The existing train line.
The existing train line. Contributed

Tweed rail trail conundrum: OPINION

READER Tim Shanasy of Byron Bay shares his thoughts on the rail trail.

THE mind boggles at the desperate and frantic thought bubbling that appears to go on at the local council meeting level, with regard to the rail corridor resolution, at least.

The Tweed council meeting last Thursday night, had an absent rail trail supporting councillor, which meant that the pro-rail group had the mayor's vote, plus her casting vote to block the $13million NSW and Federal governments' funding for the construction of the 24kms long Tweed Valley Rail Trail.

This of course would have been a huge loss of economic potential to the Tweed Shire, and so last minute frantic vote changing concepts had to be thrown in to get the funding accepted. These included "alternative tenders” for an engineering firm to build the trail alongside the decaying rail line, where possible, to somehow "protect the status of the line”. Also, to give Elon Musk a call, to see if he could offer ideas for driverless rail transport!

The mayor, Katie Milne, is prepared to commit her shire's ratepayers to any additional costs beyond the $13 million, to keep the rusting tracks rusting for an unforeseeable future, until, well, who knows what might happen?

Rusty train line.
Rusty train line. Contributed

Of course, the reality is, that the tracks are useless; a sacred cow, very like the facade of the Byron Bay Community Centre that was religiously and expensively propped up to appease the objectors, then finally replaced with a brand new lookalike, prior to the grand opening.

But for Tweed's section of the rail corridor, they are now looking at 24kms of very expensive facade, to "protect” the steel tracks, which replacement value would likely be a fraction of the costs in building the trail alongside them.

These costs would have to include the complex design terms of reference, then the engineering design, then the costs of constructing the actual concrete retaining walls and highly involved drainage for the now, two formations, not just the original one. The new trail formation will need expensive balustrading to protect the public from falling off the retaining wall edges, where applicable. Then there's the built in safety requirements, in case the mythical train service ever materialises. But what about the 475metre long Burringbar tunnel, do I hear you ask? With 100 metres of ridge above the tunnel, that would likely involve expensive removable decking over the tracks, which would then thwart rust mitigating ventilation of the very tracks intended to be "preserved”.

You'd be forgiven if you thought this all resembles a rats' picnic, but I'm afraid this is what the poor Tweed Shire engineers are now faced with.

It's going to be very interesting to see how this complex issue develops.

The big plus, is that the train dreamers will finally start on their journey of realising what things really cost in this world.

That in itself, has been sorely missing for 14 years.