Former Ballina MP Don Page hailed the rail trail idea as "potentially the best in Australia", thanks to the region's climate and its established tourism industry.
An initial report costed the rail trail at million, and had a positive cost-benefit ratio based on the number of tourist dollars predicted.The trail would have twin benefits - local people could use it for their own exercise and leisure, while thousands of tourists would access it each year, boosting the economy.Ms Kindred labelled the costing "ridiculous", saying half of the money was for "contingencies".Alternative vision But the State Government also offered hope to an alternative vision of transforming the rail corridor into a publicly-owned trail which would use the Northern Rivers' natural scenery and historical villages to attract more tourists to the region."It cost million to run but they took in .5 million every year." Ms Kindred said when the legendary "surf train" to Byron Bay - which left Lismore in the morning and returned in the afternoon - was axed, as well as the so-called "motor rail" service to Sydney which allowed people to put their cars on the train, it was the beginning of the end.
"It went down to only 400 people using every week, and it just got progressively worse and worse," she said.Governments have backed the plan as a more cost-effective use of the line, with funding on offer via Federal and State infrastructure grant programs.Northern Rivers Rail Trail Association secretary Geoff Meers said people would be "amazed" at the success of the trail once it was finished, estimating at least 50,000 tourists would use it each year.On the other end of the line, Lismore and Richmond Valley councils are planning to lodge a funding application under the State Government's 0 million regional growth tourism and environment fund.Each council has planned to set aside ,000 towards a feasibility study to underpin the application.Hopes dashed The campaign to bring back trains was originally supported by the NSW Opposition, which promised to restore the service while in opposition throughout the mid to late 2000s.