Great Southern Rail Trail (Victoria) seeks loans for bridge

The Committee of Management of the Great Southern Rail Trail in Gippsland, Victoria (see description) is seeking contributions from individuals to help complete an important bridge across the Tarwin River at Meeniyan.

As well as providing an update on the trail this is a different approach to fund raising, and we thought it a worthy news item.

The Committee of Management of the Great Southern Rail Trail is in the situation that we have a 300 metre break in the rail trail at Meeniyan. The Great Southern Railway crossed the Tarwin River by a wooden rammed pile [often referred to as a trestle] rail bridge known as the Pumphouse Bridge. This bridge still stands next to a VicRoads traffic bridge that only has vehicle lanes – and no pedestrian lanes, there are armco height side rails on the road bridge.

Riding or walking the rail trail has become a popular activity and the committee is constantly asked when we can get a bridge over the Tarwin River for trail users – currently people either choose to turn around at the Pumphouse Bridge or cross over the road bridge with the 100 km/h traffic.

The Committee of Management has constructed and is maintaining a trail that is highly regarded by children, walkers, horse and bicycle riders, (the trail is wheel chair friendly) and we see many other wheeled vehicles like prams and scooters using the trail – all healthy activities.

We have been working on solutions to cross the Tarwin River at Meeniyan for over three years and have had many ideas put to us – the most expensive costing around two million dollars.

The Committee has decided that as the wooden bridge is not practical or cost effective to renovate and maintain that we will build a full height steel truss bridge 210 metres in length over the river. Even with voluntary labour putting in the decking and a very supportive local engineering works the job will cost around $640,000.

We have $340,000 set aside for the bridge replacement which we are required to spend in the next 6 months. One solution is to spend this money constructing the 30 metre centre span of the bridge over the deeper section of the river and put in all the foundations for the future bridge, lifting up the centre span at a later date when we get the funding to construct the remainder of the bridge.

The low level river crossing will result in the trail being closed for about 2 months of the year due to flooding and repairs after the flooding. Closure will force trail users to revert back to using the VicRoads bridge or stopping their journey.

There is an opportunity now to seek a Government grant for $250, 000. This grant needs a 1/3 contribution from the Committee. This means that we need to find $80 – $90,000 quickly to match the Government contribution.

Our goal has been to link the Leongatha section to the Meeniyan – Foster section and get the bridge open in time for the 2006 Commonwealth games, this is still achievable. The plans are done, the volunteers are ready to go – all we need is the extra money. The Committee is pursuing sponsorship opportunities and of course will accept donations towards the project, but to raise the money quickly we have come up with a plan to seek a loan from the community that possess and use the popular rail trail.

We know that if 800 people or organisations lent us $100.00 we would have $80,000 in the bank. This will give us money to match the Government Grant and also clearly demonstrate the passion that the community has for rail trail development. The Committee is seeking an interest free loan from you for up to 10 years that will be paid back to people year by year in order of initial receipt.

Can you be a part of this project and lend us $100.00 please?

Fundraising Committee Chairman Eric J. Cumming
On Behalf of the Committee of Management of the Great Southern Rail Trail.

Eric’s Phone: 0428 949 404 Home [often Machine] 03 566 44 363 email:


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