Pro-rail groups call for rethink
A GROUP of residents will this week gather in Murwillumbah to oppose the progression of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail.
Northern Rivers Railway Action Group representative Bill Fenelon said he supported the idea of the rail trail, but would rather see it co-exist with a train service.
Mr Fenelon said figures which show repairing rail infrastructure between Murwillumbah and Casino would cost almost $1 billion were "fabricated”.
Mr Fenelon also argued the rail trail - if it involves closing the rail lines - would not protect the corridor.
He said the corridor's 31.5 metre width would allow for both a cycling track and trains, but feared a parliamentary bid to close the corridor - required under the current rail trail plans - would mean the end of any rail transport dreams.
Murwillumbah woman Juliann Hitchens, who founded Facebook group Reinstall Murwillumbah Rail, said she'd like to see the community more thoroughly consulted on the project.
Mrs Hitchens said she was hoping for "most of Murwillumbah” to turn up for the protest, which will also be run by the Northern Rivers Railway Action Group and Trains On Our Tracks.
She said there were "a lot of Murwillumbah residents” interested in seeing rail transport return to the region.
Murwillumbah resident James 'Pat' Robson, 77, said he was furious about the rail trail funding, saying most people in the community did not want the rail trail but wanted the trains back on the tracks.
"These people have pulled the wool over our eyes,” Mr Robson said.
"It's absolutely horrifying especially when you hear the opinion around town of so many people who are very angry over not having a say. We are extremely angry about the possibility of the rail not being reinstated.”
Tweed Shire councillors will consider a report into the feasibility of further consultation at this Thursday's general meeting.
The federal government recently announced $6.5 million for the Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek portion of the rail trail, which matched the state government's allocation in August.
The council had applied for both of these funding streams. Mayor Katie Milne last year pushed for a report into further possible consultation, but staff who compiled it have recommended councillors accept the funding and proceed with plans for the rail trail.
Cr Milne may be forced to use her casting vote on the decision, with fellow Cr Pryce Allsop - who supports the rail trail - expected to be absent tomorrow night due to pre-booked holidays.