M'bah rail too costly: report

THE STATE Government has all but dashed local hopes the Casino to Murwillumbah railway will ever operate again - at least under its watch.

The much-awaited, final report of the Cross Border Transport Taskforce was released with little fanfare yesterday by NSW Transport Minister David Campbell.

The five-page report, which has taken three years to come to light, left little room for doubt.

“Additional work on the question of a commuter rail line is not recommended,” the task force concluded.

“Additional studies will not change the need to replace life expired infrastructure, in particular timber bridges and sleepers, or the fact that the population densities are not sufficient to support the patronage required for heavy rail.”

No submission to the task force had challenged the “significant” financial costs associated with trains servicing the region, it said.

It also rejected the idea of linking by rail south-east Queensland with the North Coast of NSW.

“It would appear ill-conceived to spend public money on a study on the potential linking of the Queensland railway to a section of line in NSW the operation of which will not be sustainable at any time in the foreseeable future,” the report reads.

The taskforce said new bus contracts in the region were already operating to best suit local needs.

Finally, it recommended an assessment be done to allow traffic to cross the rail line at a second point in Byron Bay to alleviate congestion in the town.

A second level crossing could achieve that, the taskforce said.

Mr Campbell said it was now time to move forward.

“Some public submissions advocated the restoration of the Casino to Murwillumbah train service, however, the report found that the greatest need for residents in the area is for intra- regional connectivity and local transport,” he said in a statement.

Andrew Nicholls, from the transport minister's office, had been appointed as the NSW cross- border transport liaison officer, Mr Campbell said.

Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail line advocate, Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT), was not surprised with the taskforce findings and vowed to fight on.

“They've completely ignored the needs of tourists,” TOOT president Karin Kolbe said.

“They are condemning everyone to use the congested Pacific Highway.”

Ms Kolbe also said the task force had misrepresented projected population growth in the region, had ignored the reality of how residents were dispersed across the area and had neglected to consider climate change.

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