Council to investigate keeping rail
UPDATE 7.45PM: TWEED Shire Council has voted to accept the $6.5 million Federal funding for the Rail Trail project on the proviso the rail corridor will be preserved in public hands in perpetuity.
With only six councillors present at the meeting tonight, Mayor Katie Milne used her casting vote to support a motion proposed by Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes which agrees to accept the Federal Government's $6.5 million to commence work on the rail trail project.
This matches $6.5 million already pledged by the NSW Government and $900,000 by council.
Councillors agreed to allow tenders to be called for the project, including alternative tenders to be made for a trail to run beside the existing formed tracks.
Other conditions in the motion include calling for the Crown Land to be kept in public hands, with an Act of Parliament the only way it could be sold off.
Councillors also agreed to a condition to write a letter to visionary billionaire Elon Musk, the pioneer of driverless car company Tesler, to canvas the possibility of a driverless carriages on the rail trail in the future.
The vote came after heated debate before a packed gallery.
Earlier, the council was addressed by several speakers in the community access meeting, including civil engineer Tom Rayner who calculated he could build a rail trail beside the tracks for less money than the touted $13 million projected by council.
But after the meeting, Cr Warren Polglase hinted at a rescission motion, with Cr Pryce Allsop absent from today's meeting.
PROTESTERS are calling on Tweed Shire Council to reconsider the proposed $13 million Northern Rivers Rail Trail project in the hope of returning working trains back to Murwillumbah.
About 100 people gathered outside Murwillumbah council chambers on Thursday after walking from the Murwillumbah train station in protest against council's plan to remove the existing tracks to make way for the 22km rail trail project, which would re-purpose the railway line from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek.
The protest was organised ahead of council's Thursday meeting, where council is expected to make a decision on whether to accept the $13 million from the federal and state governments for the rail trail project and if community consultation should be carried out.
Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) chairperson Beth Shelley said the community was frustrated that it hadn't been consulted about the possibility of removing the train tacks and replace it with the rail trail.
"I don't think they're going to knock back the funding but what I hope is that they consider to put the rail trail beside the track," Ms Shelley told Tweed Daily News.
"That seems to be the best option because it just doesn't seem very likely that they will knock back the funding as they've applied for it three times.
"If they can put a rail trail besides the track, as long as the railway tracks are preserved and protected, that's our main aim."
Protester Steve Baudistel said he was disappointed the council hadn't tried to reinstate the train to increase tourism.
"The short-sightedness of yet another council and another government," Mr Baudistel said.
"They're not prepared to do anything for the people for the long-term benefits.
"I've been around Australia a couple of times and if there's a more beautiful place in Australia, then I haven't seen it and there's no train going through it - it's a crying shame."
The NSW Government dismissed calls to restore the Murwillumbah to Casino line in 2011 after an independent review found it would cost almost $1 billion.
See Saturday's Tweed Daily News for more coverage of the rail trail debate.