THE Wimmera could have greater accessibility and opportunities with the return of passenger rail services.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Ralph Kenyon, a Western Rail project control group member, made the comments in relation to a new push for more public transport.
Eight Western Victorian councils launched a campaign in April 2017 calling for the return of passenger rail to Horsham and Hamilton. They require funding to develop a business case for the Western Rail Project.
Mr Kenyon said there was a significant gap in the services people in the Wimmera required. He said people were driving themselves or relying on buses to attend appointments in Melbourne or other larger centres.
“Travelling to Melbourne via public transport is sometimes problematic and also buses are perhaps not the best way of achieving the outcome of what people need,” he said.
“The community needs to be able to access services that are only available in places like Ballarat or Melbourne because depending on the individual’s needs the services or treatments are not available locally.”
The return of passenger rail also had opportunities for the broader visitor population.
Mr Kenyon said there was a growing tourism interest that should be capitalised and a public transport system with passenger rail would improve the region’s prospects.
“Getting people to travel via public transportation is problematic,” he said.
A direct passenger rail service to and from Melbourne could also have benefits for people travelling for business.
Mr Kenyon said staff from a number of state government departments were driving to Horsham for various project work. However, he said passenger trains would allow them to use their time more efficiently.
“At the moment they use state vehicles and the time they spend on the road detracts from the time they are available to do work they are required to do,” he said.
“Obviously having a train where people can work on the way to and from their destination might take off some of the pressure and make it more cost effective for those people to do that work.”
Mr Kenyon said the Western Rail Project’s control group would continue to advocate for a return of passenger rail as soon as practical.