WESTERN Victorian councils have urged the State Government to help pay for a feasibility study into passenger rail lines in the region.
Ten western Victorian councils, including all Wimmera councils, have agreed to put up a combined $40,000 towards the study.
Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Peter Brown told candidates for the seat of Lowan at a breakfast in Horsham on Thursday that passenger rail was a major issue for the municipality.
Mr Brown said passenger rail would bring many benefits to the entire Wimmera.
“The return of fast and reliable passenger rail to other regional cities like Bendigo and Warrnambool has benefited them a lot economically,” he said.
“Rail is easy to access and it is good for older people or people who have disabilities.”
Mr Brown said many people caught a bus from Horsham to Ararat to go on to Melbourne.
“A shuttle rail service from the Wimmera to Ararat would make it easier to swap services and go on to wherever they need,” he said.
Mr Brown said there was a rail line from Horsham to Ararat that could be used, but it was a different gauge to the line from Ararat to Melbourne.
He said the ideal scenario would be a standard gauge line through the Wimmera to Horsham and then on to Ararat.
From Ararat people could transfer to the broad gauge line to Melbourne.
Mr Brown said the feasibility study would determine whether the project was worth pursuing.
“We don’t quite know the extent of the issues we face or the cost yet,” he said.
Ararat Rural City Mayor Paul Hooper said it was an important issue.
He wrote to candidates for the seat of Ripon on October 20 to ask for their support.
“There is an enormous number of people travelling to Ararat from the north and south to use the train here to get to Melbourne,” he said.
“Consultation with councils north and south of us has revealed that they believe a train service would enhance the liveability of their shires.”
Cr Hooper said the show of money by the councils involved proved they were serious about the issue.
“It is an important issue,” he said.
“We don’t expect it to be resolved overnight.
“We understand a significant study needs to be done and we’re putting it firmly on the agenda.
“We’re hoping to get some funding from the State Government to match ours.”
Greens candidate for Ripon Rod May said he supported the push for passenger rail.
“The Greens have pledged that we will develop the public transport system of Victoria because it is a more sustainable way of moving people and goods across the state,” he said.