Bicycle Network: Regional Routes
Great Southern Rail Trail
This trail in Gippsland is almost complete. It runs between Leongatha and Foster but there are some missing bridges between Koonwarra and Meeniyan.
Great Southern rail trail extension
7 Februry 2013. Work formally starts tomorrow on the extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail in Gippsland—a $2M project being funded by the Victorian government and the South Gippsland Shire Council.
The new 18.5 km section will be constructed between Foster and Welshpool and will result in a continuous trail between Meeniyan and Welshpool (nearly 50km).
The project includes a gravel trail and 12 bridges.
A Sod Turning Celebration event is being held at 11:45am, with the Hon Peter Ryan MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, and various councillors from the South Gippsland Shire Council invited to celebrate the occasion.
The celebrations will take place at the beginning of the new section near the corner of Charity Lane and Lower Franklin Rd, Foster.
For further details contact Penni Ellicott email@example.com
Gap to be fixed, the question is when
12 August 2009. Recent correspondence with VicRoads has confirmed that the 3km gap in the Great Southern Rail Trail near Koonwarra will be eradicated as part of the South Gippsland Highway realignment project.
The question still left unanswered is: when?
While committing to closing the gap as part of the project when it occurs, VicRoads is still unable to advise when it will go ahead.
Relevant information from the most recent reply from Sue Jaquinot, Acting Chief Executive Officer follows:
"As previously advised, improvement projects are prioritised on a state wide basis. The prioritisation of projects is an annual process that takes into consideration all relevant factors at the time. In this context, VicRoads is not able to provide priority ratings or funding and construction timeframes.
Whilst detailed plans for the proposal have not been finalised, when the project is constructed, an underpass beneath the new highway will be provided for access to the Great Southern Rail Trail. Sections of the existing highway no longer being part of the South Gippsland Highway will also be use to complete the 3km connection. (emphasis added)
VicRoads has no plans to develop sections of the old tram and rail easements between Leongatha and Port Albert for bicycle riding. The development and maintenance of Rail Trails is a matter for which the Department of Sustainability and Environment is responsible. Consequently, your correspondence has been forwarded to the Department for direct reply to you."
With exciting changes in the wind for this Trail, further comments from DSE regarding extensions from Foster to Port Albert will be very welcome. Certainly the Friends of the Great Southern Rail Trail advise that they are itching to get going on building more trail.
3km hole in the Trail still a gaping problem
6 August 2009. With the year-old Pumphouse trail bridge over the Tarwin River recently hosting its 20,000th guest, the time is ripe to revisit the achingly incomplete gap in the Great Southern Rail Trail just to the west of the bridge.
The gap is still in existence because of the long wait for progress on the realignment of the South Gippsland Highway by VicRoads. Action on closing the gap in the trail cannot be taken until a final decision about the highway realignment is delivered.
Last month, Bicycle Network Victoria wrote to Gary Liddle, CEO of VicRoads to ask if plans for the highway realignment had been developed yet.
Mr. Liddle's answer follows:
"I refer to your letter dated 11 June 2009, concerning the South Gippsland Highway realignment near Koonwarra.
As you are aware, VicRoads has developed a project to realign the South Gippsland Highway in the vicinity of Minns Road, Koonwarra. The plans for the alignment are shown in the attached information bulletin.
Proposals for improvement projects must be prioritised on a state wide basis. The realignment of the South Gippsland Highway at Koonwarra will be considered in this context."
To which, Bicycle Network Victoria expedited the following reply:
"As you know there is a 3km gap in the current Koonwarra to Foster trail between Koonwarra and Minns Road. The gap forces trail users onto a section of the South Gippsland Highway. This inappropriate solution for trail and road users has been “temporary” for quite some time now. To develop an appropriate solution for the gap in the trail we need to know when the highway is likely to be redeveloped.
In addition supporters of the trail are hopeful that works on the highway realignment can also deliver the solution to the gap in the trail.
