THE Foster to Welshpool Rail Trail Extension Project is now officially underway following the turning of the first sod of earth last Friday at the corner of Charity Lane and Lower Franklin Road, Foster.
Member for Easter Victorian Region Peter Hall, Neville Pulham President of the Rail Trail Committee of Management and Mayor Kieran Kennedy took shovel in hand and together officially removed the first sod, making way for the beginning of this much anticipated $2.9million project.
Approximately 40 people attended, including South Gippsland Shire CEO Tim Tamlin, Ned Dennis Community Strengthening Co-ordinator, councillors Moyha Davies and Nigel Hutchinson Brooks, members of the Rail Trial Committee of Management and a pleasing number of the Rail Trail’s supporters.
“It’s wonderful that the council has come on board and I’m rapt that things are moving again with the project,” said Neville Pulham.
Neville also acknowledged the work carried out by John McKay and by the passionate rail trail supporters who have done so much to help make this possible.
“Last year the Victorian Coalition Government announced it would contribute $2 million towards the construction of an additional 18.5kms of rail trail, linking the communities of Foster, Toora, Agnes and Welshpool,” Mr Hall said.
“The extension of the Great Southern Rail Trail is integral to the development of the Corner Inlet Tourism Precinct, which includes the Port Welshpool Long Jetty,” he added.
Representing Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan at today’s event, Mr Hall said the project would be divided into three stages:
- Stage 1: Foster to Toora – construction of 8.6 km of trail, four bridges and associated trail infrastructure comprising trail directional/interpretative signage, safety crossings, seating and bike parking;
- Stage 2: Toora to Agnes – construction of 4.5 km of trail, three bridges and associated trail infrastructure; and
- Stage 3: Agnes to Welshpool – construction of 5.4 km of trail, five bridges and associated trail infrastructure.
“Currently, the Great Southern Rail Trail covers 49 km from Leongatha to Foster and is considered an important tourism asset, providing transport, recreational and tourism experiences in the South Gippsland region,” he added.
“Once work is completed, the rail trail will become an even greater local asset and is expected to generate around $5.5 million within the regional economy through tourism related activities,” Mr Hall said.
Representing Prom Coast Tourism, Graeme and Georgia Wilson said that they are thrilled that the extension is now officially underway as it will be another feather in the hat of South Gippsland and is sure to be well-frequented by tourists in addition to locals.
The $2 million in Victorian Coalition Government funding for the project is being provided through the $1 billon Regional Growth Fund to the South Gippsland Shire Council, which would contribute a further $900,000.
“The Regional Growth Fund is an example of the Victorian Coalition Government working in partnership with local councils, community groups and associations to drive growth and investment opportunities in regional Victoria,” Mr Ryan said.
It is anticipated that the Foster to Welshpool Extension Project will be completed by December 2015.