Fifteen years after the closure of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line Byron Shire Councillors believe that at least one section of the line could again be used for passenger transport.
A report on the feasibility of reactivating the rail corridor from Bangalow to Yelgun was considered at last month’s Council meeting, with a finding that there is a case to open the corridor for light rail vehicles that could operate alongside a rail trail.
Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, describes the report as game changer and a great opportunity for the Byron Shire’s residents, as well as tourists.
“The report recognised the benefits to locals of being able to get out of daily Byron traffic queues instead catching a commuter light rail shuttle,” Mayor Richardson said.
“Imagine catching a shuttle to the Farmers and Sunday markets; or our teenagers and older residents being able to connect with friends via a regular service; or getting to the Mullum Music festival, or Sample, as well as the big ones in the Shire too?
“Well, these wonderful dreams have now been shown to be very real possibilities after a consultant engaged by Council (Arcadis), did an engineering assessment, a social impact assessment and an economic feasibility study and found that not only is the corridor in reasonable condition but there is a sound argument to open the corridor for light rail vehicles that could operate alongside a rail trail.
“Since the rail line closed Council, and indeed many people in the Byron Shire, have been lobbying for proper investigation into the use of the rail corridor for transport, not satisfied to accept a rail trail as the only option,” Mayor Richardson said.
“While there have been studies done, none have looked properly at the possibility of there being co-existing uses on the rail line and by that I mean a rail trail as well as some sort of public transport network,” he said.
“I am a strong supporter of rail trails but we have this wonderful asset in the rail corridor, and limited public transport in the Byron Shire so it seems ludicrous not to be able to use it to its full potential.
“Arcadis suggested that a light rail system could be used to take people to festivals and markets and that this alone had the potential to take some 700,000 vehicles off the road which has huge benefits for the environment,” Mayor Richardson said.
“While this is great news it is only the start of what will be a long and detailed project and Councillors have asked staff to report back on how we can progress this,” he said.
Council will also request that the activation of the regional rail corridor be put on the agenda for the next meeting of the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation, which represents the interests of Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed Councils.