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Linking central Victoria via the old railway line
The original ‘cross country’ railway left the North Eastern (Melbourne to Wodonga) railway line at Heathcote Junction, and travelled through Kilmore to Heathcote and on to Bendigo (or Sandhurst as it was then known).
The O’Keefe Rail Trail is now continious between Bendigo and Heathcote, a total distance of approximately 49kms.
Should the O’Keefe trail be linked to a proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail, together both would span a total of 127 kms.
The Friends group and the Mitchell Bicycle Users Group (MBUG) would like the route of the proposed trail to follow as closely as possible the original railway alignment. Such may not always be possible, to follow the original route exactly, as parts of the original alignment are now privately owned or the land use has changed. So it is expected that such a trail could include some diversions, which is not an uncommon feature of developing rail trails.
Just to put this into perspective, the map below shows central Victoria in relation to Melbourne. With proposing to have a rail trail between Heathcote and Wallan, such a trail would be less than 30kms distance from the existing Craigeburn’s Galade Tamboore Trail connection to the Melbourne trail network. The future planned extension of the Merri Creek Trail, towards Heathcote Junction/Wandong, could make an off-road connection from Melbourne to this rail trail even closer!
Networking the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail with other trails, such as the Great Victorian Rail Trail at Tallarook (just south of Seymour on this map), the Murchison to Rushworth (Waranga) Rail Trail, the Goldfields Track (Victoria), the Bendigo Bushland Trail, and of course the O’Keefe Rail Trail, is an important strategic consideration. The connection to the Great Victorian Rail Trail could either be via V/Line passenger trains, along a quite rural on-road reserve trail, or a dedicated off-road trail between Kilmore and Tallarook.
A funded feasibility study, looking at the proposals for a Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail and networking this with other trails, was formally completed in October 2017. This report was then considered by the Mitchell Shire Council on 19th March 2018, with the Mayor Rhonda Sanderson saying that this rail trail is seen as being visionary for the Mitchell Shire Council’s community, business economy and walking/cycling tourism. The Council adopted the report, and that a Trail Working Group would be formed to consider matters raised by some of the private landowners of the former railway reserve.