Council is proposing to build a rail trail for pedestrians and cyclists from the Murwillumbah railway station to Tweed Regional Gallery.
The 2.6km trail will provide a valuable link between the Gallery and central Murwillumbah, while offering a safe and scenic option for commuting and exercise for walkers, cyclists and people using other non-motorised forms of transport.
It is proposed the trail could be a pilot for a Northern Rivers Rail Trail along the full length of the disused Casino to Murwillumbah railway corridor. Planning for the pilot project is completed and Council is now seeking funding and State Government approval for the project.
Council is now developing detailed plans for a Tweed Valley stage from Murwillumbah to Crabbes Creek, and has produced a proposal for the State Government, which is responsible for the rail corridor.
State and Federal funding is being sought for the Tweed section of the rail trail, while Council continues to work collaboratively with community groups and the other three councils on the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor.
The Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Line was opened in 1894, a single-track, standard-gauge railway line spanning 130km through the four local government areas of Byron, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed.
It originally had 24 stations and passes through a number of regional centres including Lismore, Bangalow, Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and Murwillumbah.
A daily return express passenger train (XPT) service between Murwillumbah to Casino, and continuing to Sydney, operated from 1990 until it ceased in April 2004, following a decision by NSW Government to suspend rail services. A replacement bus service has been in operation since this time.
Subsequent studies into future use of the Murwillumbah to Casino rail corridor have been unable to demonstrate the viability of reinstating rail services, because of patronage levels and the cost of necessary upgrades to the rail line. The most recent study, the Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study, concludes an improvement of bus services offers the most potential to address the region's transport needs and recommends rail services remain suspended.
Council's May 2013 meeting noted the study's recommendations about train services with regret and resolved to actively support and promote the establishment of a Northern Rivers Rail Trail on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor. Subsequent resolutions have been made to submit various proposals to State and Federal Government.
The Pilot Project
It is proposed that the overall rail trail would be built in stages as funding becomes available. Council has designed the first stage, a pilot project from Murwillumbah to Tweed Regional Gallery, to build a pedestrian and cycleway path built on the rail embankment.
This section is estimated to cost around $1.2 million. It is hoped the majority of this funding would come from State or Federal Government grants. Council has already allocated $275,000 towards progressing the project.
Building the Trail
Constructing the rail trail will require removing the rails, which would be stockpiled or disposed of at Transport for NSW's direction. Most of the timber railway sleepers are too deteriorated to use for railway purposes but it is intended to recycle these sleepers where possible for the rail trail.
There are two rail bridges between the Murwillumbah railway station and Tweed Regional Gallery - one steel bridge near Colin Street and a timber bridge across Blacks Drain. The Colin Street Bridge is in good condition and can be utilised. Rails and sleepers will be removed and a precast concrete deck will be placed over the steel girders. The timber bridge at Blacks Drain is significantly decayed, so a low-level bypass including a small bridge would be built.
The Murwillumbah station has enormous potential to serve as the northern gateway to the Northern Rivers Rail Trail. However, no upgrade of the station is planned until significant lengths of the trail are established, when the benefits of a rail trail really start to be realised.
Signage and line marking will be installed at the two road and driveway crossings, at Colin Street and Blacks Drain, to ensure the safety of trail users and motorists.
Contaminated land issues were considered as part of a review of environmental factors (REF) process performed for the pilot rail trail project. Council's Environmental Scientists have concluded that the risk of contamination is low and can be easily managed through appropriate construction methods and work practices.
A number of properties share a boundary with the rail corridor. Adjacent landowners have been, and will continue to be, consulted as part of the project and concerns will be assessed on a case-by-case basis as part of the design.
Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to common concerns about the rail trail.