ANOTHER 21-kilometre section of the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT), reaching from Welshpool to Alberton, will now be built with a $6 million State Government grant to Wellington and South Gippsland Shire Councils.
Victorian Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas announced the money for the project through the Regional Infrastructure Fund’s Stimulus Round on Wednesday July 7, 2021.
The Welshpool to Yarram extension to what Ms Thomas described as “Gippsland’s iconic Great Southern Rail Trail” will “create a continuous trail covering 99 kilometres from Leongatha through to Yarram.”
“We are pleased to back this exciting project that will boost tourism to the Gippsland region and support a smooth road to recovery, enabling the community to thrive into the future,” Ms Thomas said.
Eastern Victoria MLC Jane Garrett said, “projects like the Great Southern Rail Trail extension will make Gippsland an even better place to live, work, visit and invest.”
Wellington Shire Council will coordinate the construction of Welshpool to Alberton project with the support of South Gippsland Shire Council.
The project will include bridges and crossings over the Jack and Albert Rivers among other waterways and wetlands and will use the former rail corridors across both municipalities.
From Welshpool, the new section of trail will travel for about eight kilometres to the boundary between South Gippsland Shire and Wellington Shire, located some two kilometres east of Hedley where James Road and Birds Road South meet the South Gippsland Highway.
From there the extension will enter Wellington Shire and will reach Alberton 12 kilometres or so down the line.
The GSRT currently runs over nearly 70 kilometres between Leongatha and Welshpool and is popular among locals and visitors alike, with more than 40,000 walkers, joggers, cyclists and horse-riders using it each year.
At Welshpool, the GSRT also links up with the five-kilometre walking and riding path that follows the historic horse-drawn tram route to Port Welshpool.
The new Welshpool to Alberton section will connect the GSRT to the already-built six-kilometre Tarra Rail Trail along the former Woodside railway line between Alberton and Yarram.
Work is already well underway on other additions at the western end of the GSRT; a 15-kilometre section from Leongatha to Korumburra, and 21 kilometres between Korumburra and Nyora.
These two western sections attracted $1.3 million of State funding with the balance being paid for by the South Gippsland Shire Council.
Once all three extensions are finished the GSRT will offer a continuous 135-kilometre pathway from Nyora to Yarram, meeting the two Gippsland shires’ long-term vision of transforming the Great Southern Rail Trail into one of Australia’s longest rail trails.
South Gippsland Shire Council administration panel chair Julie Eisenbise said “we were delighted to hear the State Government’s announcement that the Welshpool to Alberton section of the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) has been funded.
“Increasing the length of the trail will help to connect even more townships and provide tourism opportunities for both regions.
“The project will provide connection between communities and is expected to be a popular drawcard for visitors and a great recreation asset,” she said.
“We look forward to working closely with Wellington Shire Council on this exciting new project.”
Wellington Shire Mayor Cr Garry Stephens said “we’re thrilled that Wellington Shire may now continue its work with the South Gippsland Shire Council to ensure the missing link in the Great Southern Rail Trail is built, thanks to the $6 million funding announced by the State Government.
“This announcement has been years in the making, following extensive collaboration with our neighbours in South Gippsland and advocacy to the Government about the importance of this final stage of the project.
“This is a great outcome for local business and the tourism industry in both our shires,” he said.
“I look forward to seeing this project completed!”