plans-put-in-place-to-rebuild-trail-bridgesRail trail committee members Heinz Haselroither, left, and Joe Bucello, right, with South Gippsland Shire Council’s tourism development officer Danielle Todaro and projects engineer Tony Peterson on Bridge 3, the third of the bridges that will be upgrades to complete the trail’s missing link. N043214

THE South Gippsland Shire Council will be ready to begin work the moment funding comes through for the repair of three bridges that create the missing link on the Great Southern Rail Trail.
The council recently advertised its intention to complete the required works on the three bridges so the planning permits are in place when grants are announced.
In all, the project will cost $1.86 million. Work will be completed in two stages – the two bridges closest to Koonwarra will be rebuilt as Stage 1, and the third bridge will be built as Stage 2.
A funding application for Stage 1 has been submitted and early indications are that it will be successful.
Christian Stefani from the council said heritage and planning issues will create extra work in the process.
“We want to make sure the project is ‘shovel ready’ when the funding announcement is made and that all the permits and approvals are in place.”
The bridges will need to be rebuilt to a standard where maintenance and emergency vehicles can cross safely.
Rotten sections of the bridges will need to be removed and replaced to fit in with the heritage overlay requirements.
The Great South Rail Trail begins at Leongatha and reaches Koonwarra where it stops where the three bridges cross the Tarwin River and Black Spur Creek.
Trail users must then risk walking or riding alongside the traffic on the South Gippsland Highway where the bends are tight and the shoulders narrow.
They can then rejoin the trail at the Minns Road/South Gippsland Highway intersection and continue safely all the way along the former rail line to Toora.
Work is underway to extend the trail to Welshpool, and a further extension is planned to take the line to Port Welshpool.
But the Koonwarra bridges remain the missing link in the trail.
The original plan to complete the link did not involve the bridges. Instead, the trail was to use the existing South Gippsland Highway when a new bypass of the notorious Black Spur bends was built.
But that project has slipped off the State Government’s priority list, meaning the cheapest way to complete the trail is to rebuild the bridges.
The council’s projects coordinator, engineer Tony Peterson met on site last week with members of the rail trail’s committee of management and the council’s tourism development officer Danielle Todaro.
Mr Peterson said the trail will follow the existing footprint of the train line, and a new deck and safety barriers would cover the bridges, similar to the Kilcunda Trestle Bridge on the Bass Coast Rail Trail.
“We looked at a lower level bypass, but it was too complicated as it involved private land and land that’s subject to flooding.”
Plans for the completed trail include a viewing area and signs to highlight the significant fossil finds in the immediate vicinity.
Ms Todaro said a complete trail will benefit towns and tourism operators along its entire length.
Rail trail committee member Heinz agreed.
“Once the gap is closed, the intrinsic value of the trail will double.
“The scenery here with the lovely green hills really makes the trail. You can’t beat it.”