Scenes at the Lismore train station in 2004 when the last XPT ran.
Scenes at the Lismore train station in 2004 when the last XPT ran.

‘Who is going to fund this white elephant?’

Is it an unrealistic dream to want trains back on our tracks?

Or should we get on with building the rail trail?

A new company, Northern Rivers Rail Ltd, has been established in an effort to get the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line reopened for trains.

They will host their first public meeting this week.

But the issue of what our rail corridor should be used for continues to divide our community.

On The Northern Star's Facebook page, readers were vocal with their opinions.

On the pro-train side, Doug Moses wrote: "I remember travelling from Murwillumbah on that train back in 1958. Train was ancient, carriage letting rain in everywhere, but the country scenery was beautiful, making it a thoroughly enjoyable journey. Wish the proposal well."

But Peter Hatfield replied: "There is no proposal. It is just a delaying tactic to try and stop the rail trail. They have nothing to offer the community except a continuation of the disused corridor."

Sam Lees said a long distance walking/cycling track was a better and cheaper option, and wrote: "It will bring visitors but have less ongoing need for capital."

It seems the cost of bringing trains back and keeping them on the tracks long term was the key issue fuelling people's doubts.

Peter French: "I hope the company who is behind this proposal has a lot of money, because it's going to take a hell of a lot to rebuild that."

Geoff Bensley: "Gympie Shire has a train that runs 22km with a return fare of $62. It cost $17.5 million to get the 22km line and locomotive back into a running state after only being off the track for six years. Dreams are good but without hundreds of millions of dollars this venture will be just that."

Nev Buckley: "Who is going to fund this white elephant? It closed for a good reason, move on."

Wayne Stark: "I would love to see the detailed business plan for this with full financials."

Heidi Louise: "The cost of catching a train nowadays is what will ultimately kill it off again once it starts back up. Ongoing maintenance and wages wouldn't be covered by the fares."

But other locals embraced the idea of bringing trains back.

Hugh Hyland said the potential on the Northern Rivers was "huge".

"This railway line must be kept, and opened," he wrote.

"Also note the steel sleepers, which I expect have many more years life. Get the economics right and reopening the line is a no-brainer."

Rebekah Fletcher: "Awesome news. Such a beautiful train ride."

Trevor Chapple: "The financial gain for small cottage industries along the track and less traffic all round would be great for the whole region."

Sara Ducat: "Trains are a strategic move. Also, trains just make a lot more sense economically. They should never have been stopped."

And if the cost is the biggest concern, Troy Okeefe had an answer for that.

He thought it would be good to get all the Hollywood stars who had moved to the North Coast to pay for it.

"Hemsworth, Efron, Damon, the list goes on. They could use it as a party train," he said.

Now that's an idea … all aboard!