Rail trail opponent expresses reservations about project
A LONG-time opponent of the Boyne Burnett Inland Rail Trail has questioned the direction the project is heading, while conceding the horse has probably bolted in achieving his vision for the disused rail corridor.
Drew Forsyth was a driving force behind the Burnett Boyne Rail Line Preservation Group, which disbanded mid-2018, and supported a repurposing of the corridor, which was closed in 2008.
His vision for the corridor was of a tourist attraction resembling the Atherton-Herberton Historic Railway in Far North Queensland, wherein the physical line was retained for historic trains and boxcars to run.
However, BBIRT favoured a multi-purpose recreational trail and they were backed up by Queensland Rail, which engaged railway line and sleeper recycling firm Denpaq to remove the existing rail infrastructure on corridors between Gayndah and Gladstone.
Denpaq are now working on the section north of Kalpowar and are believed to be near Golembil, working south.
"It (the line) shouldn't be ripped out,” Mr Forsyth said.
The rail infrastructure, especially the hogback sleepers contained within the railway tunnels around Kalpowar, which uniquely have a round top, should be "left alone” for future enjoyment, Mr Forsyth said.
"Once they're ripped up, they're gone forever,” he said.
Mr Forsyth is also concerned about disturbing the bats which inhabit the Kalpowar tunnels, as well as safety and erosion issues after the stabilising force of the line and sleepers is removed.
But BBIRT president Mark McLachlan hit back, saying the group made "significant efforts” to retain at least part of the line.
He noted they had been partially successful, with a commitment from QR to maintain the line and hogback sleepers in Tunnel #6, contained within the Kalpowar Tunnels section of the rail trail, one of three recommended by a feasibility study into the project.
"The fact is that the assets in the corridor had been sold,” Mr McLachlan said.
"The government was prepared to support development of the corridor as a rail trail for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, so BBIRT took the decision to follow that path.
"There are very successful examples of rail trails operating across Australia, bringing considerable benefit to local communities.”
He also noted they had successfully negotiated the preservation of many of the historic bridges as part of the proposed rail trail.
"While respecting people's concerns about the change, we are looking forward to a new era and believe we will achieve considerable gains for trail users and communities along the corridor.”
He said Mr Forsyth's concerns about erosion resulting from water flows throughout the steep terrain would be "managed with detailed preparation and planning, outlined in the forthcoming design plans to be prepared by professional consultants”.