Environment and Sustainability, Passenger Rail, Rolling stock & Rail Vehicle Design, Safety, Standards & Regulation

Puffing Billy big winner of Turnbull’s Dandenong promise

Malcolm Turnbull has made a $6.5 million commitment to the Puffing Billy heritage railway in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne.

The prime minister made the announcement on a pre-election visit to the narrow-gauge tourist railway on Wednesday, May 25.

The funding is part of a $20 million plan to improve tourism infrastructure in the Dandenong Ranges.

Turnbull said tourism will be critical to Australia’s economic transition, forming an important part of the Coalition’s national economic plan.

The $6.5 million to upgrade the Puffing Billy will include construction of all-weather facilities for the site, the PM said.

The 21.5 kilometre single-track railway hosts tourists and other visitors who buy tickets at Belgrave railway station, which forms an interchange with the terminus of the Belgrave line on the Melbourne Metro Trains network.

Also included in Turnbull’s $20 million tourism announcement was $1 million to extend the Emerald-Cockatoo multi-use trail in the region, $2.5 million for the Ridge Walk, and $10 million for the widening of the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road to reduce congestion and improve safety.

Turnbull said tourism was a key element of his Government’s plan for managing the transition from the mining construction boom.

“Improving access and raising the visitor experience at iconic local tourist attractions will raise investment and drive jobs and growth,” he said.

“And now that China has proclaimed next year to be the ‘Australia-China Year of Tourism’ we can look forward to hotels, restaurants and tour operators all over the country investing in new capacity and hiring more employees to meet this new demand.”

Tourism minister Richard Colbeck added: “We are ensuring the regions can capitalise on Australia’s tourism boom, making a big contribution to regional employment.”

One million Chinese tourists visited Australia last year.