HORSHAM Rural City councillors have taken the next step in a region-wide push to return passenger rail services to western Victoria.
Horsham council and eight other western Victoria local governments have released a passenger rail feasibility study commissioned by the group.
The group will now present the report to Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan.
The report stated that the return of passenger rail was not only feasible but vital for the Horsham community.
It also stated that passenger trains could return to Horsham within five years if the state government provided the money to restore rail lines currently used for freight.
It also recommended improvements to coach services that link into existing V/Line passenger rail.
Horsham mayor Pam Clarke said she welcomed recommendations such as bike spaces on coaches, an expanded service to Balmoral and a more tourist friendly timetable.
“Tourism is becoming increasingly popular and we want to make sure we embrace that trend,” Cr Clarke said.
“It will also be great to see improvements to provide better waiting, boarding, lighting, and transfer conditions for passengers.”
Cr David Grimble said it was an important report for all modes of transport and the community should respond favourably to the findings.
“It highlights a lot of social outcomes that are very, very important – not only for Horsham and our citizens, but for the west and south-western areas of the state,” he said.
Cr Grimble also asked that the council group brief the Rail Freight Alliance on the feasibility study.
Cr Mark Radford said a motion was moved in June 2013 by then Cr Tony Phelan for a return of passenger rail and pointed to the new report’s conclusions.
“To me the report is summed up in one sentence: ‘returning passenger rail services is both warranted on a social equity basis and feasible in terms of costs’,” he said.
Cr Clarke said more than 100,000 people lived in the Horsham and Hamilton rail catchment area.
“That’s a lot of people who want to go to the doctor or visit friends. As people get older, it gets harder to drive to Melbourne,” she said.
“This is a fantastic document. People say that $367 million is a lot of money but the minister said it wasn’t.”
Cr Les Power said the report showed that passenger rail could bring more Melbourne people into the Wimmera as well as vice versa.
Cr Alethea Sedgman said her cousin visited Horsham via bus and wondered why more tourists didn’t come to the Wimmera.