Roads upgrade funding

It is unclear how the Latrobe Valley will benefit from a handful of road and rail funding initiatives announced in the state budget, with only one funding measure directly allocated to the area.

Despite a number of upgrades flagged for transport in regional Victoria in Tuesday’s budget, the construction of overtaking lanes on the Strzelecki and Hyland highways remain the only local transport project to get the funding go-ahead.

Forty million dollars has been allocated to regional councils to maintain local roads and bridges, $171.9 million has been announced for major periodic maintenance of the regional rail network for both passenger and freight services, and funding for the rollout of about 30 additional V/line train carriages across the network has been flagged.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said he was yet to learn to what extent Gippsland would directly benefit from the rail funding, however he said due to increased patronage on the line, it was “well placed” to attract a proportionate allocation.

“I have already gotten in early with those conversations, but the reality is it may be a little while; it’s quite a process that needs to be undertaken, but in respect to the carriages, we are looking two or three years down the track before we see any rollout,” Mr Northe said. Public Transport Users Association regional spokesperson Paul Wescott said the amount of carriages the region could obtain depended on the result of the tendering process for construction.

Mr Wescott said in comparison to the Geelong line, which had many services already operating at capacity length, the Gippsland line had plenty of room for new carriages. Mr Northe said while small in the scheme of things, money allocated for overtaking lanes on the Strzelecki and Hyland highways was “absolutely critical”. “For those of us who have lived in the region for a long time know these stretches of road have a history of accidents; road safety is paramount.” There is also scope for the region’s forestry roads to secure a share in $1 million of road upgrades set aside to widen and seal road shoulders used frequently by the timber industry.