Trail Possible

Northern Rivers Rail Trail

NSW country and ACT

4.5 based on 4 reviews
Location: North East NSW, via Lismore and Byron Bay
Length: 0 km
Surface:
Start / End: Casino to Murwillumbah
Public Transport: None
Suitable for:
  • NOT YET OPENNOT YET OPEN

Map Legend:

  • Rail Trail
  • On Road
  • Possible Rail Trail
  • Other Trail
  • former Railway
  • This 128 km rail trail in the far northeast of NSW traverses a World Heritage region and passes through the centre of Byron Bay
  • The Condong to Yelgun and Casino to Bentley sections of the rail corridor for Stage One - Tweed Valley Rail Trail and Stage Two - Casino to Bentley Rail Trail were closed by NSW Parliament in October 2020, paving the way for construction of Stage One in 2021 and opening of the trail in 2022
  • Richmond Valley Council is moving forward on stage 2 with a construction date to be announced in 2021
  • Murwillumbah is the closest town to Wollumbin (Mt Warning), Australia’s second highest peak, and an hour from the Gold Coast and Coolangatta airport

Attractions

  • The trail runs south from Murwillumbah to Mullumbimby and the coastal town of Byron Bay. It then runs inland to Bangalow and Lismore before reaching the Sydney to Brisbane main rail connection at Casino
  • Murwillumbah is the home of Tweed Regional Gallery, NSW’s largest regional art gallery Margaret Olley Art Centre, murals and art trails. The Northern Rivers region is renowned for its arts communities and is reputed to have the greatest number of practicing artists per head of population
  • The region hosts a variety of music, writers’, food and art festivals
  • Sugarcane, coffee and tropical fruits, with paddock-to-plate growers, farmers’ markets and local markets
  • Award-winning restaurants, cafes and a variety of accommodation
  • The area is renowned for its weather and scenery
  • Less than 30 minutes drive to the Gold Coast

Trail Guide

Development of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is being managed by Northern Rivers Rail Trail Inc, which includes community members, businesses and the three regional Councils.

The Tweed Section is the second pilot rail trail to be developed in NSW. At the southern end of the trail is the Casino to Bentley section, with construction to follow. The Lismore and Byron sections are yet to seek funding or to embrace the rail trail.

 This Trail is a proposed Rail Trail only at this stage.  It is not yet constructed or open.

The railway corridor is owned by the NSW State Government, and trespassing is prohibited.

UPCOMING WORKS: You may notice some people on the section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail from Casino to Bentley over the next few months. They will be conducting a variety of works necessary for the rail trail project, including minor vegetation clearing and access point upgrades, spraying of noxious weeds in conjunction with the clearing, a biodiversity assessment, and an aerial survey commencing beginning of June 2021.

Section Guides

Stage 1: TWEED VALLEY RAIL TRAIL

Condong to Crabbes Creek (24 km), funded by the NSW and Federal Governments.

In June 2021 Tweed Shire Council voted to accept the formation tender from Hazel Bros Qld Pty Ltd for $11.7 million.

This takes the trail to final design and construction planning, with construction to begin in September 2021; the trail should be operational and open by December 2022.

This 24km section passes through hills and includes several tunnels.

The picturesque town of Murwillumbah is close to the large population centres of Tweed Heads and the Gold Coast, and less than 30 minutes from the Coolangatta/Gold Coast airport, making access easy for visitors further away.

Stage 2: CASINO SECTION

Casino to Bently (13.5 km), funded by the Federal Government. A draft master plan will be  completed by December 2021.

The NSW Government gave approval in June 2021 for Richmond Valley Council to move to a detailed design and construction stage for this section. Construction will be managed by Council, eliminating the need for a tender process; this should see construction begin soon, at a date to be announced.

Stage 3: LISMORE SECTION

Bentley to Lismore (16.3 km), Lismore to Eltham  (15.5 km), Eltham to Booyong (5.9 km). Total 37.1 km

Council has included the rail trail as one of its top five projects for grant funding, and a petition asking for funding for the section between Bentley and Eltham has more than 1520 signatures.

Stage 4: BYRON LINE

A multi-modal trail for trains and a rail trail. Council is currently concentrating on the section from Sunrise in Byron to Tyagarah, hoping for around $200,000 in funding so the line can be cleared to allow the engineering company to view the bridges in detail.

 

Background Information

Traditional owners

We acknowledge the Bundjalung  people, the traditional custodians of the land and waterways on which the rail trail is built.

Development and future of the rail trail 

Transport for NSW completed a Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study in 2013, following significant community requests for the return of passenger trains. The study evaluated the feasibility, benefits and costs of reinstating passenger services in the context of the current and future transport needs of people living in the study area, and potential connections to the South East Queensland public transport network.

The study found the line would not meet current or future transport needs and there were no significant opportunities with freight or tourism that could improve its viability. It determined that the rail infrastructure has deteriorated significantly, and more than $900 million would be needed to carry out the work required to ensure the system complied with safety and operating standards for frequent and reliable train services.

The rail line does not serve the major growth corridor between Lismore, Ballina, Byron Bay as well as the rapidly growing Tweed region and connections to South East Queensland. The study recommended investigating improving bus services to provide more people with frequent, cost-effective public transport to key destinations, rather than reinstating the rail line. Improvements could include increased services on key routes, better integration of timetables between services, changing other routes to include key destinations such as education campuses and hospitals, introducing new express services on the Pacific and Bruxner Highways, and improving passenger information. It recommended that the rail remain closed. The study noted that there is community interest in using sections of the rail line for a rail trail and, subject to stakeholder interest, this could be investigated further to test costs, benefits and feasibility.

