Trains On Our Tracks president Karin Kolbe at Lismore Railway Station yesterday with TOOT members, from left, Michelle Carmicheal of South Lismore, Dawn Wenban of Mullumbimby, Louise Doran of Ocean Shores, Dave Wenban of Mullumbimby, Paul Brecht of Mullumbimby, Nick Casmirri of Goonellabah, Byron councillor Basil Cameron, Lismore councillor Simon Clough and John Challinor of South Lismore.
Trains On Our Tracks president Karin Kolbe at Lismore Railway Station yesterday with TOOT members, from left, Michelle Carmicheal of South Lismore, Dawn Wenban of Mullumbimby, Louise Doran of Ocean Shores, Dave Wenban of Mullumbimby, Paul Brecht of Mullumbimby, Nick Casmirri of Goonellabah, Byron councillor Basil Cameron, Lismore councillor Simon Clough and John Challinor of South Lismore. Jacklyn Wagner

Rally against rail sell-off

THE CONSTANT procession of honking car horns could not cover the deep sense of betrayal at Lismore Station yesterday as rail supporters gathered to protest the State Government's plan to remove rail corridor protections.

“It's outrageous,” said Karin Kolbe, president of rail lobby group Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT). “We are sick to the stomach of the Government's empty, glossy words about sustainability and community consultation.”

The State Government plans to introduce legislation as early as next week which would clear the way to sell off rail corridors to private developers by releasing the land for bicycle tracks.

The legislation would remove century-old laws to protect rail lines on Crown land, and community groups including the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association and the Tweed Rail Society fear this would let the Department of Lands remove rail tracks and sell land without ministerial or parliamentary approval - potentially scuttling proposals for Northern Rivers commuter trains.

TOOT member and Byron Shire councillor Basil Cameron gestured towards the unsolicited show of support from passing traffic, saying the region had 'clearly stated its cohesive view'.

“It is very clear, very loud and the only one not listening is the State Government,” he said.

Ballina Nationals MP Don Page said he had yet to see the Bill but the Coalition would fiercely oppose any plans to take away the line.

NSW Greens transport spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said the proposed Bill would be a gift to developers eyeing off land on the Casino to Murwillumbah line.

The Nationals and The Greens have been united on the rail issue since 2004, when then NSW Transport Minister Michael Costa went back on a promised moratorium protecting the Casino to Murwillumbah line and pulled its XPT service.

Protesters concede the issue will effectively become a numbers game. While the Government majority will see the Bill through the Lower House, local MLCs and stakeholders are nervously crunching Upper House numbers.

With Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile expected to add to the Government's 18 votes, and the four Greens expected to go with the Coalition's 15, the outcome will probably be decided by independent and former Christian Democrat Gordon Moyes - provided the two Shooter's Party MPs continue to abstain from voting in protest of the State Government's banning of hunting in National Parks.

A spokesman for NSW Transport Minister David Campbell said the Bill was likely to be introduced into Parliament next week.

“The legislation would lift restrictions but corridors would only be transferred to Lands if there was a push to create a rail trail or other use, and only after community consultation,” he said.

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