Submitted: Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 10:55
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After some 30 years of shared use the famous Cheviot railway tunnel near Alexandra in Victoria has been closed to vehicles, it will remain open to horses walkers and bike riders as part of the creation of a large Railway trek from near Yea to Mansfield.

Being able to drive the kids thru the tunnel and play trains has been probably the only unique tourist attraction that the shire of Murrindindi has.

Just some history - the Shire of Murrindindi contains Marysville Kinglake Alexandra and Yea and was the single biggest loser in the recent Victorian fires with a huge loss of life.

The bureaucracy looked around for some way to inject significant money into the area and decided to complete a languishing disused railway line and make it into a tourist attraction with the injection of some $15 million dollars.

Many locals like ourselves supported the overall plan but are dismayed that the detail revealed that driving thru the tunnel would be banned.

This happened suddenly a few weeks ago but has only recently come to light thru a thread in 4X4 earth I have been involved in.

We surveyed the site Friday and attached are some pictures.

The bollards are already in the ground.

Image Could Not Be Found

Image Could Not Be Found

Everybody I have spoken to from Four wheel drive Victoria to local businesses are not yet aware of this and people are driving long distances to be frustrated on arrival.

This drive thru the tunnel has been a major tourist attraction , described in many 4wding trek books, and appears on Rooftop maps of the area.

Over the years we have taken literally hundreds of people thru it from clubs as far away as Wyhalla and to see the joy on the childrens faces as you drive thru the narrow tunnel beeping, the horn and turning the lights on is quite uplifting.

Trying to understand the reason for this lockout has been difficult, it a perfectly flat drive of about 200m in length, accessible to both 2 & 4wds.
Its nature is such you can only drive thru at walking speeds.
Indeed you often hear of areas being abused these days, but we surveyed and filmed the entire site including its free camping areas and it is a credit to the users that it is in great condition with hardly any rubbish etc.

The only comment I could get, related to "Uncontrolled 4wding" ,and that when completed the Rail trail will cause more traffic and that walkers, horses and cars don't mix".

This may or may be the case, but the prime user base has not been consulted and 30 years of incident free use is a rather decent start.

In general we wish the rail trail project success but fear it will fall into disuse
as government funds dry up just like the now impassable bits of the bi-centennial trail which began with such fanfare.

Driving the tunnel is the only such experience I am aware in Victoria, and we suspect that without its unique character we are headed for another government funded tourism disaster as the base driver for
its previous success, driving vehicles thru it, is lost.

( I plan to visit the council this friday.)

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Rob! - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 11:32

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 11:32
Not having been in the tunnel, I suspect that it's a safety issue and the council wants to avoid any potetional problems that may arise from "who gives way to who" between pedestrians / walker and cars.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 11:43

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 11:43
Certainly a point that could be raised Rob, but there are obvious simple solutions to this if one genuinely wanted to sit down and seek them.

One would expect that 30 incident free years would have been a good enough trial though.

I wouldn't want to make it hard for other groups , but a car has a driver in control whereas a horse has a mind of its own sometimes.

I could near guarantee that lots of horses and kids in a narrow confined tunnel don't mix.

Indeed , if one wanted to go to extremes on saftey in should be mandatory that the kids ride in a car to prevent being kicked by skitish horses and to protect them from a brick falling from the roof.
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:04

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:04
...Im also lead to believe that it is the safest place to drive a heavily laden Prado as it is unlikely to tip over :)

You can still walk through it so all is not fact I think walking through would be more fun.

I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Reply By: Life Member - esarby (NSW) - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 12:39

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 12:39
High Robin.
Re Your comment, mixture of People, 4x4s and Horses on the same trail/track. Is this the start/follow up, of the closure of National Parks to 4x4? I wonder if the BWT is ever used today? Can anyone find the trail from Cooktown Qld to Healesville Vic? I should imagine that many parts od this trail have been closed by NPAs and Property owners I have not found it on Google Earth or Google Maps. I will be corrected if it is wildely known or publicised. Good luck with your efforts with Council. Steve.B...

