STEEL rails, timber sleepers and “associated jewellery” are being steadily lifted during preliminary works for the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) extension west from Leongatha towards Nyora.
“Jewellery” is a railway term for the various fasteners that join lengths of rails and attach them to sleepers.
The term was found in a progress report on railway line removal near Ruby between Leongatha and Korumburra during the first part of the two-stage project to increase the length of the existing GSRT by some 36 kilometres.
The report was presented to the South Gippsland Shire Council’s administration panel at the ordinary meeting held in Leongatha on Wednesday March 25, 2020.
Leongatha contractor BJ’s Earthmoving won the shire’s $51,000 contract “for the removal of obsolete rail assets prior to constructing the trail” in February 2020, with work expected to be finished by July 2020. The rail ballast will be left in place.
The panel also agreed to “receive future reports for the award of contracts for the Great Southern Rail Trail and bridge construction works” at the March meeting.
The report describes “the current GSRT” as “a tourism and recreation asset which is 71 kilometres in length and runs from Leongatha to Port Welshpool.
“Council’s vision is to use this abandoned asset as an economic driver and value add to our tourism economy,” the report continues.
“[The GSRT] will create greater amenity for our residents and provide safe linkages between many of our town.
“The long-term vision is to develop Australia’s longest rail trail in partnership with adjoining municipal councils”, including Wellington Shire, Bass Coast Shire and Cardinia Shire.
The report goes on to list the proposed stages for the delivery of what the shire has nominated as a “priority” project in the following order:
- Removal of rail assets for full the length of the rail corridor.
- Trail construction between Leongatha to Korumburra.
- Bridgeworks (four in total) between Leongatha and Korumburra.
- Trail construction between Korumburra and Nyora.
- Bridgeworks between Korumburra and Nyora.
The report states that “the next package [or contract] will be for the construction of the trail between Leongatha and Korumburra” including removing vegetation regrowth, cleaning cross culverts and longitudinal drains, building the gravel trail pavement and road crossing treatments, and installing signage.
The shire has allocated about $6 million in the municipality’s long-term financial plans for 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22, with half earmarked for the Leongatha to Korumburra section and the balance for the Korumburra to Nyora stretch.
The shire is still waiting to hear whether its applications for government grants have been approved, including $500,000 from Regional Development Victoria for the Leongatha to Korumburra section, and $800,000 Sport and Recreation Victoria towards the Korumburra to Nyora section.
Welshpool to Alberton
The report mentioned that South Gippsland Shire is also taking part in funding submissions for the 20.5-kilometre Welshpool to Alberton section of the GSRT in conjunction with Wellington Shire Council.
“There are currently two grant funding applications, which have been submitted by Wellington Shire Council under the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund and Regional Development Victoria,” the report said.
“If successful, all works for both councils would be packaged together and delivered as one project managed by Wellington Shire Council.”
Shire administrator Christian Zahra said, “it’s good to see progress on the extension to the Rail Trail.
“This important project has been around for a long time and it had the support of the previous council,” he said.
“The GSRT is a major tourism asset, as has been seen around the world, and it enjoys a growing popularity with visitors who spend money in local stores, stay the night and hire bikes.”
Not all members of the South Gippsland community are behind the GSRT Leongatha to Nyora extension however, believing the project further decreases the likelihood of a passenger and/or freight rail service between Melbourne and Leongatha returning, or even a tourist train along shorter portions of the route, once the actual tracks are gone.
VicTrack has indicated through lease arrangements it has with South Gippsland Shire that new track would need to be laid to allow a railway service to run.