A PROPOSAL to return passenger rail to Horsham and Hamilton needs state government action to get off the ground, Southern Grampians Shire’s chief executive says.
Michael Tudball said a state government business case would be the next step towards getting funding for the $369 million project, which would see daily passenger rail services in Hamilton and Horsham within seven years.
A comprehensive report, commissioned by eight councils in western Victoria and released in April, deems a return rail service to Horsham and Hamilton is not only feasible but vital for the community.
The official Western Rail Advocacy Program will launch in Stawell on Tuesday.
Horsham and Ararat rural cities and the Southern Grampians, Glenelg, Northern Grampians, Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera shires are united in the push.
Their stance is improved public transport will open new opportunities in jobs, education, health, friends, shopping and sport – particularly in larger city hubs of Ballarat and Melbourne.
The report also recommends more coach services across the Wimmera and south-west for improved connectivity to road and rail, particularly in the west Wimmera.
“We think we have a very good case for why the western part of the state has access to a similar service that everywhere else (in Victoria) has”, Mr Tudball said.
Mr Tudball said the scale of the project meant it would require a joint approach from the state and federal governments.
The report said public transport improvements would benefit more than 110,000 residents of the Grampians and Barwon South West regions.
Mr Tudball said population growth across the state, especially in Melbourne, was making car transport less viable.
“One day you're not going to be able to get into the city (by car),” he said.
“Our road networks can’t keep up with growth and we’re now transporting more freight than ever. People will use a train service if it’s timely, efficient and effective.”
Horsham Rural City Council mayor Pam Clarke said rail could mean huge life-changing impacts for people in the Wimmera – particularly with access to high education and health.