The Koonwarra Foster trail is the first stage of a significant trail project on old rail and tram easements that will see an off road connection developed between Leongatha and Port Albert via Yarram. You may be aware that plans for the extension of the Trail past Foster to Yarram and Port Albert are now being developed. There will, we expect, be numerous opportunities between Leongatha and Port Albert to provide riders with an alternative to the main highway especially near towns and between closely located towns such as between Toora and Welshpool.
Unfortunately your recent letter lacked the level of clarification sought by Bicycle Network Victoria on behalf of the trail group and riders. I am therefore writing to ask for answers to the following questions, with as much detail as is currently available:
• Does the highway realignment plan (2002) have a statewide priority rating?
• When is it likely to be funded and constructed?
• Will plans include provision for connection of the trail, as part of Minister Pallas’ mainstreaming of bike riding commitment?
• Which sections of the old rail and tram easements between Leongatha and Port Albert will VicRoads develop for bike riding as an alternative to the highway?"
A reply from Mr. Liddle on behalf of VicRoads is expected. The original advice did not clarify the current status of the highway realignment project, and it is hoped that the next round of communication can shed more light on where things currently stand in more detail.
What the gap means
The 3km gap is a risk to both trail users and drivers along the South Gippsland Highway. With optimism abounding about the imminent possibility of extending the Great Southern Rail Trail from Foster to Yarram, to connect to the in-progress Tarra Trail to Port Albert, this gap is taking on more and more importance.
Currently, riders and walkers have to exit the Trail and continue on the shoulder of the South Gippsland Highway. The Trail's Committee of Management has proposed an alternative route along smaller local roads as a temporary solution. This proposal would not solve the problem of getting trail users off the roads. It would simply divert trail users from the Highway, to lesser local roads, which is not an ideal situation either, because of the nature of Rail Trails and their appeal as entirely car-free riding and walking experiences.
As the Trail expands and usage grows through more local trips and visiting riders, the gap will become an increasingly important problem to solve.
Bicycle Network Victoria members and friends and any interested local residents are are encouraged to keep abreast of the situation and to write to the VicRoads region responsible:
VicRoads Eastern Region, 120 Kay Street, Traralgon VIC 3844.
Rail Trail extension waiting in the wings
8 July 2009. The 10-year old moratorium on future development of the Great Southern Rail Trail past its current terminus at Foster has recently been lifted, and the Committee of Management is busily preparing for future work to extend the Trail.
The State Government through Regional Development Victoria has recently provided funding to progress works on the Tarra Trail, between Yarram and Port Albert at the eastern end of the Great Southern. The Committee of Management needs only news of additional funding from the State and is awaiting word in reply to an application to the Federal Government's Jobs Fund for additional money before being able to push on from Foster.
Though there are considerable construction challenges ahead, it is exciting to see the Committee of Management and Friends of the Great Southern Rail Trail vigorously prepare to start work, pending the announcement of funding, which is hoped for soon. Drop them an encouraging note, or perhaps get involved.
Survey - Tell us what you think of the trail and the new bridge
28 July 2008. With the new bridge at the Tarwin River near Meeniyan now officially open for use, we'd like to know what you think of it.
From its unofficial opening in March to the official christening in mid-June, more than 8000 people have made use of the new bridge. If you're one of them, we'd love to hear from you! If you're not, but have used the trail in the past, or simply live in the area and have an opinion, we want your thoughts too.
Click the link below to participate in our survey of on the Great Southern Rail Trail. Complete the survey and go into the draw to win a copy of Lonely Planet's Cycling Australia guide book!
