CITY of Greater Bendigo election candidate James Williams has called for an upgrade of the rail line between Bendigo and Echuca.
Mr Williams will run in the Whipstick Ward, which includes the smaller towns to the north and east of Bendigo.
He said an upgraded rail system would benefit the small towns, as well as Bendigo and Echuca.
“For too long we have simply given lip service to our small rural townships and failed to actually take positive steps in terms of investment, planning and promoting lifestyle and growth in these areas,” he said.
“Let’s take the rail link between Echuca and Bendigo. Millions of dollars has been invested to upgrade and provide safe and efficient rail between these two large and rapidly growing regional cities and a direct link to Melbourne.
“It is a great piece of infrastructure and an opportunity to better utilise it and grow Elmore, Rochester, Goornong and Huntly.
“So what’s required? A growth strategy that includes these townships. A full time train service running backwards and forwards between Echuca and Bendigo and governments at all levels supporting and funding the region to grow and expand on the opportunities provided.”
Mr Williams said the agriculture sector played an important role in the plan.
“This area, bound by Heathcote, Echuca and Bendigo, has some of the best soils for horticulture and viticulture in Victoria, good quality ground water and a generally reliable water supply in Lake Eppalock,” he said.
“It has an alternative water supply from Lake Eildon and the highly productive soils of the Campaspe valley and Corop Ranges.
“A fantastic opportunity exists to expand on Echuca and Bendigo’s tourist potential and again including these smaller towns in this opportunity.
“It can and should be a destination for people where the ambience and lifestyle make it the premier destination for relaxation and retirement.“There is a lot more to say and discuss in regards to the opportunities this can create and I encourage people to speak up and discuss the concept. \“I envisage similar things for Neilborough, Raywood, Dingee, Pyramid Hill and Mitiamo but I also acknowledge it will take time and forward planning.”