Despite the group's persistance and a Save Our Train campaign launched by The Northern Star, the Minister had no new announcements about the future of the axed Casino to Murwillumbah rail service.
"I was on the North Coast earlier this year and made the point there is a working party considering possible uses of the rail line whether that be freight or a com- muter service," he said.
"I'm willing to be guided by that working party.
"The Government's decision stands regarding the closure of the line for the XPT, but if there is a viable alternative use it will be explored fully.
"The reality is the line is very expensive to maintain, the issue was always the cost."
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