The [South Gippsland] Shire has issued a statement which is big on spin and attempts to hide the facts. We acknowledge that the rail trail brings in tourists and is popular with a lot of the ratepayers.
However, the train operators promised the opportunity of both a trail and a tourist train. The tourist train projected upwards of 0.5million extra tourists to the region – that is vastly more than the rail trail alone will bring to the shire.
1. The state government was able to say no public transport by rail because the shire stopped advocating for its return.
2. The tourist rail could have allowed for the provision of a public transport on rail return as the rail asset would have still been in place. This may have taken the form of a new personal rapid transit system using the rail line and not necessarily a heavy train as we know it.
3. The shire was offered, via Southern Rail Group, the opportunity to have both a tourist train and a bike path, at their cost. These assets can co-exist adjacent to each other. This would have saved this shire the millions of dollars that have been committed to the rail trail extension.
4. The council advised they have a lease for a rail trail but at the same time advised that if it was for transport use, the lease could be re-visited. We would say that opportunity to re-visit the lease for a transport use should have been put to the test.
5. The demise of the previous tourist train had nothing to do with the state of the line – the demise resulted from a lack of enough volunteers. The current proposal from Southern Rail Group is a private venture and not requiring volunteers. The shire is being loose with the facts in claiming the previous tourist train failed because of the asset condition.
6. Removing the rail assets will create a barrier to the return of rail as a new public transport facility will need to build everything when the existing track could have been used. That is an extra barrier by any comparison.
7. The supposed support was derived on the basis that it was a rail trail or nothing. That is not the current situation. Southern Rail – train + trail = Southern Rail cost or shire – trail extension = $15million our cost.
Unfortunately, our council has put paid to achieving (sic) a better outcome by pulling up the rails and refusing to engage with the private operators. This will cost ratepayers millions of dollars.
Lindsay Love, Secretary, South Gippsland Action Group.