Study of justification for historic bridge

Study of justification for historic bridge

The historic Snowy Railway Bridge restoration and re-use project will be the subject of a study to look at all aspects of the justification for the project, the social, economic values and the business case.

This study is being done by SGS Economics & Planning for the Friends of East Gippsland Rail Trail (FEGRT). It is expected to begin at the end of March and will take several months to complete.

FEGRT secretary, Sue Peirce, said the study has been funded by East Gippsland Shire Council, Regional Development Victoria (RDV), Orbost & District Historical Society, FEGRT, and many private donors.

Ms Peirce added the study is the necessary next step in the process to have this landmark bridge at Orbost saved and put to a compatible use.

“We have first to prove that the project has merit, and that the estimated cost can be justified,” she said.

“These are the areas that the study will be looking at.

“The study is being overseen by a project advisory group, which consists of representatives from the council, RDV, Friends of East Gippsland Rail Trail, Orbost & District Historical Society, Department of Land Water and Planning (DELWP), Committee of Management of East Gippsland Rail Trail, Orbost & District Chamber of Commerce, and Save the Snowy Rail Bridge Inc.

“Helen Martin, from Shearwater Associates, is the project manager for the study.

“During the process of the study, the consultants will visit Orbost several times to gain a full understand of the project, assess community attitudes, and to make sure that all the pros and cons are considered.

“They will also do research on other heritage, rail trail, tourism, and restoration projects in Victoria and elsewhere. The values of the bridge will be assessed from many perspectives.

“The Friends of East Gippsland Rail Trail have been involved with this project for the past four years and we are really pleased that it has reached the stage where it is being taken seriously and can be properly evaluated. When the East Gippsland Rail Trail was made from Nowa Nowa to Orbost, it did not include the Orbost bridge. In fact, the rail trail stops just before the bridge.

“Since the bridge is public property and is such an icon, it seems logical to see if it can be saved. It is never going to carry a train again. Those days are gone, so if it is going to be saved it must have a use that suits the modern era and into the future, while at the same time preserving the important railway heritage.”

Save the Snowy Rail Bridge group president, Liz Mitchell, said she was really pleased that this important study was getting underway.

“The study will assess the worth of the project to this region,” Ms Mitchell said.

“If the study recommends that the project is worthwhile, then it allows us to compete with East Gippsland other towns and regions for grants which are available for encouraging tourists and development which enhances the viability of country towns.

“In other words, if we don’t put in a bid for Orbost, we miss out and the money goes elsewhere.”