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AN AIRPORT in West Gippsland would provide the strongest justification yet for rail services to be returned to Leongatha.

The airport would most likely require a rail service from either Cranbourne or Pakenham, and with the airport earmarked for between Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup, up to a third of the railway to South Gippsland would already be completed.

The South Gippsland Tourist Railway already maintains the line from Leongatha to Nyora, and while that section could need upgrading for frequent freight and passenger services, only reinstatement of the line between Nyora and the airport would then be needed.

Those are the opinions of the public transport advocacy organisation, South and West Gippsland Transport Group.

Chair Andrew McEwen of Meeniyan and member Max Semken of Leongatha discussed the prospect of rail’s return – and a broader transport plan for the region – with Eastern Victoria MLC Johan Scheffer at his Pakenham office last Thursday.

Mr McEwen said before the airport was mooted by the State Government last week, higher oil prices would result in the South Gippsland rail service attracting a return of up to 12 per cent on the cost of construction due to savings in freight efficiencies, and reduced road traffic and road upkeep costs.

With an airport to service, that return would be higher.

“It’s a big addition to the case for the return of the railway,” Mr McEwen said.

Mr Semken added: “It could be the only airport in Victoria with a direct railway into it.”
Mr McEwen said the airport would increase demand for South Gippsland’s fresh agricultural produce and that produce could be transported to the airport by rail.

“If we want to get into the Asian markets, we need to fly produce to Singapore that day and having an airport there will open opportunities to do so,” he said.

A rail service would raise land values in South Gippsland and allow Melbourne workers to live in Korumburra and Leongatha and commute to the city.

“We are looking at the combined population of South Australia and Tasmania in the south east and that population will need to have full integration of rail, bus and air services,” Mr Semken said.

The airport is likely to create 200 jobs offsite – some in South Gippsland – and that factor that will further push the need for rail, Mr McEwen said.

He believed a South Gippsland rail service could link with a branch line joining the Latrobe Valley railway with the airport and the proposed Port of Hastings development.

Leongatha South dairy farmer Max Jelbart owns Caldermeade Farm and Cafe between Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup.

He has not been told whether his property would be a possible airport site but welcomed the proposal.

Mr Jelbart also backed the return of rail.

“Melbourne desperately needs an airport on the eastern side of it but they will have to upgrade the railway and get a fast connection into the city,” he said.

“We have got so many people that live on the eastern side of Melbourne and while the bulk will still travel by car, we still need a good rail link.”

The cost of repairing bridges on the railway line has been prohibitive to restoring the railway to Nyora in the past but Mr Jelbart said the major expense of an airport would justify upgrading the bridges.

The return of rail is a priority project of South Gippsland Shire Council.

Mary Aldred, CEO of Committee for Gippsland, said the airport could provide convenient freight opportunities for existing food processors in South Gippsland and make the region more attractive to international investors.

“There are also a number of agritourism businesses starting up where being able to fly in tourists or customers again makes that time efficiency an added benefit for the region,” she said.

Before next year’s state election, the transport group will seek a pledge from both parties for funding for an integrated transport study for West and South Gippsland.

 

The return of rail to Leongatha could be driven by the possible construction of a third airport between Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup. South and West Gippsland Transport Group chair Andrew McEwen (right) and member Max Semken shared their hopes for rail coming back at the Leongatha Railway Station on Friday.

The return of rail to Leongatha could be driven by the possible construction of a third airport between Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup.
South and West Gippsland Transport Group chair Andrew McEwen (right) and member Max Semken shared their hopes for rail coming back at the Leongatha Railway Station on Friday.

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Posted by on Oct 15 2013. 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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