Bridge problems terminal
By Bert van Bedaf
IT IS on for young and old, with growing unrest over the closure of the foot bridge between Bair St and the V/Line bus stop in Leongatha.
The Mayor of South Gippsland shire council, Jim Fawcett received official notice from worried Leongatha Primary School students, and the town’s senior citizens are also badly inconvenienced.
“It’s a damn nuisance for a lot of people,” said Topsy Winkler, of the Senior Citizens Association. “A lot of people used the bridge. I feel sorry for the bus people but also older people who use walking frames or ride a scooter.”
Ken Bartlett, of Leongatha, said he used to ride his scooter from home near the schools to the town centre three times a week.
“That’s six trips altogether. It’s a real pain without the bridge. Now I go down Roughead St, or right around to Ogilvy St and across the Anderson St bridge,” Mr Bartlett said.
Cr Fawcett met VicTrack representatives last Wednesday and the bridge prognosis is terminal. “We had a meeting with VicTrack officials. They made a site inspection and they will have part of the bridge pulled down almost immediately. They don’t want this thing dropping down on someone,” Cr Fawcett said.
VicTrack, which owns the railway property, including the infra-structure, released a statement
“We understand that the bridge provided access for the local community as well as bus passengers and we are working closely with the South Gippsland Shire Council to investigate the best solution for providing access to the town following the closure of the railway bridge,” VicTrack’s general manager stakeholder and community relations Mac Henshall said.
“VicTrack will be applying for a demolition permit from council in the near future for this section. We will also assess the stability of the remainder of the bridge.”
Cr Fawcett described the VicTrack delegation as “non-committal”. He said a letter had been sent to State Government ministers requesting replacement of the bridge, as per council resolution.
A new bridge may cost anything from $400,000 to $1 million.
Council’s acting chief executive Dirk Holwerda said he and Cr Fawcett had impressed on the VicTrack delegation to “act speedily in the interest of public safety”.
Mr Holwerda said the bridge was a significant issue for the
“We need to re-establish access and when replacing the bridge, it has to comply with disabilities legislation. We have made it clear how important the bridge is to Leongatha and to people in the wider
Meanwhile, children and the elderly coming from the eastern side of town are forced to use a dangerous route over gravel roads without footpaths to the shops.
Leongatha Grade 4 students recently met Cr Fawcett as part of their government education program. They presented a letter to Cr Fawcett on August 4 outlining why they believed the old bridge should be replaced with a new one.
The old bridge was a safe lifeline between the school precinct and the town centre. Now they walk past the bus stop, down a gravel lane without a footpath and across the railway crossing.
“It is dangerous all the way,” Leongatha P/S teacher Linda Buckland said. “There’s no footpath. The road is often muddy and it is a lot longer for children to walk. Previously it was a much safer route. Lots of children used the bridge access for many different excursions.”
Ms Buckland said the students presented a letter to the mayor expressing concern that the bridge may not be replaced. “Ideally, they want the bridge back,” she said.
Cr Fawcett replied on August 6, referring to the resolution passed by council on August 5.
“It is hoped that by contacting these people, they make sure the responsible groups fix or replace the bridge,” Cr Fawcett wrote.
But after his recent meeting with VicTrack, this appears to be an unlikely event.
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