'I resent my rates being spent on a fairytale project'
IT BECAME even clearer to me, after reading the notes from the recent council meeting about "The Byron Line", that this project is completely unrealistic.
We now have two shires, Richmond Valley and Tweed, ready to build a rail trail (with funding committed from State and Federal Governments) and the legislation is now almost through the NSW parliament to enable construction of this hugely usable Rail Trail asset, yet Byron Shire Council continues to blatantly risk the high likelihood of having nothing developed at all, and even having their part of the corridor sold off due to lack of use.
The engineering company Arcadis has agreed to look at the bridges (digitally) at a cost of $33,000 per bridge but they don't seem to know how many bridges there are.
This is an extraordinary amount of money just to look at bridges!
This doesn't include the money already spent which I believe to be over $300,000 of Byron Shire ratepayers' money.
They have been unable to access all the bridges due to extreme vegetation growth and want Byron Council to clear it prior to inspection!
NSW Government has no budget to assist.
If Byron Council had consulted with the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT), they would have been able to access a lot of this information for free, instead of paying Arcadis $33,000 per bridge.
The Arcadis report, thinks there are only seven bridges between Byron and Mullumbimby, whereas there are actually 20 bridges.
Twenty times $33,000 = $660,000!!
So this, with the original $300,000, is almost a million dollars that NRRT could have saved Byron Council, had NRRT's engineering expertise been on board.
Council's consultation and engagement has been with the "key stakeholders" - TfNSW, both NSW and Federal Governments, Tweed and Richmond Valley Councils and community groups such as TOOT.
Why was NRRT omitted from this group?
Okay, so we now know the state of the bridges and maybe how much it will cost to fix them, but who is going to fix them?
Currently there are no funding opportunities for a Rail with Trail from the Federal or NSW governments, or any other funding sources.
Just suppose the bridges were fixed, then who is going to fund maintaining them?
Now, let us suppose the whole line was fixed, it would only be suitable for very light rail (or a bus-like vehicle) with under 10 tonne axles at speeds no greater than 60km/h.
You can ride an electric bike pretty quickly and it will take you to where you want to go.
Just to be clear, this would not be public transport and locals will not be too happy with the cost of travelling between Byron and Mullumbimby on a privately operated system for profit, when they could ride or drive far more conveniently and flexibly.
Letters from Byron Council to Infrastructure Australia, Infrastructure NSW, TfNSW and other agencies to seek advice on funding criteria and project development ("The Byron Line"), have gone unanswered.
Having heard about a recent meeting of the Bangalow Chamber of Commerce, it seems the Bangalow community are very unhappy that they are missing out on the rail trail.
They have poor public transport and no safe place to cycle.
The good news is that the legislation change for closure of the line from Casino to Bentley and Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek has passed through the Lower House and will be heard in the Upper House on October 13.
This means that construction can soon begin!
I don't know about you, but I resent my rates being spent on a fairytale project that will never come to fruition, while our corridor languishes endlessly, waiting for Byron Council to awake to the realities.
Tim Shanasy, Byron Bay.