General shots of the G:Link lightrail trams Pic by David Clark
General shots of the G:Link lightrail trams Pic by David Clark David Clark

‘Not in my lifetime’: Readers rule out light rail

WEDNESDAY 9.50am: FLYING cars will be around by the time light rail extends down the North Coast.

This is the prediction of reader, Sebastian Rooks following the announcement that the Gold Coast light rail system will be extended into Tweed City.

"Before or after the widespread use of jet packs, flying cars and specifically bred cows that actually want to be eaten and invite you to do so?," Mr Rooks wrote on the Northern Star's Facebook page.

And Mr Rooks wasn't alone in his cynicism about the likelihood of light rail arriving in the likes of Byron Bay, Ballina or Lennox Head any time soon.

Tony Den predicts the infrastructure won't be built in his lifetime while Tony Thomas summed up his doubts using a laughing emoji and a single word: "dreaming".

Other readers chose to remain optimistic about the dream of light rail becoming a reality across the Northern Rivers.

Gillian Lobegeier said she hopes the link into Tweed City is a sign Premier Gladys Berejikilian is listening after years of campaigning for a light rail link to Casino.

"A light rail link would be a "win win situation" for the Northern Rivers, it will enable people to look for work further afield, it will generate more tourism and will increase our economy," she wrote on Facebook.

For reader, Lynne Carr the move to connect light rail into Northern NSW is long overdue.

She advocated the State and Federal Governments must work harder to provide better transportation for tourists and Australian citizens.

"About time when is this country going to turn back to trains for across country/states holiday and scenic transportation instead of boring yuck bus trips," Ms Carr wrote. 

"This country deserves a greater transportation in trains for scenic travel for overseas and our local families."

 

TUESDAY 5.30pm: THE planned light rail connection into Northern NSW from South-East Queensland has been identified as a big step forward in cross-border transport. 

 NSW Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish said the extension of light rail into the Tweed City was encompassed within a broader discussion about "the provision of public transport across the whole of the Northern Rivers area".   

Significant step

"The fact that we are actually talking about the extension of light rail out of South-East Queensland and into Northern NSW is very significant," Mr McTavish said.   

"I'd like to think there'd be plans put into place sooner rather than later."  

Mr McTavish said the transport study into Tweed's light rail and route services is underway but he couldn't identify the parameters of the study.  

The inter-state growth of light rail was among key topics discussed at transport talks between the commissioner and cross-border agencies held in Ballina today.   

Artists impressions of the Gold Coast light rail extension to the airport as released in the airport's draft master plan. PHOTO: Supplied
Artists impressions of the Gold Coast light rail extension to the airport as released in the airport's draft master plan. PHOTO: Supplied

Commitment an important step

Tweed Shire Council general manager, Troy Green said the NSW and QLD Government's commitment to connect light rail to Tweed City "is the first important step" in paving the way for future rail extensions.   

"It would be a logical path that could then follow south either with alignment of the existing motorway or detour and follow the existing rail corridor," Mr Green said.   

Mr Green said if light rail were to be introduced into regional centres like Byron Bay, it must be executed through a "pragmatic approach" such as the Gold Coast City Council staged light rail construction.   

"When you're spending large amounts of public funding and public infrastructure, you need to make sure there is return on that investment," he said.   

Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games, Stirling Hinchliffe inspects progress on the 7.3 kilometre, Stage 2 extension of the Gold Coast light rail project. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games, Stirling Hinchliffe inspects progress on the 7.3 kilometre, Stage 2 extension of the Gold Coast light rail project. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT Nigel Hallett

No light rail any time soon

But Mr McTavish said the likelihood of light rail buzzing through towns south of the Tweed won't be any time soon.    "Those discussions in relation to the corridor or any route, if there is a route into the future, those discussions are sometime off I expect," Mr McTavish said.  

At the meeting, Mr McTavish said all stakeholders, including Kyogle, Tweed Shire and Gold Coast City Councils, were "all very interested in being part of the solution" to bolster transportation at the border.   

Kyogle Shire Council's general manager, Graham Kennett amplified a regional perspective into the discussions when he highlighted a need to improve east-west corridors throughout the Northern Rivers.   

G-Link trams at the Cypress Avenue station. Pic Tim Marsden
G-Link trams at the Cypress Avenue station. Pic Tim Marsden Tim Marsden

Potential upgrade of Summerland Way

He voiced the potential to upgrade Summerland Way as an alternative northern link to South-East Queensland from the west.  

Overall, Mr Kennett said the meeting was "very positive" and that it was crucial in shaping cross-border transport priorities.   

 

TUESDAY 2pm:  AS DISCUSSIONS wage around the possibility of a rail line being re-established on the Northern Rivers, it's worth taking a look into its history.

The need for a rail line between NSW and Queensland started in earnest as far back as 1890.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a public meeting where it was agreed the Minister of Works was to "take the necessary steps to carry out the proposed railway from Murwillumbah to Lismore without delay."

Just over two years later on May 15, 1894 the railway was opened between the two towns.

Nine years later an extension from Lismore to Casino opened.

NEW RAILWAY: Casino train station circa 1903 when railway came to town.
NEW RAILWAY: Casino train station circa 1903 when railway came to town. Contributed

An extension was built to Grafton but it wasn't until 1932 that the line was fully connected to Sydney.

In 1930 a branch to Ballina was built but after flooding damaged the line it was suspended in 1948 and officially closed in 1953.

A 'rail  motor' service (lighweight trains run with petrol engines) was trialed in 1935 to extend from between Casino and Lismore, all the way to and from Murwillumbah where the arrivals would be in time for services heading to Sydney and Brisbane.

Ominously, it was stated in the Dungog Chronicle that the service's continuance would depend on patronage.

By the 1940s 300 staff were employed at all stations on the line including Brisbane.

After the 1954 cyclone and flood of late February, around 170 men were on the track repairing the damage so normal services could resume.

The rail system was an important link for goods, passengers and mail at this time, so it was always a priority to fix any damage and breakdowns.

From 1973, the Gold Coast Motorail ran a passenger and car transport business between Sydney and Murwillumbah.

XPT at Casino Railway station. Photo The Northern Star Archives
XPT at Casino Railway station. Photo The Northern Star Archives The Northern Star Archives

In February 1990 this was replaced by a CountryLink XPT service.

In September 1997, FreightCorp contracted out the operation of freight trains on the line but these services stopped in 2002. 

In April 2004, services on the line were suspended and finally closed on May 16, 2004, almost to the day 110 years after it was opened.

 

TUESDAY 11am: INTER-STATE transport agencies will meet in Ballina this afternoon to progress transport and infrastructure projects to better connect South-East Queensland and Northern NSW.

The NSW Cross-Border Commissioner, James McTavish will attend a cross-border transport and planning interagency meeting to assess an array of projects under the QLD-NSW interstate agreement.

It is anticipated the Northern Rivers Rail Trail and the proposed Byron tram line will be discussed at the meeting.

Developer of the new Byron tram line, Peter Finch told the Tweed Daily News that he is calling on the Tweed Shire Council to extend the line into Mooball to create easy access between Byron and Tweed Shire Council.

Key transport priorities under the agreement include: greater efficiencies in delivering flexible border transport solutions ; integrated border bus services and the alignment of priority border road projects.

Local transport is one of four main focus areas for cross-border collaboration.

Regional economic development, aligning services and sharing information and addressing issues of national significance are other key focus areas under the agreement.


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