Reinstated train, rail trail can co-exist, says campaigner
A LOCAL campaigner for trains to be reintroduced along the Casino to Murwillumbah line says a rail trail could co-exist alongside a train service.
"We're not against the rail trail - what we're against is our rail tracks ripped up," Beth Shelley, of the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group, said.
"Across the world there's quite a few places where rail trails have replaced trains, and at no point have trains ever come back."
"We think it would be great to have a rail trail running alongside the track."
Ms Shelley, of Lismore, said people who supported the return of rail had lost faith in successive governments, which seemed to harbour long-term plans to defund rail lines across the state, despite making election promises (while in opposition) to save rail services.
As a result, most rail supporters didn't trust the Government claim it would cost $950 million to bring back the trains.
"The $950 million quoted was the cost to rip up the tracks and put down an entirely new track - but that's not necessarily needed," Ms Shelley said.
Ms Shelley said she had spoken to a former rail technician who claimed it would only cost $20 million to return trains between Casino to Lismore.
CASINO TO MURWILLUMBAH LINE TIMELINE
"It was actually in really good condition when they closed it, and ... the track is still safe because it has those steel sleepers every fourth on straights and on curves every three."
Lismore Councillor Vanessa Ekins, who was pictured last week on the Northern Rivers Echo riding her pushbike, said she was against removing the rail line because it was important piece of public infrastructure.
Despite reports that the rail trail would see up to 97,000 visitors a year, Ms Shelley said she doubted many locals would use the rail trail, and certainly not to ride into Byron for a night out.
"Riding a bike from Lismore to Byron ... it's a long way," she said.
"You are going to have to be an incredibly fit person to get there.
"You'd get heaps more people riding a train along there than riding a bike.
"If there was a train that you could catch over to Byron in the evening I'd be going every weekend."
Asked whether buses were a better solution to the region's public transport woes, she said they were a "different experience" to a train and couldn't accommodate bikes.
"Basically, also trains are much safer."