'Use it or lose it': Concerns about future of rail corridor
THE Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association (NRRT) says it is concerned about Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson's plans for combined tourist train and bike trail.
Cr Richardson's "Byron Line" proposal would turn the disused rail corridor from Bangalow to Billinudgel into a light rail tourism and commuter service with a parallel nature trail for cycling and walking.
He described it as a "game changer" and said he hoped it would unite the visions of two formerly at-odds groups, Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) and Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT), to ensure there was a broad consensus over the use of the invaluable public land.
But in a statement released today, the NRRT said only a rail trail could "feasibly preserve the corridor in public hands".
"Tweed Shire Council has recently completed a detailed engineering study of the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek track ... Tweed Council is anxiously awaiting a funding announcement which could see their rail trail a reality in 2017," the statement said.
"This will be one of the most beautiful rail trails in the world, and will attract thousands of nature-loving visitors each year.
"At the council meeting on August 25, Mayor Simon Richardson emphatically rejected an offer by Tweed Council to terminate their rail trail at Billinudgel.
"Despite approval from the Billinudgel Hotel, the obvious economic benefits for the village, appeals from NRRT member Councillor Sol Ibrahim, and the proposal's green credentials, the Mayor claimed that no support should be given until another feasibility study is completed (costing between $200,000 - $300,000) to determine if a private commercial train could operate between the Queensland border to Billinudgel and beyond.
"NRRT is concerned that the Mayor's proposal will only serve to further delay the public use of the corridor.
"The proposal has no funding source for the feasibility study and no proponent to operate any self-funding track-based service.
"NRRT believes that sections of the corridor will be sold off unless incorporated into a continuous rail trail.
"Lismore and Richmond Valley Councils are working towards a rail trail in their section of the corridor.
"NRRT calls on the whole community and councillors to unequivocally support the rail trail now before it is too late. Use it or lose it!"