Gympie Rattler getting back on track.
Gympie Rattler getting back on track. Renee Albrecht

UPDATE: Mayor defends council's approach to Rattler revival

UPDATE 6.30pm: DESPITE being "extremely disappointed" by the latest Rattler blowout, Mayor Mick Curran has defended Gympie Regional Council's decision to fund the venture.

Now set to cost a total of $14.5 million after a further $2 million was added to the project, the second rise in less than six months, Cr Curran said it was necessary to ensure maintenance costs would not become an issue.

"We've been very risk averse," he said.

"We could have cut cost and we could have obtained approval to run the train on the infrastructure at a reduced cost but by doing that the projected maintenance costs would have risen down the track."

He said council was aware bringing the track to bring the Rattler back to life would have a few bumps.

"We always knew at the start of this project it was going to be difficult," he said.

"Unfortunately we've seen media reports claiming that the cost would be $20 million, that was simply not true.

"Whilst there is an extra expense one only has to go past the Rattler station to see the amount of local Gympie tradies who are being employed to deliver this project."

And with $4 million recently being spent to upgrade three roads, and regional library operating costs of $2 million per year, he said the council's investment was good.

"When you take that into perspective, and the actual infrastructure that the council has been able to acquire from the state government... for the cost to council of $7.5 million, is significant."

There was no concern the loan to RRC would be a serious burden on their ability to be sustainable.

"We've got what I would like to call an expert-based board... this is a proposal put to council by the RRC," he said. 

"It's a sound business decision that has been adopted by council and we'll see the repayment of that loan over that period."

With this latest increase now negotiated, the Rattler is now scheduled to start running in late autumn next year.

With questions surrounding the adequacy of the contracts prepared for the council, which were reported to have caused the delay, he said council was unable to comment as it was a legal matter.

EARLIER 2pm: IT WILL cost $2 million more to bring the Mary Valley Rattler back to life, Gympie Regional Council revealed today.

The latest blowout will bring the full cost for the project to $14.5 million, an amount Mayor Mick Curran said will be the final cost of the first stage of the project.

Along with cost of the extra replacements to bridges on the line, $700,000 in support is being given to the Rattler Railway Company as the delay has hurt the company's operating revenue.

This will be done by bringing forward $200,000 in support scheduled for 2018 and 2019, and granting a loan of up to $500,000 to be repaid over seven years.

It brings the council's contribution to the total to $7.5 million.

Completion is scheduled for late autumn 2018.

In an official release, Cr Curran said he was disappointed with the added cost.

"There's no doubt we are disappointed in the deficiency of the documentation which was delivered to council." he said.

"It has delayed the project and increased the costs."

"However we need to get on with the project and we need to address the shortfall and deliver infrastructure that is safe, sustainable and will minimise the ongoing maintenance costs for the Rattler Railway Company."

"When we started this project, it was always to deliver a quality, tourism and experience based business that will give true economic growth to our region.

"We know the project is already delivering for our economy when we look at the number of local contractors engaged."

"There's no doubt it will bring visitors to the region as we know the long term benefits the project will deliver.

"This project will give Gympie one of the most unique tourism experiences in South East Queensland." said Mayor Mick Curran.

Council will be reviewing its capital works budget at its next quarterly review to identify the source of the funds, noting there are always projects which are adopted but then for a range of legitimate reasons, are deferred to the following financial year.

The Gympie Times spoke with Cr Curran after the meeting about the increase, and we will be providing those comments later today.

Gympie Times

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