Part of the proposed Northern Rivers Rail Trail.
Part of the proposed Northern Rivers Rail Trail. Digby Hildreth

COMMENT: Rail trailers lash train supporters' 'fake facts'

AFTER campaigning with great vigour alongside Tweed Shire Council to attract millions of dollars in state and federal funding for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, supporters are getting fed up with "propaganda" from train romantics.

Not mincing its words in an newsletter released today, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association said it was "disappointing" to see the use of "fake facts" in opposition to the trail.

"The campaign is implying that there is a chance to get the train back now and extend it to the Gold Coast. It could even be solar! This is not the case," the announcement said.

"There is no interest from government to reinstate the Casino to Murwillumbah line at this stage. We don't know what may happen in the future but right now we need to use the corridor or risk it being sold off.

"Unused assets are very tempting to sell!"

The NRRT were responding to the following poster put out by train supporters.


A misleading poster about the likelihood of modern trains returning any time soon to the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line.
A misleading poster about the likelihood of modern trains returning any time soon to the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line. Contributed

The "propaganda" follows a narrow vote at Tweed Shire Council last week in which almost rejected - unbelievably - the $13 million in funding.

A last minute compromise amendment was reached which accepted the funding - on the proviso that the design includes a proposal to run the trail alongside the existing rail line.

Those familiar with the line know this is impossible - or simply too expensive to be viable.

While there some flat and wide areas, the majority of the line is narrow, gouged into the side of hills or raised above floodplain, not to mention the tunnels.

That's what makes it so scenic.

The only kind of train that would work on the existing rail line is a slow heritage style one.

Some train romantics might aspire for this - and there is something wonderful about vintage trains.

Like loving restored vintage cars and clothes, antique furniture, gentrifying old neighbourhoods, and the general aesthetic appeal of the past, they are alluring.

But they are not public transport.

Victoria's successful Puffing Billy service is something you catch a real train to, and from, but in of itself is a tourist experience which costs $114 for the family and must be paid for in advance, to experience a volunteer-run train coast along at 24kmh.

Tom Coen from Rail Trails for NSW said he could understand the fondness for trains "but there is much lack of understanding of the engineering reality, the costs and the economics of rail transport".

"That deficit is replaced by romanticism and yearning to get back to some semblance of 'the good old days'," he said.

"The lack of knowledge of rail realities is often matched by a similar lack of knowledge of the growth in cycling, the benefits of modern lightweight and electric boosted gear (both bikes and wheelchairs) and the potential for walking and cycling and wheelchair tourism that other states are capitalising on."