The survey, which involved residents in major towns along the route, was conducted by Associate Professor Robert Weatherby and research methodologist Dr Lyndon Brooks.
Professor Weatherby, who has been a transport policy advisor for a number of shire and city councils, said the research was designed to gauge the community’s interest in rail services.
He said since the last rail service ceased on the line in May 2004 there had been a number of proposals to reintroduce services. The Far North Coast Regional Strategy, released in December last year by the NSW Government, also said the line would be ‘protected’.
“We wanted to determine whether the community supported a local commuter rail service and if there was support for the return of the Sydney to Murwillumbah XPT,” Professor Weatherby said.
“We were also looking for community views on what type of service the protected rail corridor would be best used for given the projected future growth outlined in the regional strategy.”
The survey was carried out in the towns of Casino, Lismore, Bangalow, Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and Murwillumbah. More than 600 people were invited to participate in the survey, with 399 people agreeing to take part.
The results showed that 72% of respondents indicated they would use a local train service at least monthly, for the purposes of shopping, education, employment, medical/health services and sport/recreation.
These results were then used to predict the total number of potential trips each day by residents on a local service between Casino and Murwillumbah, assuming the positive sentiment expressed in the survey translated to real rail usage.
“The number of trips was estimated to be 2875 a day, which would require 28 return rail services per day.” Professor Weatherby said.
“A range of factors, including cost and service frequency, could impact on the actual usage that might occur.
“The survey also indicated strong support for a direct rail connection from the Northern Rivers to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, with 91.2% of residents who responded indicating they would use such a service.”
Professor Weatherby said the survey showed a low demand for a direct XPT service to Sydney from the North Coast.
“The major demand for trips is local, especially shopping, sport/recreation and medical/health related journeys,” he said.
“It shows there is an overall strong community interest and support for passenger train travel on the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line and strong support for a connection to Queensland.”
Photo: Associate Professor Robert Weatherby.
Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.