By Shelby Brooks and Tracey Matthies

WORK on the 36km extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail officially began on Thursday, February 11, marked by a turning of the sod by Minister for Regional Development Mary-Anne Thomas.

Minister Thomas was joined by South Gippsland Shire administrator Rick Brown and chief executive Kerryn Ellis at the Loch Railway Reserve to celebrate.

When asked if she was a cyclist, Minister Thomas said the rail trail was a safe alternative to a road.

“I’ve got to say cycling is something I’ve taken up following a broken ankle, but I am yet to get out on the roads,” Minister Thomas said.

“[The GSRT] will be enjoyed by people of all ages, that’s the thing about rail trails, they’re great family attractions and people of all abilities as well.”

Once complete, the trail will start at Nyora and pass through Loch, Bena, Korumburra, Kardella and Leongatha.

It will then join the existing rail trail that runs through the towns of Koonwarra, Meeniyan, Fish Creek, Foster, Toora, Welshpool and finishes at the newly reconstructed Long Jetty at Port Welshpool.

The extension project includes construction of a shared gravel trail and works to eight bridges and is expected to be finished by February 2023.

Speaking at the Korumburra Business Association annual general meeting on Wednesday, February 10, Ms Ellis said recently closed tenders for the construction of eight bridges on the rail trail extension would probably be considered at this month’s council meeting.

She said contracts would be awarded as soon as possible so the bridge and rail trail construction works could be done concurrently.