TOOT members staging a 'bring back our trains' protest at Casino rail station.
TOOT members staging a 'bring back our trains' protest at Casino rail station. The Northern Star

Fight for trains is back on track

THE fight for a Northern Rivers train has rattled back on to the political agenda after a statewide meeting yesterday aimed at protecting and restoring regional rail services.

Members of local rail lobby group, Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT), joined forces at Coffs Harbour to launch a new push to restore services on the Casino to Murwillumbah line, along with other regional rail services.

The meeting was told soaring fuel prices and climate change would turn political opinion back to the benefits of rail freight and the opening of regional train lines.

Pacific Highway Alliance representative Wayne Evans said rising fuel prices, inflation, climate change and safety were just some of the obvious reasons for upgrading the Sydney to Brisbane train line, and also reopening regional commuter lines such as the Casino to Murwillumbah track.

"For people in regional areas your car is like your right arm, but it's time to chop that right arm off," he said.

Mr Evans discussed his concerns with a panel of experts at the first statewide Rescue Rail forum in Coffs Harbour last night.

The forum was designed to address obstacles to the re-establishment of rail as the major freight service in the State, and the return of regional commuter trains.

TOOT president Karin Kolbe, who was at the meeting, said increased co-operation between rail groups across NSW would energise the local rail campaign.

"We're continually hearing more voices in the community, in the business world and in the environmental world, calling for rail," she said.

"While many of us know each other, this is the first time we've all been together in one room. So it's another step along for our campaign for rail."

VIDEO: "Past, present and future - rail traffic on the Murwillumbah line."

State Transport Minister John Watkins has said the deterioration of the Casino to Murwillumbah line from age and weather meant the cost of repairing and reopening the line would be significant.

However, State Lismore MP Thomas George said if the Government didn't do something soon, the line would only get worse and the project would become more expensive.

At the last State election it was estimated that repairing the line would cost $160m.

Further cost blow-outs are feared if the Government waits another four years, until the next election, before taking any action.

Mr Watkins said the Iemma Government was concentrating its efforts on a joint study with the Queensland Government to work out the best ways to improve services for Northern NSW and South-East Queensland residents.

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