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The "world's first solar powered train” has just marked 10,000 passengers. Jasmine Burke

Solar train clocks 10,000 passengers after 19 days

THE BYRON Bay Railroad Company is celebrating after taking its 10,000th passenger on the 3km trip from Sunrise to Byron.

And guess what - it hasn't ruled out contributing to an extension of the line, although it admits it would need to be funded by government, which is unlikely.

The 10,000 passenger milestone was achieved after 19 days in operation, on the train's current limited schedule of eight return trips a day between 10am and 4pm.

The full schedule, running 14 hours a day from 8am to 10pm, is set to commence in late January.

The train's development director Jeremy Holmes said train travellers had included plenty of visiting and local families, as well as locals aiming to beat the heavy traffic on Ewingsdale road and some workers travelling to and from work.

He said people who had used the service had been "very happy" so far.

"The only disappointment expressed to us is that the ride is not longer," Mr Holmes said.

Asked about a future of the extension of the line past Sunrise, Mr Holmes said the company supported it but "understood the costs".

"We had always considered that our service may be a catalyst for further extensions," he said.

"Such an extension would need to be funded by an external party, namely government.

"Our focus is on this 3km section and getting our operation running smoothly."

The train is aiming for 250,000 trips a year to remain viable, so it still has a long way to go.

Its forecast goal would require 700 one way trips a day, or half that number of return trips.

It's current average of trips per day on its limited schedule is 526 one way passengers. Given there are almost twice as many services in the planned schedule, it is 'on track'.

The Byron Bay Railroad Company spent $4 million to get up and running, including $1.8 million on restoring the 3km track and rebuilding the bridge over Belongil Creek.

A further $1 million was spent on the two platforms and train shed, as $750,000 on the restoration of the train and its conversion to run off electric batteries, which are charged with solar energy.

The BBRC was funded by Brian and Peggy Flannery, who also own Elements of Byron resort.

Mr Flannery, a mining engineer turned investor, reportedly made most of his fortune from the 2009 sale of coal mining company Felix Resources to Chinese Yanzhou Coal, from which he netted $530 million, according to the Australian Financial Review.

He is also an investor in Brisbane-based electric car charging outfit Tritium.



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