Studies needed to test mayor's claims

BALLINA mayor Phillip Silver's ambivalence about a commuter train is understandable. After all, the line does not go to Ballina.

Perhaps his views might be different if the Booyong line still existed.

The Booyong branch line opened in 1930 and ran off the main branch line to Ballina, but it had a short life. The line was formally closed in 1949 after a chequered history that ended with it being badly damaged by landslides in 1948.

The lack of a rail link to Ballina, as one of the region's most important population centres, probably does hurt the line's viability.

However, to dismiss the push for commuter services as 'foolish' is too long a bow to draw.

Without proper figures or research on potential patronage of a commuter service it is impossible to reject Cr Silver's assertion that too few people would catch a train to make it worthwhile. He might be right, in the short term at least. However, we need proper, independent, research done to test that view.

The other factor is the type of service people would use. There are many communities on the train line and, assuming trains run at the right times at the right price, there is no reason to believe they would not use them.

However, a commuter rail service must have - as they do in the cities - a proper inter-connecting bus service to ferry people between their communities and the rail line.

Combine that with a proper connection to the Gold Coast line and the viability of the line would surely increase radically.

Perhaps the other thing the rail debate needs is to consider a return of the Booyong line to again add Ballina to the rail network.

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