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Rail trail to Korumburra is closer with rail lease secured


DEAL DONE: South Gippsland Shire Council acting CEO Bryan Sword and administrator Julie Eisenbise celebrate council securing a lease over the rail corridor between Leongatha (pictured) and Nyora.

LONG held dreams of major projects in Leongatha and Korumburra are closer to becoming reality.

South Gippsland Shire Council has signed a lease with VicTrack to secure use of the rail corridor from Leongatha to Nyora for 18 years.

This means the extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail from Leongatha to Korumburra, and the redevelopment of rail yards at Leongatha and Korumburra, are nearer to finally happening.

Council received the long awaited lease from the State Government agency responsible for rail infrastructure, VicTrack.

“Extensions to the Great Southern Rail Trail will open up new economic opportunities for South Gippsland and result in a tourism asset of national significance,” administrator Julie Eisenbise said.

“We will now pursue grant funding opportunities to help realise council’s vision.  

“In addition to the economic and tourism benefits, a connection between Leongatha and Korumburra will provide new travel options for locals living in the two largest towns in the municipality.”

Council has previously flagged the prospect of a community park at the Leongatha rail yards and the construction of the Korumburra Community Hub – possibly comprising a new library and art gallery – on the site of the Korumburra rail yards.

Council also wants to extend the Great Southern Rail Trail from Leongatha to Korumburra, and eventually all the way to Clyde near Cranbourne.

The railway easement is also being sought for use as a tourist railway by the Southern Rail group, but council’s ambitions for the rail trail seem likely to take precedence.

While the administrators are aware of the tourist railway proposal, Ms Eisenbise said, “We are certainly focusing very strongly on the rail trail because that was a priority project of the previous council.”

Mr Sword said the rail easement was not wide enough to allow both the rail trail and tourist railway to operate.

Southern Rail’s Luke Macwhirter said the group was disappointed council had signed a lease on the railway corridor and was considering its options.

“Southern Rail believe that council has not fully considered the tourist railway proposal that would open up South Gippsland for a major tourism boost,” he said.

“We believe that council has not been transparent in the costs associated with the rail trail construction and maintenance to the ratepayer.

“The signing of the lease for the rail trail is not a true reflection on what the whole community wishes for and is only to please a minority from one town.”

Mr Sword said the rail trail extension would benefit Korumburra and Leongatha, as well as the broader region.

He said towns along the existing rail trail received an extra $2.6 million in tourism income from Grand Final Day in September 2018 to Easter this year, compared to the same period during the previous 12 months.

He attributed part of that income to tourism generated by the rail trail.

Rail trail advocate John Kennedy, who runs a cycling shop in Korumburra, praised council for securing the lease.

“It’s fantastic for South Gippsland because there is no bike culture here because it’s hilly, and now young and old people will be able to ride on the rail trail. It’s huge,” he said.

“Korumburra is 20 minutes closer to Melbourne than Leongatha, so that will work wonders for us and people will be able to ride to Leongatha, have a coffee, and come back to Korumburra, and so Leongatha will get the full benefit of the rail trail too.”

 

Brad Lester

 

 

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=29796

Posted by on Aug 23 2019. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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