THE WIMMERA will be a step closer to a passenger rail service with a feasibility study now in process.
Horsham Rural City Council is working with seven other municipalities to improve passenger services in the region.
Council appointed John Hearsch Consulting to do the study, which will be completed in April.
Cr Tony Phelan said it was good to see process being made.
“I’m hoping the study will demonstrate the justification for a significantly improved transport service beyond Ararat and hopefully passenger rail will be at the forefront of that service,” he said.
All eight councils will contribute $4000 to the study..
Grampians and Barwon South West Committees will contribute $20,000 and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources will contribute $20,000.
The study will cost $72,000.
Cr David Grimble said this project represented about 100,000 people across eight municipalities, including the entire Wimmera.
“Politicians are doing the best work they can, but when you have an issue that involves so many people, it should identify that there is a real need,” he said.
“I hope through this process we can achieve a passenger rail service.
“Let’s hope this work gets under the nose of politicians in Spring Street and shows them that this is something this community, along with seven others, has been calling for for quite some time.”
Cr Sue Exell said the Wimmera was in a black hole when it came to passenger rail.
“I still can’t believe we can’t get on a train and go to Melbourne or Adelaide any day of the week,” she said.
“We need to keep calling for this to be fixed because it’s not good enough in this day and age.
“We need to get more cars off the road and more people onto rail.”
Cr Exell said passenger rail would also benefit tourism, allowing more visitors to travel by public transport to the region.
“We are the window to the Wimmera and we need to keep pushing this.”
The feasibility study will take less than nine months to complete.
Chief executive Peter Brown said in a report to council that there would be opportunities for residents and councils from all eight municipalities to be involved in the study.
“There will be a draft report provided in late 2016 for comment,” he said.