Wimmera passenger rail: Joe Helper pledges support

MEMBER for Ripon Joe Helper has thrown his support behind a proposal to increase Wimmera passenger rail services. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

MEMBER for Ripon Joe Helper has thrown his support behind a proposal to increase Wimmera passenger rail services. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

MEMBER for Ripon Joe Helper has thrown his support behind a proposal to increase Wimmera passenger rail services before the November state election.

Ararat Rural City Council has been pushing for more frequent train services and better scheduling for connections between Ararat, Ballarat and Melbourne.

Its Ararat Transport Connections proposal highlights four ways passenger rail could be improved.

They include a train service departing Ararat at 6.40am to arrive in Melbourne before 9am; a train service to Ararat that leaves Ballarat at 5pm; and wi-fi services in Ararat trains.

The document also made a case for passenger rail services from Hamilton and Horsham to Ararat, connecting to Melbourne-bound services.

Ararat Rural City Council is among several Wimmera and south-west municipalities lobbying for shuttle passenger rail services in western Victoria.

Mr Helper said the proposal to increase passenger rail services to and from Ararat was 'very sound'.

"It should be taken very seriously by both the government and opposition as we move towards November's election," he said.

Mr Helper is retiring from politics and will not contest the election.

"I am not in a position to make election promises," he said.

His comments coincided with the 10th anniversary of the return of passenger rail to Ararat and Beaufort.

Mr Helper arranged a celebratory train trip and barbecue on Saturday to mark the milestone.

He said passenger rail patronage levels were 'very healthy' and the service had been highly beneficial to residents of Ararat, Beaufort and surrounding communities.

"I have to pay tribute to the two councils involved - Ararat Rural City Council and Pyrenees Shire Council - for having played such an important part during the return of passenger rail as well as since then, in terms of ensuring the government of the day maintained a good level of service to their communities," Mr Helper said.

Guests at Saturday's celebrations included Ararat Rural City Mayor Paul Hooper, Pyrenees Shire Mayor Robert Vance and Labor candidate for Ripon Daniel McGlone.

Cr Hooper said council was continuing to lobby government and opposition members to ensure increasing passenger rail services to and from Ararat was firmly on the election agenda.

He said rail patronage had far exceeded any of council's expectations.

"It is valued and used extensively, not only for visitation and tourism but for trade, education and health," he said.

"It can be tweaked a little bit to be even better again."

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