Sale of rail corridor land 'makes no sense'
A CHORUS of public transport and rail trail advocates have voiced their opposition to the planned sale of a slice of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor to a developer in Byron Bay for a "measly" $465,000.
A development application to Byron Shire Council currently on public display has revealed that Transport for NSW consented to the sale of 611sqm of the rail corridor in February.
The land sits behind the current Wollongbar Motel at 19-21 Shirley St, Byron Bay, which will be torn down to make way for a luxury unit complex by developer Wollongbar Properties.
Wollongbar Properties needs the extra land in order to avoid the planned apartment complex exceeding the maximum 60 per cent floor space to land ratio mandated under planning laws.
A Transport for NSW spokesman said the department was only able to dispose of rail corridor land which was deemed "surplus to requirements".
"The proposed sale is for land along the rail corridor, not for part of the corridor itself," the spokesman said in a statement.
"We are not permitted to dispose of any land that might be needed for the current or future rail services unless the line is declared closed, which would require an act of Parliament. The Casino to Murwillumbah line, while not in use, has not been declared a closed line."
But opponents, including the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) group, and Sydney-based public transport advocates Action for Public Transport, say the sale should be stopped.
NRRT public liason Marie Lawton said the group would campaigning against the sale. She said it made "no sense".
"What's the point of selling it off in drips and drabs like that for a few measly dollars?" she said.
"It's kind of really hurting the future of the potential rail trail - we don't want to see that happening on other parts of the corridor."
Ms Lawton said many people were asking whether such a sale might compromise a planned walking/cycling trail beside the new solar-powered train owned by Elements of Byron.
"I'm sure we'll get this rail trail eventually, and when we do it needs to be complete."
She said the situation was "urgent".
"We really need to get approval for this rail trail before other parts of the corridor are sold off."
Jim Donovan, spokesman for Action for Public Transport, said the sale was short-sighted.
"If you damage your transport corridor enough it ceases being a transport corridor," Mr Donovan said.
"Here they've left enough for a single track, but our founding fathers thought they'd have a 60 foot (wide) corridor - and I'd keep it."
"In my book you don't cut transport corridors - not with a growing population."
Mr Donovan said he believed the Federal Government should fund a light rail system from Ballina to Coolangatta to connect with the planned southern end of the Gold Coast light rail system.
The ambitious proposal has never been costed, but the Gold Coast light rail system has cost an average of at least $60 million a kilometre, albeit through densely populated areas.