The work underway to extend the current Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) from Welshpool to Alberton at one end and Leongatha to Nyora at the other is being funded jointly by the taxpayers of Victoria and the ratepayers of South Gippsland Shire and Wellington Shire.
The aim is to create “a continuous length of 135 kilometres from Nyora through to Yarram – to make it one of Australia’s longest rail trails.”
It is claimed the current length of the trail is used by more than 40,000 walkers, joggers and cyclists each year.
They use the trail because, apart from its natural beauty, they can derive exercise and social benefits in a safe environment free from direct interaction with motor vehicles.
Apart from the adult walkers, joggers and cyclists, users include infants being pushed in strollers, young children on bicycles, young family groups walking, elderly and impaired walkers, people on reclining cycles, people on horseback and the occasional horse-drawn vehicle.
Extension of the GSRT from Leongatha towards Korumburra requires users of the trail to cross Roughead Street. Given the traffic flows and limitations of lines of sight at this intersection, South Gippsland Shire Council (SGSC) has correctly identified it as an unsafe crossing unless appropriate infrastructure is installed.
In lieu of installing a “long term” solution at this stage, SGSC has identified a “temporary” route that has users of the GSRT crossing the South Gippsland Highway at an uncontrolled crossing with a refuge island and an uncontrolled crossing of the busy roundabout at the intersection of McCartin and Bair Streets – both crossings where road rules give vehicles the right of way.
Whilst most likely safer than an uncontrolled crossing of Roughead Street, this route cannot be described as safe for the complete range of users of the GSRT.
The SGSC has cited their preference for signalised traffic control for GSRT users to cross Roughead Street but haven’t been able to commit to a specific date for installing this solution.
The SGSC has rejected public calls for the installation of an underpass on the GSRT at Roughead Street claiming this option is too expensive but not supplying any costing evidence to support their claim.
I believe that, as the proposed “temporary” route is fundamentally unsafe for every likely user, no signage or construction work relating to that route is undertaken.
Further, until there is a safe, direct crossing of Roughead Street the GSRT cannot honestly be claimed, nor should it be marketed as being “a continuous length of 135 kilometres from Nyora through to Yarram”.
I therefore call on SGSC, as project managers, to make every effort to install the necessary infrastructure for the safe crossing of Roughead Street at the earliest opportunity.
Jeremy Curtis, candidate for South Gippsland Shire elections 2021.