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Pamphlet targets tourism asset

MVHR committee member Geoff Webber, secretary Len Tighe, general manager Jim Walker and president Tony Hallam at Gympie’s historic railway station.
MVHR committee member Geoff Webber, secretary Len Tighe, general manager Jim Walker and president Tony Hallam at Gympie’s historic railway station. Lee Gailer

A CONTROVERSIAL pamphlet distributed to Gympie households containing claims that could ruin Gympie's biggest tourism asset is in the hands of solicitors.

The Mary Valley Heritage Railway is again under attack by Frank Lightfoot, who initiated legal action against the Gympie region's iconic organisation in 2011.

His accusation of financial corruption was rejected by a Supreme Court judge, but while these claims were before the courts, the MVHR track came under fire when a series of photos were sent to national media in an effort to illustrate some more of Mr Lightfoot's claims.

He accused the not-for-profit organisation of failing to maintain the track and putting lives at risk, while urging visitors to refrain from travelling on the heritage railway.

Now, more dangerous track claims have been published in a glossy colour pamphlet delivered in letterboxes around the region.

Written and authorised by Mr Lightfoot, the pamphlet claims the track is "dangerously unsafe" and the MVHR organisation "corrupt".

In response to last year's accusations, Queensland Rail sent a safety regulator engineer to assess the sections thought to be unsafe. No major issues were reported and the all-clear was given to continue operations. Minor track maintenance issues were addressed.

Retired Queensland Rail (QR) employee and pioneering MVHR member, Ted Mitchell, has had 30 years experience driving trains for QR.

He has driven steam engines and electric motors on the MVHR railway line since the organisation's inception and was operations and general manager before retiring and settling in to a volunteer role.

Many would say Mr Mitchell is an expert in all things railway.

He certainly believes the track is safe for the speed which the drivers are restricted to and would bet his life on its safety. At a top speed of 25kmh, he "personally can't see anything wrong for the speed we are doing", he told The Gympie Times.

Speed limits along the way do depend on the condition of the track. There's a 5kmh speed limit at some crossings, 20kmh at corners and from time to time, due to track work, it will go down to 15kmh in those sections.

"Our drivers record any faults in the track if they come across them and report them back to head office," Mr Mitchell said.

MVHR president Tony Hallam was unable to comment due to legal reasons except to say the pamphlet was with the solicitors. "This sort of adverse publicity detracts from our revenue," he said.

 

Read QR's Rail Safety Regulator audit report on MVHR here.

Gympie Times

Topics:  gympie, lawyers, mary valley heritage railway, rail, tourism


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