Fighting to keep trains on tracks
MAYORAL MESSAGE with Katie Milne
THERE is an option to run the bike trail alongside the track as done in other places, but this has never even been explored for our Shire.
Instead the ARUP report, citing a cost of $950 million is trotted out ad nauseum and we are told the Northern Rivers is not worth the cost. Why would we accept this lost opportunity to service extensive areas of the Tweed and Northern Rivers with public transport and undersell ourselves?
Sure, it would be easier for the State and Federal Government to write off public transport for the Northern Rivers and spend all our taxes for public transport in the cities, but are we really going to let them get away with it that easy? Are we really such pushovers that we will be appeased with a few crumbs for a bike track?
The current Council proposal is to close the corridor which will need an Act of Parliament, then sell off the tracks for scrap metal and bitumen the line.
We will lose any opportunity for a rail transport option to return, regardless of what solutions may be available now, or what technology may be available in the future.
This vast tract of public land that is on average 40m wide will be able to be sold off with the flick of a pen by any Crown Land bureaucrat, again with little regard for consultation. I have inspected the line and seen for myself that dual use of the corridor for a bike trail and retaining the tracks is entirely possible. Some creative thinking and entrepreneurialism, such as a simple boardwalk over the constrained sections, would allow the tracks to remain in place and preserve this as a rail corridor for the future.
We could pursue a local railcar option as Byron has already proven is possible in part and is now looking to extend. Or we could start with the heritage trams as these have the same gauge as the rail tracks.
The Rail Trail has the potential to smash any faith the community has in this Council that we will stand by our word to consult with them.
This Council promised to consult with the community, and this is enshrined in our charter under the Local Government Act and our own Council values statement, yet on this issue proper consultation has been actively disallowed.
Councillors are aware that the community is very passionate and very divided on this major issue, but no attempt has ever been made to find a way to accommodate both sides of the community.
We seem more interested in the money than our communities' wishes.
Councillors we have not even been provided with feedback data details from the farmers or adjacent landholders who are directly affected.
The art of politics is to find ways to meet as many peoples' vision and needs as possible.
A loss of this transport option would have serious ramifications that will be felt throughout our history. Future residents will forever look back if this decision is passed in Council in despair and wonder what we were thinking. I, for one, believe our community is worth $950M and will maintain the fight for our rail corridor whatever happens.
* Councillors will be voting on this issue at the first councli meeting tonight - ED
* Cr Milne contributes a monthly column to the Daily News. Contact her at: KMilne@tweed.nsw.gov.au