Train services on the Casino to Murwillumbah railway in north-eastern New South Wales were suspended in 2004. There is a community group called Northern Rivers Railway Action Group (NRRAG) formed to promote the early return of these train services and extension of the line northwards into Queensland.
The group's core objective is to have diesel railcars operating a frequent commuter train service from Casino to Murwillumbah with linked bus services to the off-line communities. The line could be re-opened in stages with the first stage being Casino to Lismore. This would enable the immediate return of the XPT service to Lismore, which has a university campus and a population of about 30000. A useful trigger could be the 2019 NSW election, given that the parliamentary seat of Lismore is regarded as vulnerable.
The reintroduction of train services would of course create many new jobs for the region. However, the whole coastal strip from Tweed Heads to Byron Bay and perhaps Ballina is rapidly becoming a satellite of the huge Gold Coast urban area (population 550000, about that of Canberra and Darwin combined) where many jobs are available. The project is an outstanding candidate for Federal funding to benefit the whole region. Given funding, the line could be extended from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta in due course, where there would be an interchange with electric trains from Brisbane.
The Gold Coast light rail is being extended northwards to Helensvale. Tracks have been laid and testing is under way. The service should be operating in good time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. A southward extension to Coolangatta is planned.
In the shorter term, protection of the rail corridor from developers and "rail-trails" (bicycle track proposals which apparently require the rails to be removed) is essential and urgent, especially around Byron. Perhaps the rail-trail advocates are chums of the developers.
See the NRRAG Facebook page.