MOVING FORWARD: Mayor Mick Curran with the Rattler.
MOVING FORWARD: Mayor Mick Curran with the Rattler. Renee Albrecht

Rattler blowout: $1.69m more to revitalise rail icon

GYMPIE Region Council will spend extra $1.69 million to bring the Mary Valley Rattler back to life, with more work than expected required on the project.

CR Rail and Aurizon were the companies awarded a tender of $9.067 million for the restoration of the rail line and structures today, which will involve replacing more sleepers than originally expected.

Originally budgeted at $10.8 million, the total cost of the Rattler revitalisation is now budgeted at just under $12.5 million.

The State Government is contributing $7 million dollars to the project.

The council voted 5-2 to accept the tender in a special ordinary meeting yesterday afternoon.

Councillors Glen Hartwig and Hilary Smerdon voted against the motion, and Crs Mark McDonald and James Cochrane were not present.

Mayor Mick Curran said the increased cost was necessary for the long term viability of the Rattler.

"During the tender processing council considered tamping of that line... what that will do is guarantees a longer life for both the sleepers and the rail and will reduce ongoing maintenance in the future," he said.

"Obviously we want this to be a sustainable and ongoing tourism operation.

"By doing that it also increases levels of safety."

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If the council had cut corners in the project, he said it would have ultimately put more burden on the Rattler Railway Company in the future.

"I would have been extremely happy if tenders had come in below that ($10.8 million) figure.

"Unfortunately they didn't, but we've worked with the successful tenderer to ensure we're actually going to have a better product in the long run with that extra expenditure.

"We didn't want to cut costs."

Ultimately, he said the Rattler was a unique attraction for the region which would attract 30,000 people at the very least every year, and would be of huge benefit to tourism.

Cr Glen Hartwig, however, said the project was a commitment the council made before knowing the real cost.

While he would love to see the Rattler rolling again, has was also concerned about the cost in future years.

"We've gone for a timber rail which has a projected 15-year lifespan, so in 15 years time or thereabouts we will be looking to replace another 15,000 sleepers," Cr Hartwig said.

"The issue I have is not that we shouldn't try to get the Rattler going, it's that we seem to have put the cart before the horse, realised that didn't work, shot the horse, and sold the cart in order to buy another means of transport."

Time was also becoming a pressing concern, which he was concerned would only add further cost.

"We are asking for a lot of work to be done in an extremely short period of time, and the ratepayer pays for that," he said.

Gympie Times


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