Rail Trail’s future on right track
MOVES to finish the missing sections of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail are well and truly back up and running.
The Rail Trail follows the disused Brisbane Valley rail line from Ipswich to Benarkin, near Blackbutt, 145km north-east of Ipswich.
It promises a wonderful opportunity for people to ride bikes or horses along its picturesque path.
But there are two critical missing links from Wulkuraka to Wanora (14km) and from Toogoolawah to Moore (29km).
In 2012 there were media reports the State Government would discontinue funding the project.
Last year, Somerset Regional Council said it would apply for funding through the Royalties for the Regions program to complete the Toogoolawah to Moore section.
With the new state government, supporters of the Rail Trail, including enthusiastic advocate Paul Heymans, have restarted their campaign.
The sticking point could be the question of who maintains the trail, with Somerset Regional Council reluctant to commit to it.
As a former Somerset councillor, Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden is well-acquainted with the issue.
"The development of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail has always been a major issue with the Somerset Regional Council," Mr Madden said.
"The part of the rail trail in the Somerset region runs from around about Benarkin on the Blackbutt Range, down to Sandy Creek or Wanora in the southern part.
"The bit from Moore through to Benarkin is actually leased to a rail group in South Burnett but it's overseen by a group called the Rail Trail Ambassadors and they're based in Moore."
The focus, he said, was now on getting the sections from Wulkuraka to Wanora and Toogoolawah to Moore finished.
"If we can get those two sections completed, people would be able to get off the train at Wulkuraka and basically go through to Yarraman," he said.
"It would be a wonderful, wonderful asset for our community. It is a wonderful asset now, it just has these two gaps. It's like an unfinished masterpiece."
The main issues are funding and on-going maintenance.
"With regards to the Wulkuraka to Wanora section, Ipswich City Council has applied for dollar-for-dollar funding from the State Government to make that a proper rail trail," he said.
"With the bit between Toogoolawah and Moore, one of the final things I did as a councillor on Somerset Regional Council, was to move a resolution to apply for an $800,000 grant through Royalties for Regions, which is what our engineers said would cost to repair that section."
But he said the LNP used money from Royalties for Regions for state government rather than council projects.
"We're looking at $200,000 a year under a program called Building our Regions. We expect that program to be up and running next year. Somerset Council will be able to apply for funding through that program," he said.
"At the moment, the rail trail is maintained by the State Government. There's a chap employed to maintain it.
"In the long term, I hope the rail trail is taken over by the Somerset Regional Council and the Ipswich City Council to maintain it.
"I'm prepared to argue in Parliament and do everything I can to twist the minister's arms and get this done."