Click Here to take survey
Pumphouse Bridge Opening
02 June 08 The long awaited, much anticipated and very exciting New Pumphouse Bridge over the Tarwin River at Meeniyan is set to be unveiled at its Official Opening ceremony on Friday 13th June at 10:30am. Click here to receive your invitation to the event, and a schedule of events for the weekend. Kick off the weekend with a walk or ride along the Great Southern Trail from Leongatha or Foster to the Bridge for the 10:30am ceremony on the bridge, and enjoy a full range of events through the weekend to Sunday. We encourage members to attend the Opening and show their support for the continuing development of the Great Southern Trail by celebrating this important milestone.
Meeniyan Bridge arrives
Dec 07 One of the missing bridges on the Great Southern Rail Trail is currently being constructed. The long awaited bridge across the Tarwin River and floodplains at Meeniyan will mean riders no longer have to ride on the freeway bridge at Meeniyan. Trail users can enjoy an extra 6km of path bringing the total length of the trail to 37km of uninterrupted trail between Minns Rd (6km north of Meeniyan) and Foster.
$400,000 of the Regional Partnerships programme funding was announced in May to compliment the $10,000 donated by the community along with $340,000 set aside by the Committee of Management.
Committee of Management President, Eric Cumming, says "Our Christmas present is all wrapped up so we are just waiting for it to be installed and enjoyed in the coming weeks".
The new bridge will be located between the Old Pumphouse Bridge and the Freeway Bridge and will include two refuges allowing users to stop for a photo opportunity at the Old Pumphouse and surrounds.
Success at last! Pumphouse Bridge project to be completed by November
May 07 After years of hard work the Great Southern Rail Trail has just received a grant from the Federal Government to build a new bridge at Meeniyan
The Regional Partnerships Program funding is for almost $400,000, which will add to State Government funds already secured. Committee of Management President, Eric Cumming, says that finally "work can start on the Pump House Bridge Replacement. Completion is planned for November this year."
The new bridge will mean that rail trail users will be able to cross the Tarwin River safely, avoiding a dangerous section along the highway. The bridge will provide a continuous trail of 37 km from Minns Rd (6km north of Meeniyan) to Foster. Click on the link to the right for more information.
Two more river crossings are required to complete the trail from Leongatha to Foster. Fortunately the highway is about to be realigned leaving the old highway bridges for exclusive use by riders, horses and walkers on the rail trail. This should happen in the next year.
Pumphouse Bridge project
Jul 05 The old railway bridge over the Tarwin River near Meeniyan is beyond repair. The cost to restore it and the high ongoing maintenance costs has resulted in the Rail Trail Committee deciding to leave the bridge as it is.
John McKay, Secretary for the Great Southern Rail Trail says "it is a valuable example of railway history and engineering. We shall ensure that it is kept safe and can be viewed for years to come."
The plan is to construct a steel bridge, designed to carry normal rail trail traffic (NOT 100 tonne locomotives!). The plan was to build a 2.4m wide walkway on a 50mm thick treated pine deck, with handrails to 1,500mm high, and steel mesh to the same height to preclude small people from climbing up and over.
However with a significant increase in the cost of steel the bridge may be narrower than the desired 2.4m.
It shall be located 5-10 metres away from the existing bridge and parallel to it. It will be the same height so the old bridge can be viewed and the construction will be a series of trusses, supported on trestles. It shall be painted a 'native' green so that not only will it look like a railway bridge, but it will also be unobtrusive and not detract from the old bridge.
The cost will be considerably less than the repairs to the old bridge, as will the on-going maintenance.
Timing is tricky. The committee is dependent on the weather to allow access for heavy machinery and the construction of the concrete footings. The contractor believes that the final bridge could be available for use within months, but no promises.
Official opening of Foster section
Dec 03 Riders on the 2003 Great Victorian Bike Ride had the opportunity to be one of the first to ride the newly opened section between Foster and Fish Creek.
The Member for Gippsland, the Hon. Peter Hall, officially opened the new section in Foster, briefly stopping the GVBR riders to cut the ribbon.
He was assisted by Eric Cumming, President of the Great Southern Rail Trail Committee of Management (in yellow).