Ballina MP says CityRail soaks up rail money

MORE than $1 billion in funding for rail services was announced in Tuesday's State Budget, but none of it is for the North Coast.

Ballina MP Don Page said the contrast in the State Government's attitude to city and country couldn't be greater.

He said a 2004 report estimated it would cost $22 million to make the Casino to Murwillumbah line safe again.

"Even if the cost has risen to $50 million over the last two years, and by the time you access some trains, that is still a drop in the ocean," he said.

Mr Page said the Parry Report showed the cost recovery of CountryLink services was 32 cents in the dollar, whereas the cost recovery of CityRail was only 28 cents in the dollar.

"This argument that country trains don't pay their way, well they don't, but neither do the city trains. It's all a matter of politics and the Labor Government just doesn't care about us up here and wants to spend it all in the city."

Mr Page said there were 1.8 million tourists a year in Byron Bay, which presented an opportunity to provide a tourist and commuter service on the line.

"You couldn't wish for a better ride than from Byron to Murwillumbah, or Byron to Lismore," he said. "If there were regular services you could get off, have your lunch and come back again."

TOOT spokesperson Basil Cameron said they hadn't been expecting anything in the Budget, but hoped there would be a shift to fund regional public transport.

"People are hurting more because of petrol prices; they have to travel greater distances, they often work part-time and have lower wages, so the pain is more acute," he said

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