The Bicentennial National Trail (BNT), formerly known as the National Horse Trail[1] is the longest marked multi-use trail in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown, through New South Wales to Healesville, 60 km north-east of Melbourne. This trail runs the length of the rugged Great Dividing Range through national parks, private property and alongside of wilderness areas. The BNT trail follows old coach roads, stock routes, brumby tracks, rivers and fire trails. It was originally intended for horses, but is these days promoted also for cycling and walking. However is not yet entirely suited to these two activities. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:25

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 20:25
Hi Steve

Could be , we often camp near a section of BWT , after only a couple of years it began to get overgrown , then a couple of small landslides.

I cleared a section once - now its just signposted as keep out.

Another classic I see is a national parks campsite here in a place called Kinglake.
It was made such that it was a short distance from the carpark , away from rivers and anything interesting and it just simply doesn't get used.

Unless there is a real vested interest in these things they really don't work in the long term without taxpayers dollars keeping it alive.

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Reply By: True Blue - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 13:05

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 13:05
Thank you Robin for the info. on the tunnel.
Beautiful area and certainly a bit of a thrill to drive through it. I use to delight in taking visitors up through the tunnel and eventually make our way up to the Ruffy Store for lunch. Great spot.

Good luck with the council.

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 13:58

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 13:58
Thank you Wayne

I would like to get a few replies from those that have been there.

We had a regular run which would then go via cappicino shops in Alexandra - Guess we won't be doing that much now (actually have event planned for cup weekend).

At least the Ruffy store is alive and doing well.

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Follow Up By: pickle - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 18:58

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 18:58
Been up there and through it. Be sad to see it end in fencing up around it.
Sometimes it hard to fathom the decisions they make when it comes to these iconic locations and access for 4wders.
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Follow Up By: Member - Bytemrk(VIC) - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 21:12

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 21:12

Count me as another that has taken various friends and family members through there multiple times.

As you said - it is something unique, certainly not the sort of area that attracts those that give 4x4 a bad name and it's sad to see it being locked away.

Looks like once again we are victims of the fun police...

I know I can still walk through it... but it's just not the same...
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Follow Up By: petesgq - Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 13:46

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 13:46
As Australians we do appear to have become an apathetic bunch, I read this thread and all hear is past tense to the subject.
we should all bombard the Mansfield mob with email highlight their lack of community consultation, ect.
And; if all that fails. Remove all bollards and signage. They will soon get sick of replacing it.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 14:17

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 14:17
I know its easy to get upset by some of these seemingly dumb things Peter but reacting in the wrong way won't help in the longer term.

We must do the right thing and begin with meeting the people involved in this process and showing our concern.

The council have gone thru the consultation requirements but somehow missed the target.

I did a Cappicino poll in last weeks visit and 3 out of 4 local coffee places didn't even know about the widely reported Rail Trail project let alone the Tunnel.

One reason for this is that so many visitors are not locals - but hear about it thru sites like Explooz and drive there.

Its my belief that there will be a siginificant longer term loss of revenue thru
Murrindindi shire as a result of this and some other bushfire recovery actions
which have seen rebuilding and growth slower than it should be in an area
flush with government grants and the massive boost caused by the unexpected
filling of Lake Eildon.

But this area needs everyone pulling for it, not the creation of unnecessary divison.

We just have to do the hard yards to get this message heard !

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Reply By: Member - Murray R (VIC) - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 21:12

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 21:12
I am another one who has made the trip to have a look and drive through the tunnel, its a shame that this iconic site is now closed to the purpose you went there, to drive in it. Walking through it is just not the same, As to the site we also found it tidy and no vandilism and there were other 4wd's there to do the same thing. I also beleive that the Spray Mine tunnel at Zeehan in Tassie is also now closed to cars.
I read an article recently about the Chevoit tunnel and in the photo it looked like they had also put black top through it, if so thats more money wasted .

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 21:53

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 21:53
Hi Murray

I drove the black top a few weeks ago , never realizing it was the last step before lockup.

