Ballina mayor slams rail push

BALLINA mayor Phillip Silver has broken ranks with other mayors on the Northern Rivers, saying the push to reinstate passenger services on the Casino to Murwillumbah railway line is “very, very foolish”.

“We won't be able to keep the railway line open purely for passenger purposes,” he said.

“It's dysfunctional and illogical.”

Cr Silver was speaking in response to a motion from Cr Jeff Johnson at this week's council meeting, which recommended Ballina Shire Council oppose the State Government's Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill.

The motion was passed, with councillors Silver, Alan Brown and Keith Johnson voting against it.

But Cr Silver said it was an “absolute joke” that the region was crying out for more money for its hospitals and for more police officers and nurses, yet the community wanted to spend “$200 million on a piece of infrastructure that no-one is going to use”.

“I'd love to see passengers on that line, but I am convinced in my mind that it won't happen and that it's not viable,” he said.

“As a region we're doing ourselves a disservice by pursuing it. For us to identify this as a priority would be wrong.

“But I'm the mayor of Ballina Council and the council has voted to do this (write to the government), so I'll support it.”

Cr Silver said the government should put off any decisions about the Casino-Murwillumbah line until the regional transport study, which is being done through the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils, has been completed.

“If rail passenger services are recommended in the plan, I will swing behind it,” he said.

“At the moment we are just being silly by putting all our time and energy into it.”

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said it was “very important” to save the Casino-Murwillumbah rail corridor.

“I would not go so far as Phil at all as to eliminate any of the options,” she said.

“It may prove that it's not viable and that there are better options.

“Phil, of course, is entitled to his opinion.

“But our council has voted to say that we want to return commuter rail services to this region.”

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