A Lot Has Changed Since 1894
Our old railway corridor contains heritage treasures like bridges, tunnels and station buildings. It has a single track and it would run a diesel-powered train. This isn't transport infrastructure for the future. The population demographic has changed a lot since 1894, and the old corridor cannot serve the two highest population growth areas of the Tweed Coast and Ballina. A new train, and it might be a generation away, would proceed south from Coolangatta starting sometime around 2018 to 2026 (to coincide with Coolangatta coming on line from the QLD side) to serve the current and future population demographic along an entirely new corridor (see the report by the Cross Border Transport Taskforce on the links page). When it eventually does get here, most likely beside the Pacific Highway, it will be a modern, electrified, twin track system allowing full integration with the QLD rail network and the Pacific Highway. This will greatly improve the convenience of coach feeder services and will concentrate ‘through’ passengers and freight into a narrow corridor. This is a well conceived future transport strategy that deserves our community support. In the meanwhile we will have to settle for bus services, at least they are flexible and can respond to changing times.
A commuter train service will fail to meet the expectations of commuters. Of the higher employment centres in our region (Lismore, Tweed Coast and Ballina), only Lismore is on the railway line, and it was never designed to be a commuter station. Unless a pedestrian bridge is constructed across the Wilsons River, from Lismore Station to the workplace will be a long walk for most commuters and even longer for students at Southern Cross University. Even with a pedestrian bridge, people will abandon the train as soon as the weather turns cold or wet. Commuting by train will also cost as much or more than a bus and for the many years that it will take for the remedial works to be completed, it will be a very slow journey across more than 150 speed-restricted wooden bridges. Our corridor contains 30% of all of the wooden railway bridges in NSW.
The 'Surf Train' is from a fondly remembered era when it seemed safe to let kids go unaccompanied on a train to the beach. Times have changed though and now most kids don't even go unaccompanied to school. Many 15 and 16 year olds have older siblings or friends who have cars, so the actual number of kids wanting to travel to the beach by train these days would be very small indeed. Even baby-boomer childhood memories of going to the beach on the train are invariably characterised by travelling in mostly empty carriages. At a taxpayer cost of $3453.00 per service (PWC feasibility study page 66), this would be a very expensive way of getting kids to the beach.
A rail trail will prevent the loss of this incredible asset, both for the historic infrastructure and for the access and enjoyment of the public. The Booyong to Ballina corridor which was closed in 1948 and returned to private ownership in the early 1950s, is a example of what we are determined to prevent. The very characteristics that make a train between Casino and Murwillumbah unviable would make this rail trail potentially the most valuable rail trail in the world.