TOOT president Karin Kolbe
TOOT president Karin Kolbe

Rail link fail a 'slap in the face' for NSW North Coast

THE demise of a passionately-fought campaign to bring back the Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail link is a "slap in the face" for the NSW North Coast community and one which should be felt by every local politician who campaigned on a now broken promise.

That's how TOOT president Karin Kolbe on Monday summed up her feelings about the release of the long-awaited feasibility study which found the rail line, which has been out of service since 2004, was beyond repair.

In the lead-up to the 2007 state election North Coast MP Don Page and his Tweed, Lismore and Clarence Valley colleagues campaigned for the return of the rail service with the support of Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner.

On Monday, they were likely wishing they hadn't donned those bright red shirts promising "Yes, you can have your trains back" as their Liberal colleague, Transport Minister Gladys Berekjilian announced the train would not be coming.

She said the study, led by transport project director Tim Poole, suggested the rail line would cost a whopping $900million to re-build while still not meeting the region's transport needs.

It would also not serve the major growth corridor between Lismore, Ballina, Byron Bay and Tweed where better access to health, education and social services is needed, she said.

A "quality bus service" running regularly up the Pacific and Bruxner Highways, was suggested in the report as an alternative solution to relieving congestion between Byron Bay and Tweed.

Ms Kolbe said the "bogus" report provided more questions than answers.

The figure of $900million was "fanciful," she believed as it was based on the tired XPT model and not the proposed light rail service.

She said the report was "not a report for the future" and resembled the exact theory the former Labor Government adopted when it closed the line in the first place - "If you pick numbers out of the air, use old data and come up with an outlandish figure, you can justify not doing something you don't want to do".

She also rejected the idea of increased bus services, because people, in particular tourists, "just don't like using them" and questioned why the government would even consider increasing traffic on a stretch of highway which claimed two lives and left several injured as recently as Monday.

Lennox-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack acknowledged it "was a very sad day" for the thousands who had "carried a candle" for the reopening of the rail line.

But she pointed out it was the Labor Government that had "disgracefully" closed the line on the eve of the much loved railway's centenary.

She was satisfied all politicians, National, Liberal, Labor and Green who had "joined hands to fight along side the community" were "genuine" and blamed the passage of time and damaging weather for the government's inability to resurrect the track.

She said the report had made clear the route, designed hundreds of years ago to move freight to Byron Bay for shipping to Sydney, was not capable of meeting today's needs and said she would now focus her campaign for better transport on the "desperately needed" improvement to the region's bus network.

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