PREMIER Dan Andrews has announced Huntly and Raywood train stations will open to passengers in mid-july - a full year ahead of schedule.
The two stations form part of the Bendigo and Echuca Line Upgrade, part of the state government's $49.6 million investment in Bendigo Metro 3.
In a visit to Bendigo on Friday, premier Dan Andrews said the upgrades were necessary to serve the growing communities in Huntly and Epsom.
"We're adding what Bendigo families and the region have not had," he said.
"Not just here to Melbourne and here to other country towns, but moving around their own local community."
From Saturday July 16, 50 services will run per week across the two stations, which are set to join Goornong on the Echuca line.
"We've got a wonderful rail network in Victoria, and we've been working hard to grow it," member for Bendigo East and infrastructure minister Jacinta Allan said.
"It's important to see our regional train network as not just about getting people into Melbourne for the start of a working day, it's about connecting country communities with each other, with their capital city and with the rest of the world."
Ms Allan said in a few years time, passengers would be able to catch the train from Huntly to Melbourne University, the Royal Children's Hospital or the Melbourne Airport via the Melbourne Airport Rail-line - set to be complete in 2029.
As the November state election looms, the premier used his Bendigo visit to make several other strategic announcements.
Among them was a $2.7 million funding announcement for Australian Associated Press (AAP) and an extension of advertising support for regional newspapers until the end of 2022.
"Regional media is so important," the premier said.
"If you don't have strong, vibrant regional media, then your story, the story of (this) community simply doesn't get told."
When pressed about whether the state government was feeling confident following the federal election outcome, Mr Andrews was tight-lipped.
"We don't take anything for granted," he said.
"There are no safe seats, you've got to put forward a positive and optimistic plan for the future - and that's exactly what we'll do.
"And then it will be a matter for Victorians to choose."
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