Funding hurdle for rail proposal
Wimmera Development Association has welcomed a private-enterprise proposal from a new Horsham-based company in efforts to return passenger-rail services to the Wimmera.
Association executive director Ralph Kenyon said the concept from Wimmera Rail Services, a family firm with members boasting lifetime experience in the rail industry, added a new dimension to the push.
He said the idea that a Wimmera-based private enterprise take charge of providing cost-effecting passenger-rail services with government backing was ‘food for thought’.
“What’s pleasing is that the community is getting highly engaged in the process and in this case is willing to pick up the mantel in efforts to return passenger-rail services to the Wimmera and southern Mallee,” he said.
“It will being interesting to see how Wimmera Rail Services progresses when, after it establishes connections with key stakeholders in the region, it speaks to the government about its proposal.
“The potential for introducing private enterprise into this type of market seems good on paper. But the proof will be in the support the company can generate in convincing the government to back the idea to the tune of the many millions of dollars required.”
Wimmera Rail Services, led by managing director Greg Phillips of Horsham and his son and company operations manager Tim, has invested money into developing a three-stage blueprint outlining how it would return daily passenger-rail services to and from the Wimmera.
The firm is confident, with a State Govern- ment commitment of $70-million, it could quickly provide the first stage of a ‘safe, reliable, on-time, value for money and customer-focused service integrated with other public transport operations’.
Its 2019 first stage would include five returntrain services a day between Horsham and Ararat, timed to allow interconnection with V-line services at Ararat.
A 2020 stage two would include the standardisation of a rail line between Ararat and Ballarat, allowing for a single passenger rail connection between Horsham and Ballarat.
A 2022 stage three, in two parts, would include an upgrade of signalling infrastructure between Ballarat and Ararat and an upgrade of rail-line infrastructure between Horsham and Ararat.
Mr Kenyon said he believed the company needed to continue to investigate the proposal in detail to be able to mount a convincing argument for funding.
“But importantly, it shows local initiative and consideration of a different way of getting a desired outcome. The motivation is consistent with what councils in the region are trying to achieve. It’s all food for thought,” he said.
“What’s pleasing is that the community is getting highly engaged in the process and in this case is willing to pick up the mantel in efforts to return passenger-rail services to the Wimmera and southern Mallee” – Ralph Kenyon