SOUTH Gippsland Shire road safety officer John Ernst has predicted the towns located along the western extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail will see significant increases in riders and pedestrians when the trail opens later this year.

And as members of the Bena, Loch, Poowong and Nyora communities heard at a cluster meeting in Poowong last week, the proposed extension of the trail from the Cranbourne-Koo Wee Rup end could be even more significant.

Mr Ernst was saying Vicroads, the shire and the community had to be ready for the additional bike and pedestrian traffic in the towns, but the traders also have to be prepared to meet the challenge.

“You are going to get a stack of riders and pedestrians appearing in your towns,” he said.

And if mid-week last week in Meeniyan was any indication, it’s not just at the weekends.

Even on a Thursday last week, it was evident that active retirees are out on the bike and the opportunity to safely ride on the rail trails around the state is their first choice.

Imagine the publicity the Great Southern Rail Trail will receive when it runs from Cranbourne to Yarram in the not-too-distant future.

It puts Fish Creek, Meeniyan, Leongatha, Korumburra and beyond in the position of being the new Bright or Daylesford!

According to the shire, construction of the trail extension from Leongatha to Nyora is well underway through the two main contracts: (1.) Construction of gravel trail and (2.) Design and construction or rehabilitation of eight rail bridges.

Last week, the shire and contractors were working on the rail/road crossing at Condoluci Produce near Leongatha, raising the crossing and remaking the entry to the farm to improve visibility to the highway, plus access for the rail trail. Various other pinch-points on the new section of the trail are exercising the minds of the shire’s engineering department.

Also on the new section, local communities have expressed an interest in amenities and signs along the way, and also arrangements for trail maintenance.

The Leongatha to Korumburra section is expected to be completed by mid-2021 and the Korumburra to Nyora section in late-2021 More information can be found at: http://www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au/homepage/333/great_southern_rail_trail_projects

Since the complete closure of the rail line between Dandenong and Port Albert in 1994 various sections have been developed into a rail trail. At present the Great Southern Rail Trail stretches 71 kilometres from Leongatha to Port Welshpool.

The trail is seen as already important to the local and regional economy, attracting a large number of tourists.

South Gippsland Shire Council project officer Heinz Zajac chats with contractors from Maca Constructions Grant and Daniel at the site of the Condoluci Produce crossing near Leongatha last week