To the Honourable Jackie Trad MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport and Minister for Infrastructure and Planning.
Dear Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad
I’m writing to you concerning additional funding for completion of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
By way of introduction, I attach a copy of the letter written to me on your behalf on 12 January 2016 with the official announcement of “funding to complete the BVRT between Toogoolawah and Moore.”
In response to our campaign and petition, $1.8 million was allocated by the Queensland Government for completion of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, being the residue of the $3.5 million allocated for Rail Trails from the ‘Royalties to Regions’ fund allocated by the previous Government.
It was a moment of huge elation for our community, but it’s depressing that we’re now seventeen months further on and work has not yet commenced.
After the announcement, Somerset Regional Council was commissioned by DTMR to undertake a full costing and engineering report for the project. They came in with a costing of between 3.2 to 3.5 million. Our Association was fully informed about the process, including a tour of the project with the Council engineer and sight of the final report. We sought the independent advice of a couple of our members who are civil contractors. They agreed the costing is spot on for the delivery of a world class rail trail, including track surface improvements and weather proofing.
I understand that DTMR has now submitted a report to you for a final decision about funding. I’ve not seen the report, but I understand they are presenting two options:
Option A: Establish basic connectivity by undertaking work on the creek and road crossings, but leaving the track surface much as it is at present. Queensland Government will retain responsibility for the future management and maintenance of the Rail Trail. Cost approx. $1.8 million.
Option B: Undertake work on creek and road crossings plus improvements to the track surface as outlined in the engineering report by Somerset Regional Council. Responsibility for the future management and maintenance of the Rail Trail will devolve to local councils. Cost $3.2 to 3.5 million.
This where I could go into hyperbole about the financial, tourism and health benefits of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, but I’m sure you have access to all that information.
I’m going to talk instead about how the community has really worked incredibly hard to make this project work.
When we first became involved with the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail back in 2015, it was rare to see anyone else using it. It was incomplete and for whatever reason, there was negligible marketing. The Queensland Government even closed the official BVRT website because it failed to comply with modern standards for web design and there were no funds to replace it.
With very little in the way of resources beyond the donated labour of highly dedicated volunteers, our Association has turned that around. We spread the word by organising great events that offer unique BVRT experiences, we produce videos that publicise the rail trail, we sell designer BVRT cycling shirts that travel all over the world, and we make effective use of social media.
In addition, I developed the website (www.brisbanevalleyrailtrail.com.au) that is now no. 1 in search engine results and receives an average of 3500 unique visitors per month.
From data collected by the website, we know that 80% of BVRT users are from South-East Queensland (population 3.4 million) and 70% are from Brisbane. The number of visitors from other parts of Australia and overseas is gradually increasing.
Within two years, we have turned the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail around from being a neglected and underappreciated recreational asset to a point where it is well on the way to becoming a significant Queensland tourism success story. Every week-end we see hundreds of users out enjoying the rail trail.
We just need to take it to the next level.
Do we want Option A – basic connectivity between Toogoolawah and Moore on a very rough track or do we want Option B – a world class tourism asset attracting visitors from all over Australia and the world?
Option A for $1.8 million or Option B for $3.5 million and, wow, wouldn’t it be something if we can get it completed in time for the Commonwealth Games?
In addition to being president of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Association, I’m also vice president of the Somerset Region Business Alliance (Chamber of Commerce).
The local business community is behind the project. When we went out to raise $6000 to fund a professional video to promote the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, we had no problems raising the money. Local business owners fully recognise the benefits of the rail trail and are very supportive of our work.
We believe that Option B is the way to go. Let’s do the job properly. The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail has the potential to be one of the great rail trails of the world. At 161 km it will be the longest rail trail in Australia. It passes through great Queensland country. There are some great tourism operators in the towns along the way.
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is not just a local asset, it’s a recreational and tourism asset for the whole of South-East Queensland.
When the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is completed, it will attract more business investors who will attract visitors from all over Australia and overseas, and create new employment opportunities.
We’ve made our pitch, but please see for yourself. Just 3½ minutes of your valuable time to view the marketing video that we’ve just produced:
Discover the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail
Paul Heymans, President
Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users Assoc