A FEW weeks ago I attended the AGM of the Friends Of The Bendigo To Kilmore Rail Trail and was impressed to see in attendance not only the Mayor, Councillor Alec Sandner, but also Councillors Rod Campbell and Keith Reynard – a turnout of local representatives I have yet to see at any bike group in inner Melbourne.
As this excellent project progresses steadily towards Heathcote, it is now time for the Mitchell Shire to step up and begin work on its leg of the trail to Kilmore.
Mitchell Shire Council has been fantastic in its support of the recently completed Tallarook to Mansfield trail, despite the fact that only the first 30 kilometres or so fall in the shire.
The Bendigo to Kilmore trail will bring much greater benefits to their own shire. What I would like to suggest to the ratepayers, councillors and candidates of both municipalities is that we reframe our conception of this project in a slightly more ambitious but vastly more rewarding way.
Why stop at Kilmore when Craigieburn, a mere 35 kilometres further on, would connect the trail directly to Melbourne’s large and steadily expanding network of off-road bike paths and thereby literally hundreds of thousands of potential cycle tourists?
The only section not being discussed is this one between Kilmore and Craigieburn.
How is this “missing link” to be achieved?
Since 2009 all major infrastructure projects are required to facilitate incidentally the expansion of the cycling network.
The Kilmore bypass therefore (depending on which alignment is finally chosen) creates not only an opportunity to extend the trail to Wallan but an obligation to do so.
The section from Wallan to Craigieburn should be equally straightforward, as the entire corridor has now been earmarked for future urban expansion and parcelled up into precincts, all placed on the rapidly moving conveyor belt of the planning process as overseen by the Growth Areas Authority.
If this body applies both the letter and the spirit of the cycling facilities requirements contained in the State Planning Policy Framework then this section of the trail must go ahead almost as a matter of course.
The advancement of the entire project depends on the firmness with which established guidelines are applied by the bureaucracy.
I need hardly point out the very significant benefits that would flow to the communities along the entire route if a Melbourne to Bendigo rail trail became a reality.
For levels of patronage such a facility would immediately eclipse, by several orders of magnitude, every other rail trail in the state, and the economic flow-on would be very large, highly stable and permanent.
I therefore urge the close consideration of this proposal not only on all candidates for both municipalities in the current elections, but on all state and federal representatives for the region as well.