Disgruntled Locals Try to Derail Byron’s Solar-Powered Train
MINING MAGNATE Brian Flannery has pioneered the world’s first solar-powered railway, but when his train started whirring past sea-changers’ homes in Byron Bay, not everyone is happy.
Trialling a solar-powered train at Byron Bay started last month November 2017.
Operated by Mr Flannery’s not-for-profit Byron Bay Railroad Company, the train runs on old tracks from a newly built platform near his $100 million resort Elements, on the northern outskirts of Byron Bay, into Byron’s central shopping district.
It’s a world first and a huge benefit to the community, the railroad company’s development director Jeremy Holmes said.
“No one has ever powered a 70- tonne train with solar energy and we can do that because we have a 3km flat track and a low-speed return shuttle,’’ Mr Holmes said.
The concept has been embraced by some residents, who despair at the town’s lack of public transport.
“I’ve lived here forever and I don’t have a licence and it’s awesome to have another option for public transport,’’ said 21-year-old local resident Coco Allen.
For others who live close to the tracks in the area known as the Belongil, the train is an unwelcome intrusion and its approval should be heavily scrutinised.
“The council has washed their hands of it,’’ said resident John Johnstone, head of the Belongil Action Group Association that is protesting against the train’s operations. He said the association believed the main beneficiary was Mr Flannery’s resort, which is at one end of the railroad.
Mr Johnstone said association efforts to obtain documents relating to the train’s operating licence from the NSW Transport Department had been stymied. The group fears the train could end up doing 100 passes a day. Legal action in relation to environmental regulations is mooted.
“There was no formal consideration of the impact to people and businesses on the line from either Elements or the council,” said action group member, sea-changer and fashion designer Jennifer Bannister, who swapped St Kilda in Melbourne for life in Byron two years ago.
Mr Holmes did not want to respond to residents’ comments but said the train was “very positive for the community, a world-first and a really good service”.
“All we are asking is for people to judge it on its merits,” he said.
Story by Rory Callinan • The Australian.