Victoria’s iconic Puffing Billy will undergo major works to boost visitor numbers and bring more business to the region, thanks to funding from the Andrews Labor Government.
Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren and Member for Monbulk James Merlino have announced $8.2 million to improve facilities at the popular tourist spot.
A new Discovery Centre will be built at Lakeside Station, improving services and featuring educational and volunteer facilities, a café, and space to host events and meetings.
With the existing network currently at capacity, these works are vital to cater for growing demand.
Loved by locals and visitors alike, Puffing Billy continues to attract record numbers of passengers. More than 487,000 people flocked to the railway in 2016-17, with 60 per cent visiting from overseas.
This is the highest patronage of any narrow gauge steam heritage railway in the world that is a volunteer-based, not for profit operation.
Tourism means serious business in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges – creating around 7,300 jobs and generating close to $560 million for the local economy in 2015-16.
Puffing Billy is a major driver of this activity, delivering around $10.2 million to the economy, supporting 101 jobs, and engaging more than 900 volunteers.
Today’s announcement will ensure Puffing Billy continues to be a significant drawcard for the region into the future, attracting visitors from all over Victoria, Australia and overseas – creating more business for local traders.
The funding will help kick off the first phase of the Puffing Billy Master Plan 2017, which involved extensive community consultation and support from the Emerald Tourist Railway Board.
Construction is expected to commence before the end of 2018 and be complete by late 2020.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren
“Puffing Billy is one of Victoria’s greatest tourist attractions, but it needs some extra steam to stay on track.”
“These upgrades will give this famous railway the facilities it needs to attract more visitors going forward – and that’s good news for local jobs and businesses.”
Quotes attributable to Member for Monbulk James Merlino
“For more than 100 years, locals have made lifelong memories here, and we want that to continue well into the future.”
“Puffing Billy is a place that values its volunteers and gives visitors a taste of what our beautiful region has to offer.”