EIGHT councils across Western Victoria have deemed the return of passenger rail as vital to the region.
Representatives from Horsham and Ararat Rural Cities and the Southern Grampians, Glenelg, Northern Grampians, Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera shires launched a feasibility study 12 months ago which said a rail service to Horsham and Hamilton was also a feasible option.
The Western Rail Project proposes to return services to the region within five years.
Horsham Mayor Pam Clarke said stage one of the campaign had more options for travel to and from Ararat to Ballarat and Melbourne.
However, the next step was to improve the connection between bus services and the 19 new train services available in Ararat.
“The extra trains means there are not enough bus services connecting with the additional trains. Until we get the trains to Horsham, we need better connectivity,” she said.
However, in the effort to improve connection with new train services Cr Clarke said the state government have removed bus services to Warracknabeal and Murtoa.
She said it was “inadequate” and it was the group’s priority to rectify the problem.
Cr Clarke said the advocacy group was seeking $4 million from the state and federal governments to develop a business case which would then return to them for consideration.
“The feasibility study is an overview, but the business case would map out the detail on what work needs to be done,” she said.
“It is a matter of lobbying the state government – who will take it to the federal government – to get funding for the physical work.”
The advocacy group representatives have met with Transport Minister Jacinta Allan, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, National party leader Peter Walsh and local politicians across the past year. The group has also lobbied the federal government – including former Transport Minister Darren Chester and advisers.
“They are saying they support us, but we want to see a real commitment from both sides of the government before the next election,” Cr Clarke said.
“We will continue to lobby and push for passenger rail because we feel this region in Victoria is being left out.”
Horsham and Mildura are the only regional cities in Victoria without passenger rail services.
While the campaign progresses, Cr Clarke said the group would keep the community up-to-date.
She said people agree that the return of passenger rail would have positive economic, business, medical and social impacts on the community.
“Everyone agrees that this is vital to the economic growth and sustainability of the region,” she said.