“Does the airport still operate at Casino?”, I asked Pat the other day. She’d picked me from Ballina Airport and we were driving home to Lismore. After a moment’s hesitation, she confirmed she was “pretty sure” it had closed.
With both a sense of fondness and incredulity, I remember the flights from Sydney to Lismore often included a brief stop-over at Casino, where less than a handful of people would leave the plane. Then, taking off again, and barely making it above Parrot’s Nest, we would land at Lismore Airport roughly eight minutes later. In those days, Pat could stay at home until she heard the aircraft overhead, and still be at Lismore Airport in time to meet me.
It’s been years, too, since I’ve flown to Lismore Airport. It’s so much cheaper to fly to Ballina/Byron, serviced by Virgin and Jetstar, while Lismore is only Regional Express. Though it means a longer trip for my family to meet me, they try to “make a day of it”. Though they’ve made improvements to Lismore Airport, and I’m sure business trips direct to Lismore keep the airport active, I can imagine a time in the future when Lismore Airport is also threatened.
Which brings me to the subject of the Lismore Railway Station, which closed several years ago, largely as a result of under-use, I suppose. Though, as a teenager, I would do small trips to and from Casino, and would often travel with my brother-in-law who did track inspections, only twice in my life have I ever caught a train from Lismore. On both occasions, it was to Sydney: for my first overseas flight, aged 17, and then, aged 18, for a job interview with the ABC (which I didn’t get).
That said, I have fond memories of Lismore Railway Station. As I wrote the other day,
As a child growing up in South Lismore, one of my strongest earliest memories was of the arrival at the nearby railway station of hundreds of people for the Aquarius Festival. Though it’s often described as Australia’s answer to Woodstock, I don’t think there was such a high musical component to it. But as a youngster, I remember a whole bunch of “odd looking” people arriving, providing quite a spectacle for the residents of South Lismore, as the people made their way to Nimbin. Their ongoing presence has fundamentally transformed the area in which I grew up.
Also, I’m old enough to remember when Casino was actually the area’s main railway station, and connections to Lismore and Byron were still around, though on a much smaller scale. In contrast to Lismore, Casino Railway Station still operates with daily XPT services to Sydney and Brisbane, and as a hub to railway buses.
So yeah, I’m part of the problem that faces public transportation in country areas. I quite like short distance trains (though I hate anything over about seven hours), and yet I mostly use planes because they’re cheaper and faster. And because I and so many others currently use planes in preference, governments won’t support major infrastructure projects which could make long distance trains more attractive, like they are in Europe and Asia. Catch 22.