The walking / riding trail is a huge project and the black top makes it easier or bicycle tyres I guess.

I'm sure , or at least hope that the damage done by this sort of thing is incidental - nothing good ever comes from taking from one group to give to another.

When are we collectively going to realize that harmony in any society comes from giving everybody a fair go ?

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Follow Up By: Member - Chris and Lindsay (VI - Sunday, Oct 16, 2011 at 17:50

Sunday, Oct 16, 2011 at 17:50
Yep, Spray Tunnel Zeehan is a lock out too. Discovered that in January. Chris.
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Reply By: Crackles - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 22:08

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 22:08
G'day Robin. Did 4x4 Vic say they would approach the authorities on this as I'm sure with some sustained pressure in the appropiate channels this decision could be reversed. If any one group should be excluded on safety grounds then really horses should never mix with pedestrians & bikes in a confined space!. At least cars have headlights & I'm sure with some 5kph max signs all users could share.
Melb Jeep club run regular trips through the tunnel as do quite a few locals I know in the NE. I think we need to start annoying the bureaucracts with a heap of phone calls. Do you have some contact details of the boffin in charge of this project Robin? I will make some enquires with our local member Bill Sykes & followup to ensure 4x4 Vic aren't sitting on this.
As for the rail trail project falling into disuse I think you've underestimated the popularity they generate. Local tourism will benefit far more from bike users than the handfull of cars that have used the tunnel in the past not that that is any reason for us to be excluded.
Cheers Craig..................
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 07:54

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 07:54
So far I am leading this Craig and have setup this fridays meeting on behalf of Alexandra club.

FWDV seem quite concerned and will try and have a representative , but have caught them at a bad time with show last weekend and Tassie conference this weekend.
There are lots of big 4wd groups that go there , and non- 4wd groups driving it as well e.g. RailTrail group in cars.

When I phoned FWDV , Russel new exactly what I was on about having taken one.

Appreciate anything you can do. My meeting is with Michael Chesworth in Alexandra but overall Project Manager is in Mansfield as below.

By the way, I have already got bad vibes from emails about this , and have taken lots of photos showing how good the condition of the area is.

Ian Geer
Tourism & Economic Development Manager
GRHCRT Project Manager
Mansfield Shire Council
Phone: 03 5775 8585
Fax: 03 5775 2677
Mob: 0417 545 606
TTY: 133 677 (for people who have a hearing, speech or communication impairment)

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Reply By: Nutta - Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 22:36

Monday, Oct 10, 2011 at 22:36
'Discrimination' seems to be the word these days!
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 20:32

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 at 20:32
Lets hope its just an oversite Nutta - but my better judgement thinks not.
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Reply By: Member - David Will (VIC) - Sunday, Oct 16, 2011 at 09:03

Sunday, Oct 16, 2011 at 09:03
Hi Robin

I would be very interested in the response you had from council last week. Also, let us know what we can do to help.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

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Reply By: Robin Miller - Monday, Oct 17, 2011 at 09:28

Monday, Oct 17, 2011 at 09:28
Cheviot Tunnel Update

Meeting with Murrindindi council (who mamage access) produced no change in outcome.

The council position seemed to be that they have been given a free lease
of railway owned land in order to make a walking/riding trail.
The terms of lease require that it not be used for vehicles.

Under this arrangement - it would seem that even if they were convinced that
there were benefits for the shire, they couldn't change things.

This meant that any of the real issues (i.e. is it safe etc) don't even get considered.

I think they were surprized at the extent of vehicle use of this tourist

Unfortunately FWDV were not able to be there.

Lights are being fitted to the tunnel though, as darknes may make horse's skitish.

I presented a document, which will be responded to, to make sure that our objections go on record.

It would seem that public pressure from a number of soucres will be required before any change will occur.
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Follow Up By: Rob! - Monday, Oct 17, 2011 at 13:27

Monday, Oct 17, 2011 at 13:27
Then we really need to be talking to the railway people who insited on having this restriction in the lease. It would be good to get the backing of the local tourism board on your side first tp help the arguement.
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