Bligh supports rail trail drive
PREMIER Anna Bligh took time out from electioneering yesterday to urge councillors to ride tandem with her government to create a cycle route between Rockhampton and Yeppoon.
Visiting Rocky for the second time in seven days and the third time since campaigning started, Ms Bligh said she was looking forward to the day when she could ride the rail trail being proposed for the disused rail line between the towns.
But the council is stalling after a report this week suggested it could be left with a bill for $12 million to construct the trail and annual maintenance costs of up to $250,000.
Supporters of the rail trail project dispute the figures contained in the report and Ms Bligh said she was confident that between them the council and government could deliver a great trail.
"It's the perfect location.
"That's why we have allocated funds of $1.1 million in the latest budget for the first section," she said.
"This is a project that can be done in stages and I think the councillors know that we have a good track record of working with the council to deliver infrastructure like the riverbank redevelopment and sporting facilities.
"I hope the council will endorse it with enthusiasm."
Ms Bligh said rail trails attracted thousands of visitors and brought health and recreational benefits.
"When you want to make things happen, you see problems as challenges to be solved. That's the attitude the council should adopt on this one," she said.
The Member for Keppel, Paul Hoolihan, an enthusiastic advocate for the idea, said rail trail tourism in Victoria brought in more than $300 million annually.
But he is also keen to promote the health benefits in a region with high rates of obesity and medical problems caused by inactivity.
He said Queensland Rail had locked in an annual maintenance contribution of $75,000 and there was a great offer on the table.
On Tuesday councillors voted to delay a decision pending further advice on acquiring the 27 timber bridges on the 47km route.
Councillors said they were wary about taking on a big financial commitment when budgets were tight.
But they were told by a cycle group that it wasn't necessary to spend the sums calculated by the council's officers.
The Capricorn Coast Bicycle Users Group is asking the council to formulate a plan to develop the route in stages and to work closely with volunteers to minimise the costs.
In principle the council has supported the project since 2007 and is in the final throes of negotiating a lease for the former rail corridor.