A NEW rail company says it could return passenger rail to the Wimmera tomorrow.
Wimmera Rail Services proposes to reinstate train services on a daily basis between Horsham and Ararat before being connected to a direct service to Ballarat.
A spokesman, who cannot be named for privacy reasons, proposes to undertake the project in three stages, which he estimates would cost $291.8 million.
It comes amid a campaign driven by eight councils, called the Western Rail Project, calling for the return of passenger rail to the Wimmera.
Wimmera Rail Services’ first stage of the proposal capitalises on existing infrastructure, which allows for the immediate return of five train services a day with a seating capacity of 120 passengers. The spokesman said the first stage would cost about $69.8 million.
“Once we get funding to purchase a standard gauge rolling stock of two car diesel multiple units, and the approval to operate, we can use the current infrastructure to put trains services on the line immediately,” he said.
While the train can operate at speeds of up to 160 kilometres an hour, he said it would run at 115 kilometres per hour due to restrictions of existing infrastructure. However, he says upgrading the line would allow for increased speeds.
At the reduced speeds, the proposed travel time between Horsham and Ararat was 75 minutes. He said travelling at 115 kilometres per hour added an estimated four minutes to a passenger’s journey.
“Running at speeds limited to a maximum of 115 kilometres per hour eradicates the need to immediately upgrade the rail line infrastructure which includes level crossings, signalling capacity as well as train oversight safety mechanisms,” he said. “The delay of these works allows for passenger rail to commence much sooner on this corridor.”
Stage two would include standardising existing rail between Ararat and Ballarat to connect Horsham train services directly to Ballarat. He said the proposed travel time was two hours and eight minutes.
The final stage would upgrade the rail line between Horsham and Ballarat to allow trains to operate at 160 kilometres per hour.
The spokesman said the company’s plan to return passenger rail to the Wimmera also considered employment opportunities for surrounding communities.
He said a maintenance facility in Horsham would create a new job market.
Read Wimmera Rail Services’ plan to return passenger rail
“We want to build a facility in Horsham that employs local people and services our trains locally. Our biggest push is to get people employed and train young people up,” he said.
The spokesman said Wimmera Rail Services’ first step was to gain government funding.