Govt off track with rail trails

PROTESTERS at the old Murwillumbah train station yesterday claimed the State Government could not be trusted with legislation that would give it power to rip up rail lines across the state.

Cars honked in support as about 50 supporters of Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) converged to protest the government's Transport Administration Amendment Bill - which they say could lead to the sell-off of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail link.

The government has dubbed proposed legislation the Rail Trails Bill, with its purpose to open up 3000km of disused rail lines for “community recreational activities”.

It says the mass sell-off of rail tracks is not its intention, but Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon told the crowd the government was “dishonest”.

Ms Rhiannon accused the government of using cycleways to justify an unpopular piece of legislation.

“It is an outright excuse, we obviously support cycleways and we have been campaigning on the importance of that infrastructure for many years, but for the government to come along with unpopular legislation, then link it with cycleways, people can just see through it.”

In a press release issued yesterday, the government says: “You can be assured that any changes to the use of disused corridors will not occur without extensive community consultation”.

Ms Rhiannon said the legislation had not included enough time for proper community consultation when a decision was to be made.

“There is a 30-day consultation period from a government notorious for manipulating public consultation or not engaging in public consultation at all. It does not give anyone any confidence.”

Amanda Fazio, ALP Duty MLC for the Tweed and Ballina said the Greens were “mischief making”.

“The widespread sale of railway tracks was never the intention of the bill,” she said.

“There is a lot of talk about the State and Federal governments' plans for future rail lines between south east Queensland and northern New South Wales and while that sort of negotiation is going on we have no intention to sell off the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line.”

Ms Fazio said there were a lot of communities in western New South Wales that were pushing hard for something to be done with their long-disused rail tracks.

NSW Parliament resumes on October 20 and the Rail Trails Bill could come before the members any time after that.

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