The coastal town of Anglesea has emerged as one of the first town set to benefit from a $50 million program to upgrade 240 kilometres of one of Australia’s most iconic roads.

Starting next year, the federal and state levels of government will begin a five-year program to upgrade Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, with major works to include restoration and strengthening of bridges, culverts and retaining walls; renewal of segments of road pavement; repair and treatment of more than 200 landslip sites and replacement and extension of guardrails.

In a statement, Victorian Roads Minister Terry Mulder said the road needed ongoing maintenance and that the upgrades would enhance safety as well as improve road user experience on a nationally historic attraction.

He said Anglesea was not only where the best views started but was also an area subject to significant maintenance requirements.

“Anglesea is where the Great Ocean Road meets the coast for the first time with many lookouts for people to take advantage of the beautiful forest and coastal scenery,” Mulder stated. “This location has been constantly pounded by traffic travelling through Anglesea as one of the first key towns along the Great Ocean Road. It is also a wetter area due to its close proximity to the ocean and the Anglesea River, which has degraded the road surface.”

The announcement of the works at Anglesea follows other recently announced upgrades to sections of the road at Lorne and Allansford.

Jointly funded by the federal and state government, upgrades of the road were a critical issue at the federal election thanks largely to pressure from groups such as the G21 Geelong Region Alliance, a coalition of local government, business and community groups operating in the Geelong region across municipalities such as Colac Otway, Golden Plains, Greater Geelong, Queenscliffe and the Surf Coast.

The Alliance claimed the road had fallen into disrepair and was subject to intermittent closure due to drainage issues, rock falls, landslips and erosion – an issue it claimed was damaging in a region whereby tourism is a significant part of an economy which has been impacted by manufacturing closures and will be badly effected by closures of a Ford car making plant in 2016.