A POTENTIAL connection of the Great Victorian Rail Trail to Seymour is a step closer after Mitchell Shire councillors voted on a preferred alignment at last week’s council meeting.
After seeking community feedback on four proposed alignments for the trail connection, councillors endorsed option two, which follows Dysart Road south of Seymour before crossing east over the rail corridor and then continuing south along Schoolhouse Lane to join the current rail trail near Tallarook.
Option one, which would have followed the Goulburn River south of Seymour, was discarded after 15 people objected to it, raising concerns about its potential impact on the local environment and adjacent landholders.
Objectors also argued against option four, which would have followed the western side of the train line south towards Tallarook, on the grounds that it would pose an increased security risk.
Council voted to accept option two, but Cr Bill Chisholm amended the motion to stipulate council retain plans for option three in case council was unable to negotiate a crossing of the rail corridor with relevant authorities.
Option three would see the trail continue south along the Hume Freeway at the end of Dysart Road rather than turning east along Schoolhouse Lane.
“I think it’s important to keep this option when discussing the whole setup of this rail trial,” Cr Chisholm said.
“We’ve got an opportunity here to put the rail trail down the Hume Freeway, which is a very wide easement and is not getting close to the road. All of that is in the public realm so we’re not infringing on private landowners.
“The alignment to the east, which we currently have, is east of the rail corridor, and from what I can gather in dealings with any rail authorities that I’ve had or heard about, they would definitely be opposed to the rail trail infringing on the rail corridor.
“If we can’t gain access to the rail corridor, with the initial two alignments you’d need an additional crossing of the Goulburn River.
Currently we’re talking about spending $2.9 million on doing up the Old Goulburn River Bridge, so if we can’t cross the railway line we’ll need an additional bridge over the Goulburn on the eastern side of the railway corridor, and I’m definitely opposed to that.”
Cr Fiona Stevens said she was in favour of having a contingency if the preferred alignment proved unviable.
“Although option two was the preferred option, if something goes awry with that we don’t want to be wasting any more time and coming back with unnecessary considerations,” she said.
“Depending on the outcome of the crossing of the railway line, we have a plan B without having to go back to the community, because they have actually been consulted on that particular section.
“I want to stress that I’m not supporting going onto the private land that would front this particular stretch of the trail, I’m talking about using the significant road reserve, and the adjoining properties could be protected accordingly with an appropriate fence on their side.”
Cr Annie Goble said she believed a crossing of the rail corridor would be granted, but that it was prudent to have backup plans in place.
“I think we need to finalise the routes and at least have the unlikely situation where we cannot cross the railway line [accounted for],” she said.
“They may not allow an at-ground crossing of the railway line because of frequent train use, but I’m sure they would allow a suitable tunnel in an appropriate area. I think we’ll get away with it, but the funding will be another matter. It will almost certainly have to be external funding.”