To view a PDF copy of the study click HERE. (4.3MB)

The corridor has 145 timber bridges, 13 steel bridges and nine substantial tunnels, and reinstating and maintaining rail service to current safety standards will be an expensive option.

The Casino to Murwillumbah Rail Trail Study was commissioned by Ballina MP Don Page following the release of the Transport study. Released in June 2014, it states that a 130 km rail trail on the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor would have economic benefits to local communities as well as creating employment opportunities. Given the large number of timber bridges and tunnels on the corridor the estimated cost of construction is $75 million, with an estimated annual cost for maintenance between $884,000 to $ 1.15 million; significantly less than the cost of returning trains, and expenditure that would pay for itself within five years.

To see the full report click HERE

The Tweed Section is the second pilot rail trail to be developed in NSW. At the southern end of the trail is the Casino to Bentley section, with construction to follow. The Lismore and Byron sections are yet to seek funding or to embrace the rail trail.

Rail line history

The line connected Casino (on the Sydney to Brisbane main line) with Lismore, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah. The first section opened between Lismore and Murwillumbah in 1894, connecting the Richmond and Tweed Rivers. Passengers and goods were transported to Sydney by coastal shipping from Byron Bay. Nine years later, an extension from Lismore to Casino opened (later south to Grafton; it was not until 1932 that the line was fully connected with Sydney).

As early as 1889, feasibility talks took place into extending the line north from Murwillumbah into Queensland. The line became a branch line in 1930 when the North Coast main line was extended from Kyogle into South Brisbane.

The Casino to Murwillumbah railway line ceased operations in 2004.

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4 reviews of “Northern Rivers Rail Trail”

This soon to be realised and much needed Northern Rivers Rail Trail will become a wonderful way for locals and tourists of all ages and abilities to cycle and walk, away from our dangerous and busy main roads and poorly maintained secondary roads that join our beautiful hinterland villages. So looking forward to seeing people of all ages and fitness levels out exercising and exploring. Eco tourism will bring new life and sustainable economical benefits to areas well away from the overdeveloped Tweed coastal strip and footpaths.. Bring it on!

I have enjoyed rail trails in all the eastern states, and made multiple trips to NZ rail trails. The Northern Rivers area has so much potential – due to its striking topography, ideal climate, scenic villages and conservationist culture. The new rail trail will benefit both locals and visitors.

This enthralling area of NSW has always impressed me. Recently during a visit, I discovered much of the rail corridor and could not help but notice what an amazing riding experience this would be. Many countries are embracing rail trails and local economies are benefiting from the upturn in eco tourism. Just because a person rides a bike, does not mean that have no money to spend! Unfortunately I am now based on the other side of Australia, but I will support the development of this unique rail corridor wherever I can.

Check out photos of cyclists taking part in Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter, Northern Region’s Hell on Wheels Cycle Tour riding part of this trail. www.facebook.com/helirescue Anyone interested in campaigning to develop this outstanding trail, please contact therese.schier at* gmail.com
*replace the words at with the @ symbol.

Casino to Bentley Rail Trail (NSW) moves to Phase 2

Posted: 25/06/21

The Richmond Valley Council received notice from the NSW state government to move the to ...

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Northern Rivers Rail Trail Construction to Finally Begin

Posted: 19/06/21

Wonderful news with the Tweed Shire Council approving construction on the first section of the ...

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Express your support for the “On Formation” construction of the Tweed Valley Rail Trail

Posted: 08/06/21

Construction of theTweed Valley section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail in NSW is near, ...

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New bicycle shop in heritage listed railway station on the Tweed Valley Rail Trail

Posted: 23/03/21

As we wait for the awarding of the contract and design for the construction of ...

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A short history of Northern Rivers rail corridor debate

Posted: 02/02/21

Here is a summary of the progress from closure of rail services to the beginning ...

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Works begins on Northern Rivers Rail Trail

Posted: 12/01/21

The beginning of a brand new year, and the beginning of a brand new rail ...

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Northern Rivers Rail Trail in NSW will soon be a reality

Posted: 16/10/20

Momentus news was received this week --- the second rail trail on a former government ...

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Casino to Bentley section of Northern Rivers Rail Trail moves a step closer to becoming a reality

Posted: 31/07/20

Naughtons Gap tunnel will be a feature of the ...

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What’s been happening on the Northern Rivers Rail Trail?

Posted: 30/10/19

Although progress seems slow on the proposed Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) in Northern NSW, ...

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Support the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Crowd Funding

Posted: 25/06/17

The Northern Rivers Rail Trail committee want to raise $75,000 for the design costs of a ...

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Northern Rivers Rail Trail Feasibility Study released

Posted: 18/06/14

A RAIL trail spanning the 130km length of the Casino to Murwillumbah line could be ...

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Northern Rivers Rail Trail proposal

Posted: 27/08/13

The minister for the North Coast of NSW, Don Page MP, announced on Friday 23rd ...

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Casino – Murwillumbah Transport feasibility study released

Posted: 26/04/13

The Casino to Murwillumbah rail line, in northern NSW,  seems set to remain closed indefinitely ...

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