The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester today announced $267,000 towards a $1 million upgrade of Gippsland Plains Rail Trail to create jobs and encourage people to be more active.
“This funding is an investment in our region and in local jobs,” Mr Chester said. “It will increase visitor numbers to our towns, which in turn will support local businesses.”
The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail stretches 67 kilometres between Traralgon and Stratford. It is the only rail trail in Victoria where users can catch a train to and from either end of the trail.
The rail trail committee needs $1 million for four improvement projects. These include a new bridge over the Thomson River; upgrading the Eaglehawk Creek crossing; and sealing the trail from the Princes Highway to Glengarry.
Mr Chester said traders along the trail route, including those in Glengarry, Toongabbie, Cowwarr, Heyfield, Tinamba and Maffra, received a welcome boost from rail trail tourism.
“As new sections of the trail have opened, thesetay towns and businesses have reported steady growth in trade as the numbers of cyclists and walkers have risen,” Mr Chester said. “Now, around 3000 people use the trail each month.
“This funding from the Federal Government is also an investment in the health of local people by encouraging them to get outside and explore our region and towns, whether by foot or bike.”
Chair of the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail Committee of Management Helen Hoppner said the funding would help the committee realise its vision for the trail.
“These works will make the trail safer and more user-friendly. We need to upgrade the busy Traralgon to Glengarry section of the trail to encourage access for people of all abilities,” Mrs Hoppner said.
“We’ve lobbied all sectors of government over the last 20 years to make this project happen.
“For a volunteer committee, securing this Federal Government funding is a significant achievement and a big vote of confidence in our work so far.”
Mr Chester said Gippsland needed further investment in good infrastructure, like walking and bike trails, to complement its natural features and grow its visitor economy.
Earlier this year, Mr Chester secured almost $980,000 for the Haunted Hills bike park project at Hernes Oak, and $1.5 million to build 81 kilometres of mountain bike trails near Omeo.