Thursday December 17, 2020

Rail trail on track for major upgrades

When the volunteers of the East Gippsland Rail Trail committee of management heard there was a chance of substantial grant funding available, they jumped into action.

Not wanting to miss out on this opportunity, and being heartened by the news the Snowy River Rail Bridge restoration committee had received funding for the trestle bridge restoration, the rail trail committee knew it was a case of now or never.

“The State and Federal governments have combined funding to encourage post-bushfire developments in the affected areas to drive economic recovery. The rail trail committee has been working for a long period to attract funding to undertake a much-needed end-to-end surface upgrade, but with only limited success,” committee member, Al Campbell, said.

“With numerous people working together over the last few weeks, the grant application was submitted on December 10. It involved all local people, from volunteers to professional organisations offering assistance, and local companies supplying quotes in a very short space of time.

“The aim of the application is to undertake track surface upgrades, footbridge upgrades, safety upgrades and interpretive signage, along with drainage works, amongst other things.”

The volunteer rail trail committee manages the 95 kilometres of trail between McEacharn Street in Bairnsdale and Burn Road in Newmerella and is hopeful that, should the funding to upgrade the rail trail become available, the Lakes Discovery Trail and other trails that intersect with the East Gippsland Rail Trail will be upgraded by the responsible authorities to make the most of this iconic corridor, for both locals and visitors.

“The potential for businesses along the route to grow due to increased usage of the trail is clearly demonstrated by similar trails around Victoria and Central Otago in New Zealand’s South Island,” Mr Campbell said.

“So now it’s a waiting game, with hopefully a positive outcome by late January. Once the funding is confirmed (it’s a competitive process with many other applicants vying for the same funding) works will begin shortly after and East Gippsland should have a rail trail which visitors and locals will love to use.”

IMAGE: Middle Creek Bridge (left) and Schulers Creek Bridge (right) - both between Phillips Lane and Princes Highway crossing at Broadlands – are in urgent need of an upgrade along the East Gippsland Rail Trail. (PS)