Letters to the editor | March 9, 2018

Region’s rail plan left out 

MONDAY’S edition of The Age reported that, “Victoria’s regional rail service will receive a $633 million injection to replace older trains if the Victorian Coalition wins the state election.”

The article continued: “The Opposition has promised to revolutionise regional rail services with new models to create a more reliable service. The fleet will operate on lines running to Warrnambool, Shepparton, Albury, Bairnsdale and Swan Hill.” 

Further: “The Liberal Nationals have a strategy to decentralise Victoria’s population to ease the squeeze on Melbourne’s growth.” 

The Business Horsham executive met on Tuesday and was alarmed that the Wimmera is not part of the Coalition’s rail transport plans to assist with decentralising Victoria’s population.

State National’s leader Peter Walsh said: “Unreliable rail services are holding back the development of country Victoria.”

This is certainly true and well documented in recent years for the Wimmera, according to Business Horsham, who drew the attention of this fundamental issue to both Mr Walsh and Ms Kealy in August 2015.

Mr Walsh was reported to then state that, "We will turbocharge country Victoria’. Perhaps he had forgotten to add, except for Western Victoria and the Wimmera. 

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy stated: “A Coalition government would focus on bringing new jobs to country Victoria via better roads and improving health and education.” This statement begs the question whether the Wimmera will be included in those broader plans having been omitted from their railway promises.

Brian O’Connor, chairman, Business Horsham

Planning for city’s future

HORSHAM seems to lack a co-ordinated plan for its future. As a result, major projects are carried on, or contemplated without integration.

Problems I see touring Horsham by car and by foot include the top end of Firebrace Street is emptying out; agreement on a highway bypass is remote; there is division over the placement of a sports stadium; and the city is divided - one side of the railway has only two retail outlets.

Organisations that could get together and co-ordinate a real plan are Horsham Rural City Council, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, Public Transport Victoria, VicRoads and the Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal as well as the airport authority.

It is unnecessary for trains to come through Horsham. Instead the track could be re-laid from Wail to Dooen following the road reserves of Wail-Kalkee and Kalkee-Dooen roads. This gets to the freight terminal with immense savings in both time and running costs. Not going through the city means faster train speed and less noise for residents. There would be no rail crossings in the city and so no level crossing fatalities or injuries.  The Overland can be boarded at Dooen.

Removing the current line through Horsham, from Wail to Dooen will come with immense financial benefits for the council and the state government. Both will pick up large amounts in rates and stamp duties, as properties adjacent to the rail track become more valuable and are developed. The project may pay for itself.

Removal of the line could also enhance the development of a sports stadium at Mill Street. There is ample room for extensive parking and it would be within easy pedestrian access of the CBD.  

The location of a stadium at Mill Street means revival of Firebrace Street – so more rates and stamp duty gains.

The current suggested site for the stadium in McBryde Street is remote from the CBD, shuts off a busy street, places much more traffic in an already dangerous location, and carries the risk of flood.  

Mill Street will never flood and there are multiple points of entry to a car park.

As to the bypass, the plans seem to leave out the Wimmera Highway to Edenhope and beyond.  

The city could still have hay and sheep and machinery trucked in large numbers, changing nothing at Baillie Street, McPherson Street, Wilson Street, and the roundabout at O’Callaghan Parade. 

If all the organisations got together and drew up a plan, this city could really work. It would take time but the town hall, the bypass, and the stadium indicate that in this city, time doesn’t really matter.  

The council can allocate some senior staff to start looking at a steering committee and bring all the stakeholders together.  

It might take a decade to do but it will be well worth it.

Brian Hawkes, Horsham

Economy forges ahead

VICTORIA’S economy continues to thrive with strong annual growth in state final demand (SFD), driven by the state government’s unprecedented infrastructure investment.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Accounts released on Wednesday show SDF grew by 4.4 per cent over the year to December 2017 – well above national final demand of 3.1 per cent.

Over the year, growth in Victoria’s public investment was 22.5 per cent, the highest of all the states and almost double the second highest growth rate of 12.3 per cent in South Australia. Household consumption growth was also a key contributor to the quarterly SDF result, growing by 1.3 per cent in the December quarter 2017 – the second highest of the states.

The positive result comes on the back of solid data this week confirming that Victoria’s building approvals and retail and international trade continue to lead the nation.

Tim Pallas, Victorian Treasurer


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