Railway Hotel manager Brenda Portch says she will chain herself to the bridge if council tries to pull it down.
Railway Hotel manager Brenda Portch says she will chain herself to the bridge if council tries to pull it down. Craig Warhurst

Fight to save MVHR footbridge

GYMPIE’S Railway Hotel manager Brenda Portch is ready to chain herself to the pedestrian footbridge over the Mary Valley Heritage Railway tracks to save the historic structure.

She says Gympie Regional Council’s move to demolish the Gympie railway landmark is unbelievable.

“It’s an icon...it’s the same as the railway station,” she said.

Ms Portch said kids stood on the top of the bridge on weekends to watch the Valley Rattler steam train.

Meanwhile, council has denied a plan to raise Gympie’s Station Road to the level of the Mary Valley Heritage Railway tracks was drafted before it was found the footbridge over the lines needed replacing.

The drawing, drafted on July 13, was shown to councillors at this week’s Works and Services Committee meeting.

Committee chairman Larry Friske said the Station Road intersections with Lady Mary Terrace and Tozer Street and Mellor Street and Chapple Street had always been a “major hassle”.

He said while council had received numerous complaints about traffic safety in the area, there was no formal plan to raise the road.

It was revealed at the meeting $80,000 had been allocated in council’s budget to pull down the MVHR-owned bridge connecting the railway station with the heritage listed Railway Hotel and replace it with an “at grade” crossing.

But councillors are yet to hold discussions with the MVHR and make a final decision on the footbridge’s fate.

Cr Friske said a drafted photo showing a possible road upgrade was seen by councillors for the first time at this week’s meeting.

The proposed upgrade plan would result in the Station Road subway being filled and the road raised to improve visibility at the intersections, with Station Road passing through the Railway Hotel car park.

MVHR requested council to assess and repair the bridge but after a report showed 80 per cent of the deck was rotten and it was unsafe, councillors voted to hold discussions with the MVHR to find a solution that could save ratepayers’ money.

MVHR general manager Jim Walker said it was nice to know people recognised the importance of the structure and its place in the heritage precinct near the Rattler.

The MVHR is currently following up leads for funding to save the bridge through Queensland Rail and the State’s Heritage Council.

Manager Jim Walker sees three options, either a rebuild with wood, a replica made of steel or, as a last resort, demolition and a crossing.

President Tony Hallam said the MVHR would support any initiatives the public had to repair or save the bridge.

“The bridge is of heritage value. We would be open to suggestions and support,” he said.

But the bridge isn’t only an icon, it is also a water pumping station for water tankers and steam trains.

Terry’s Tours operator Terry Daw has also thrown his support behind the call to save the bridge, saying it was a highlight of his tours with great views of mountains and the Rattler.

“There’s got to be a way to save it. Can’t we look at another option? It’s important to the heritage precinct,” he said.

Council has since said the new road plan was only formulated because any “at grade” crossing had to be in a position that was clear of any future road.

Although the road would fix some traffic problems it was only “thrown up as a possible solution for the future”, Cr Friske said and its cost, although likely to be hefty, was unknown.

The main issue with any bid to save the bridge is the cost. If anyone can offer assistance or has suggestions they are asked to call the MVHR on 5482 2750. To sign the petition head to the Railway Hotel, Station Road, Gympie.

Gympie Times

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