Byron Bay wants to advance the Northern Rivers Rail Trail

“The fact that the tracks were built in the Tweed means the idea of ​​a regional rail link in Northern Rivers is over,” he says.

The Lismore to Murwillumbah railway line first opened in 1894, carrying people and goods to Byron Bay for sea transport to Sydney. The line was later extended to Casino and then to Sydney in 1932.

The Sydney to Murwillumbah train goes to Byron Bay in 1985.

The Sydney to Murwillumbah train goes to Byron Bay in 1985.Credit: Antonin Cermak

When traffic was shut down in 2004, a group of local residents began planning to convert the railway corridor into a cycle and pedestrian path.

To date, this group, with the support of most of the area’s local councils, has secured at least $32 million in state and federal funding to build the two ends of the trail, between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek to the north and Casino and Lismore to the west. based on a business case that demonstrates significant benefit to the economy.

But the railway line is set to cost many more millions to complete, with the section between Lismore and the Byron Shire border likely to incur the highest cost due to its complicated geography.

In conclusion, the Tweed Shire Council says the trail has exceeded expectations, with some businesses reporting a fivefold increase in turnover, although not everyone is happy. Protesters have targeted the trail, handing out thumbtacks to choke down cyclists.

Byron Councilman Asren Pugh rides the Tweed Rail Trail with his family.

Byron Councilman Asren Pugh rides the Tweed Rail Trail with his family.

Frustrated that businesses are thriving just across the border in Tweed, Rail Trail advocate and Byron Labor councilor Asren Pugh says his councilor’s wishy-washy position is costing the community.

“It was certainly an ugly debate,” he says. “It’s not even about tourists or men in lycra. It’s about children being able to come to school and parents being able to walk safely with strollers.”

Pat Grier, president of Northern Rivers Rail Trail Incorporated, says businesses that “fell on their knees” in the Tweed last year due to the floods are now thriving and he is optimistic Byron Shire will join in.

“Byron City Council was opposed to the railroad until recently, and that meant the railroad could only go to one place in the middle of nowhere, and that was Crabbes Creek,” he says.

“It’s all politics. It was’nt easy. It took us 10 years to get here… [but] If there’s one region that needs something like a railroad to boost the economy and give people hope for the future, it’s the Northern Rivers.”

But Northern Rivers Rail Limited secretary Lydia Kindred, whose group wants trains and cyclists to share the corridor, says the area’s younger and older residents would particularly benefit from a train.

“The railroad is great for a certain percentage of the population, but the rest of us won’t use it,” she says. “And we’re getting feedback from thousands and thousands of people that they could really use the train when they come back.”

Part of the Rail Trail route is already home to the private Solar Train, which runs two miles north of Byron Bay. Last month, Transport NSW granted the Northern Regional Rail Company a license to conduct preliminary studies for extended train service along this line.

Lyon and Grier say that the rail route can work around this section if there is a rail link towards Mullumbimby.

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Justin Scaccy

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