Politicians from opposite sides of the fence gathered in Murwillumbah today to rally support for the reopening of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line.

“Today in Murwillumbah I am standing shoulder to shoulder with the National Party’s Geoff Provest and community members of all political persuasion to rally in support of the Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail line,” Greens MP Ian Cohen said.

“We on the North Coast looked on in disbelief as the Federal Budget delivered $365 million for the Gold Coast Light Rail project while the Northern Rivers received nothing for rail or public transport.

“There are a lot of low-income families up here, a lot of young people who can’t afford to run cars, and many elderly people who don’t drive.

“The employment opportunities that can arise when people have the capacity to travel to work are so important to the economic well-being of this area, yet still the Government will not move to solve this issue.”

Mr Cohen said it was the cut of Minister Costa’s axe that caused the problem five years ago, when the trains stopped running.

“Now the state Government has estimated the cost of restoring the train line at $150 million and said it was prohibitively expensive,” he said.

“Compared to the $365 million for the Gold Coast, it looks pretty reasonable and the NSW Government’s costing is highly disputable. Price Waterhouse Coopers, in its 2004 report, estimated a cost of only $30 million over five years to restore the trains.

“Byron recently received Federal infrastructure funds for a new sports complex. It is a great asset to the area but will generate a lot of traffic. The Casino-Murwillumbah train line runs within 800m of the new site. A train station nearby is an obvious complement and community asset to this new development.

“Where is the vision for one of the most popular and populous areas of NSW? Like the Gold Coast, the North Coast has seen a growing resident population as well as a massive tourist population in holiday season.

“More than three million tourists visit the North Coast each year. This train line could take tourist traffic of the already crowded roads.

“It took three years for the Cross-Border Task Force to produce a report which was five pages long and ignored some fundamental information. For example, a Southern Cross University study that found that about almost 3000 local people would use a commuter service every day.

“This government must maintain the existing line from falling into further disrepair and return it to an operational state for the whole North Coast community.”